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CPU will not power on after lightning strike

Last response: in Components
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August 11, 2011 4:01:15 PM

I have a Dell XPS/Dimension 400/9150 (about 6 yrs old) with the original power supply. Last night, lightning struck our house (or very near to it). The main breakers where the power comes into the house were both tripped, several of the smaller breakers in the junction box inside the house tripped, some exterior lights exploded and the switch attached to those lights has a brown, burned look to it. My computer was attached to my television, the wireless router and the cable modem. After the strike, neither the computer, modem or router will turn on. I've tried switching cables, using different plugins, everything.

As far as the computer goes, when I plug it in, the green LED on the motherboard lights up but nothing happens when I push the power button. NOTHING. I tried cycling the red 110/220 slider switch on the back of the power supply too with no luck. My question is, would the LED be on if the power supply was bad? It seems like it would have to get its power from the PS. I don't have a power supply handy to swap in for testing, so I'm trying to think through this before ordering a new PS.

Ideas anyone?
a b ) Power supply
August 11, 2011 4:08:39 PM

yes the led could come on--does the psu fan spin?--also try the paper clip test on the psu to see if it will power a dvd drive or hard drive--this lets you test the psu without it connected to the motherboard

http://aphnetworks.com/lounge/turn_on_psu_without_mothe...

could be the motherboard is damaged or the psu or both

didnt you have a surge protector on all your equipment?
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August 11, 2011 4:19:35 PM

I did have a surge protector, but I guess it wasn't enough for the surge of a lightning bolt.
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August 11, 2011 4:25:18 PM

The surge protector should have fused the connection shut, who made the surge protector?
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August 11, 2011 4:30:40 PM

The problem is that you had two things occur, overvoltage and overcurrent. They are related to each other, but both will destroy or cause issues.

There are several "stages" in a power supply, so it is entirely possible to have one functioning rail and other non working ones. As mcnumpy23 says, try the paper clip test, but, uh, be careful! You don't know what has gone on inside the ps.

Overcurrent will normally cause fuses to blow or breakers to trip. Problem is that many times there are multiple fuses in power supplies and the like. You have regular glass type fuses, thermal breakers, thermal fuses, etc....Power supplies are not designed to allow a fuse to blow, it is really just a safety mechanism to prevent fires. If you have blown fuses in a PS they are not really considered a user replaceable product.

Overvoltage will not unless the circuit was specifically designed to do so or if the voltage increase also increased the current (sorry, bad at explaining this). Overvoltage will allow some equipment to still "turn on" but you will still have fried electronics many times.

You are better off making house insurance claims and hope they don't cancel your insurance.

IMPORTANT!!!!!

YOU NEED AN ELECTRICIAN TO CHECK THE WIRING IN YOUR HOUSE!!!

You have NO idea if the lightning arced through your house wiring somewhere in the wall and now has compromised insulation. All the wiring on the blown light side should be replaced in the wall!!! The house breakers should be replaced also.

Some utilities and third parties sell a surge suppressor that sites in your meter socket. If this is a somewhat common occurrence in your area, it would be a wise investment even if it doesn't completely prevent damage, it most likely would have reduced the scope.

Most suppressors are not designed for lightning strikes anyways. And almost nothing is protection against a direct strike, as the amount of current can arc across or through even a circuit breaker.

Here is more info than you probably ever wanted to know: http://www.lightningsafety.com/nlsi_lhm/IEEE_Guide.pdf

And you could have a bad ground in your outlets also.
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August 11, 2011 4:30:59 PM

I don't know - it's pretty plain looking. I've had it for a few years.
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August 11, 2011 4:36:02 PM

ngoy said:
The problem is that you had two things occur, overvoltage and overcurrent. They are related to each other, but both will destroy or cause issues.

There are several "stages" in a power supply, so it is entirely possible to have one functioning rail and other non working ones. As mcnumpy23 says, try the paper clip test, but, uh, be careful! You don't know what has gone on inside the ps.

Overcurrent will normally cause fuses to blow or breakers to trip. Problem is that many times there are multiple fuses in power supplies and the like. You have regular glass type fuses, thermal breakers, thermal fuses, etc....Power supplies are not designed to allow a fuse to blow, it is really just a safety mechanism to prevent fires. If you have blown fuses in a PS they are not really considered a user replaceable product.

Overvoltage will not unless the circuit was specifically designed to do so or if the voltage increase also increased the current (sorry, bad at explaining this). Overvoltage will allow some equipment to still "turn on" but you will still have fried electronics many times.

You are better off making house insurance claims and hope they don't cancel your insurance.

IMPORTANT!!!!!

YOU NEED AN ELECTRICIAN TO CHECK THE WIRING IN YOUR HOUSE!!!

You have NO idea if the lightning arced through your house wiring somewhere in the wall and now has compromised insulation. All the wiring on the blown light side should be replaced in the wall!!! The house breakers should be replaced also.

Some utilities and third parties sell a surge suppressor that sites in your meter socket. If this is a somewhat common occurrence in your area, it would be a wise investment even if it doesn't completely prevent damage, it most likely would have reduced the scope.


Thanks, ngoy, very interesting information. I called my landlord this morning about the strike - he's usually very good about getting things taken care of. It was really strange, b/c my TV was plugged into the same surge protector as the other devices and it's fine (thank goodness!). It was all the smaller things that got (apparently) fried.
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a b ) Power supply
August 11, 2011 4:36:09 PM

most decent surge protectors will protect against a lightning strike--my belkin carries a £100,000 connected equipment guarantee

though not what happened in your case--most people seem to forget that they should get one which also protects the telephone line against lightning strikes and only protect their electricity sockets
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August 11, 2011 4:41:19 PM

mcnumpty23 said:
most decent surge protectors will protect against a lightning strike--my belkin carries a £100,000 connected equipment guarantee

though not what happened in your case--most people seem to forget that they should get one which also protects the telephone line against lightning strikes and only protect their electricity sockets


Good Point - I was wondering about that because the cable internet was out this morning too and the repairman was working on the box in our yard. I wonder what the odds are of the cable internet bringing in the power surge - it was not run through any sort of surge protection.
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a b ) Power supply
August 11, 2011 4:48:14 PM

not sure--we have no cable here unfortunately

but found this on google regarding cable

Cable Protection

Today many companies offer cable access to the Internet. If you are using a cable modem, you should purchase a special surge protector that will also accommodate the cable that serves your television and cable Internet.

Damage can occur regardless of whether the computer is on or off. While surge protectors offer protection for normal surges and nearby lightning strikes, nothing will protect your equipment from a direct lighting hit. During storms, you can add further protection by unplugging your computer power supply and any telephone or cable line from the wall. Although it is not absolutely necessary to do this, unplugging your computer equipment during a severe storm may give you added piece of mind.

so if your cable has any conductive material then i would say yes it could come through it
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August 11, 2011 4:52:14 PM

mcnumpty23 said:
not sure--we have no cable here unfortunately

but found this on google regarding cable

Cable Protection

Today many companies offer cable access to the Internet. If you are using a cable modem, you should purchase a special surge protector that will also accommodate the cable that serves your television and cable Internet.

Damage can occur regardless of whether the computer is on or off. While surge protectors offer protection for normal surges and nearby lightning strikes, nothing will protect your equipment from a direct lighting hit. During storms, you can add further protection by unplugging your computer power supply and any telephone or cable line from the wall. Although it is not absolutely necessary to do this, unplugging your computer equipment during a severe storm may give you added piece of mind.

so if your cable has any conductive material then i would say yes it could come through it



I'll keep that in mind the next time a storm rolls through at 4:30 AM...
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August 11, 2011 5:08:57 PM

Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Surge on the cable line would fry your modem, then the router and then hit the LAN port on your PC. They do sell surge suppressors that have In/Out cable protection, you may want to get one of those, although if your tv was hooked to the same cable line it is odd that it works still.
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a b ) Power supply
August 11, 2011 9:47:45 PM

benaford said:
I'll keep that in mind the next time a storm rolls through at 4:30 AM...


Cable companies discourage protectors on their cable. And rightly so. Cable has best protection where it enters the building. If properly installed, then a wire connects short (ie 'less than 10 feet') from cable to earth ground. Surges seek earth ground.

Why would a surge seek earth destructively through cable appliances when connected to earth before entering the building? It won't. A protector - especially one that does not make that low impedance (ie 'less than 10 foot') connection to earth - will not increase protection. Some protectors too close to appliances and too far from earth ground can even make damage easier. Reason for cable appliance damage will be explained four paragraphs down after providing some important concepts. Solutions five paragraphs down.

Existing plug-in protectors did exactly what the manufacturer said it would do. If in doubt, read its specs. Read many exemptions in its warranty so that claims need not be honored. So that those who do not read will recommend a protector that does not even claim protection. Damage because power strip protectors did exactly what its specs said it would do.

Protection is about where energy dissipates. A surge was all but invited to go hunting inside. Energy connected destructively to earth via appliances. Informed consumers, instead, earth every wire inside every incoming cable short to single point earth ground. Cable TV is earthed by a short wire. Telephone cannot be earthed directly. So all telcos install a 'whole house' protector where their wires connect to yours. Most who recommend protectors do not even know of this telco ‘installed for free’ protector. Do not understand why cable must be earthed. Advertising and other myth sources forget to discuss it.

How good is that telco protector? Like all protectors, only as effective as the earth ground that each homeowner must provide. Protection is always about where energy dissipates. Either that protector connects as short as possible to the best single point earth ground. Or that protector (like power strip protectors) does ineffective protection.

Cable and telephone are required by code and Federal regulation to have superior protection. What has no protection? AC electric. Three AC wires. Two are not earthed in most homes. Therefore AC electric is the most common source of surge damage. Therefore a lightning strike to wires far down the street is a direct strike to every household appliance. Once inside, then that surge finds earth ground destructively via many appliances. Some of the best and destructive connections to earth are TVs, internet modems, answering machines, etc. etc. Once energy is inside, then nothing can avert that hunt.

Nothing stops a surge as so many others assume. Informed homeowners spend about $1 per protected appliance for well proven solutions from more responsible companies such as Leviton, Intermatic, ABB, Siemens, Square D, and General Electric. A Cutler-Hammer solution sells in Lowes and Home Depot for less than $50. Those educated by advertising would not know these. Others educated by over 100 years of science would already have this well proven solution. These effective solutions have what is always required - a short and dedicated connection to earth.

Now, above describes secondary protection. Based upon other damage and tripped breakers, the OP also has defective primary protection. A picture demonstrated what all homeowners should inspect in their primary protection system:
http://www.tvtower.com/fpl.html

Some protection layers do not need protectors. But every protection layer must always have the only item that absorbs hundreds of thousands of joules. Again, any responsible solution always discusses where energy dissipates. The above primary and secondary protection layers are defined by the only component that does the protection. Single point earth ground. A protector without earthing is ineffective; only a profit center. A protector is only as effective as its earth ground. Superior solutions from more responsible companies also cost tens or 100 times less money.

OP should have many question due to so many defects in his protection system. Routine is to have direct lightning strikes without damage even to the protector. Knowledge well proven by over 100 years of experience.
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a c 144 ) Power supply
August 11, 2011 10:29:43 PM

benaford said:

As far as the computer goes, when I plug it in, the green LED on the motherboard lights up but nothing happens when I push the power button. NOTHING. I tried cycling the red 110/220 slider switch on the back of the power supply too with no luck. My question is, would the LED be on if the power supply was bad?

Every PSU has a small, always on power supply that among other things powers the PSU start up circuits and the motherboard LED. So, yes, an otherwise dead PSU could power the motherboard LED.

The paperclip trick can tell you with certainty if the PSU is dead. If the fan doesn't spin up, the PSU is dead, graveyard dead. Unfortunately, it cannot tell you if the PSU is good. All you know is that the PSU can produce the minimal power to run a fan. It cannot check the 3.3 and 5 volt outputs. And it cannot chech eck "PowerGood" control signal that the CPU needs to boot.
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August 12, 2011 4:23:34 AM

I had a MOBO fried by a lightning hit that came through the TV cable on a Radeon All in Wonder card. Replacement of the video card got it to fire up but it was never quite right. Lots of BSODs and stability issues.

So yeah it can come in through the TV cable. When you think about it the lightning bolt just jumped several miles through insulating air to reach your setup. You think a 1/16th inch of insulation is going to slow it down.
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December 7, 2011 7:50:06 AM

Hi
I had the same problem after lightning strike.Computer would not power up and the only part working was the green flashing power light at the on/off switch.I replaced power supply with one that I new was working,but still the same,no power. I by chance removed the ethernet card and replaced it with another one. When I switched on the PC all systems worked and computer has been working as normal.Power surge must have blown the card I presume.PC is working ok now.Hope this information helps someone...........
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December 14, 2011 1:15:09 PM

No, I tried removing all cards, replace PS, everything - still only 1 green LED on the MOBO. Pressing the power switch on the case does nothing. It's dead, dead, dead. I've looked for obvious signs of burning on the MOBO and on all card slots and can find none. It just doesn't work.
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December 14, 2011 1:19:48 PM

Best answer selected by benaford.
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