When powering on my desktop today, I heard a small pop and a whiff of smoke came out of one of my hard drives. I quickly turned it off, unplugged it, and looked inside to see what happened.
It seemed that a loose 3 pin fan connector was shoved under the HD angling right into a solder connection on the pcb board. There was no visual damage or scorching but Im fairly sure its where a short occurred/originated.
The thing is, I was fully expecting the drive to be 100% dead but when I plugged it back in to test, it booted up fine. No strange sounds, smell, or smoke. Now Im not completely convinced that I simply lucked out since there was actual smoke but it seemingly appears fine.
Is there anyway to diagnose what the actual damage (if any) is?
Im guessing/hoping you are right but is there any sort of diagnostic I can run to at least give me some level of security?
Im not so worried about the data itself, rather having a potentially lethal component in my system. It would be nice to have it working since this HD in question contains all my music, but is obviously not essential.
Look at the bottom of the drive. Find the burnt spot. Is it on a component? If so, is the solder on the component blown away, spread towards another, or is the component itself burnt? If not, there probably isn't any danger. It would be nice to know where the other lead that shorted out touched so you can see if the current went through any components, but I don't think it did because if it popped and smoked a component the drive shouldn't work. It is entirely possible that the smoke was benign, say from the connector that shorted.
On another note, loose connectors are a real hazard. As you found out, they can short out on stuff, and I met someone whose friend had a loose connector wedge in the processor fan. Yeah - not good.
As I said above, there is no physical marks on the pcb itself. Im actually suspecting the smoke was from the connector like you said though which in that case, I should be fine.
And yea, my cable management is atrocious. It was fine when I had a modular PSU but recently went back the other way to save a few bucks when upgrading. Sad to say, Ive actually done the loose connector in the processor fan once or twice...although to no ill effect.
Who made the hard drive? Both Seagate and WD have diagnostic utilities you can download for free to test one of their drives. Other makes have similar tools. The best versions to get, I believe, are the ones you use to burn a bootable CD that you boot from. It loads a mini-DOS into your RAM and you run everything with no need to access your hard drive to load an OS. Then you can run many tests on your hard drive. Pay attention to the instructions on screen. The easier tests are non-destructive, but there certainly are tools in the collection that will wipe your disk clean and you really don;t want to do that by mistake! If these utilities say you have no significant problems, rest easy.