HDD in fire smoke....

Custom / CUSTOM
March 10, 2010 at 14:25:09
Specs: SXP64, 2.128 GHz / 2047 MB
There was a big fire in the apartment beneath
mine a short time ago. Apart from a destroyed
foyer, my entire apartment was filled with
thick, black smoke. The firemen also created
a lot of debris by poking holes into the ceilings
to look for fire, and one of those holes was
directly over my computer...

Now the hdd's (two 7200rpm platter drives)
seem sluggish. General computer performance
doesn't seem affected, but I notice a
pronounced lag, new to this PC, between
when I open My Computer and when the drives
and folders actually appear onscreen. My
storage drive, which I let shut down when not
in use, also takes noticeably longer to spin up
when I access it.

I know the drives have been affected, and I'm in
for mechanical failure on both sooner rather
than later, but I'm a cash-strapped student and
would like some expert confirmation before I
replace the drives.

Thoughts, please, ladies and gentlemen?

On a side-note: Even after taking it apart and
cleaning it, including the PSU(!), the computer
exhausts a noxious fire odor when it's on.
Does this mean doom for my circuit
components as well (cpu, mobo, sound and
video cards...) as hdd's?

Thanks everyone!

See More: HDD in fire smoke....

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March 10, 2010 at 15:56:01
Get insurance company to pay for a new computer.

I can't say to what extent a fire could damage a computer. Heat and toxic gases and particles to even the transmitters the fire crew may have used may have damaged your system.

I'd make someone pay to replace everything I owned.

Playing to the angels
Les Paul (1915-2009)

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March 10, 2010 at 15:57:45
It's anyone's guess as to what damage was done. If you have renters insurance, file a claim.

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March 10, 2010 at 16:50:02
If you have renter's or home owner's insurance, make a claim.

"I notice a pronounced lag, new to this PC, between
when I open My Computer and when the drives
and folders actually appear onscreen."

If you have any CDs or DVDs in drives, there is often a lag when you access My Computer, or Windows Explorer, some other things, because Windows is spinning up the disk(s) in case you want to access it(them), before it opens My Computer, etc. . Remove the optical disks when you aren't using them.

Your hard drives are probably okay, but the mboard etc. may have beem damaged from the heat, exposure to water or steam if that applies, exposure to the copious carbon etc. in the smoke, etc. . If the computer had live AC to it at any time during the fire, the ATX mboard is always powered in some places as long as the power supply is receiving live AC, even when the computer is not running, so the mboard etc., could have been damaged additionally because it was powered in some places during the fire.

The stench of a fire persists for a long time, even if you have cleaned up as good as you can. We have an old VW van that had a dash fire. It stunk inside for many years, after we had cleaned up and replaced everything we could. We had the windows open a lot.

Keep an eye on the current voltages in the bios Setup - +3.3v, +5v, and +12v should be within 10% of nominal values; if any of them are not, replace the power supply as soon as you can.

If it is failing, you can usually replace it with any decent standard sized standard ATX PS with the same capacity or greater.

Standard (PS/2) power supply size - 86mm high, 150mm wide, 140mm deep, or 3 3/8" h x 5 7/8" w x 5 1/2" d , or very close to that, though the depth can be more or less for some PSs.

Don't buy an el-cheapo PS.
See response 3 in this:

You can use the hard drives in a replacement computer, or copy or clone their data to hard drives on a replacment computer, but if you boot from the hard drive you're booting from now, or from a copy of the data on it, on the replacement computer, you will probably need to boot from an XP CD and run a Repair installation of XP - if the hardware of the new mboard is more than a little different, XP's Windows won't load all the way.

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March 10, 2010 at 18:13:20
Yeah, file a claim for a new machine. If I recall correctly, structure fire gas temps can reach 1500°F where flashover occurs and actual flame temps are a little higher. That kind of superheated smoke doesn't act like smoke from tobacco or cooking that cools and dries out very very fast; one of the reasons you still smell the smoke odor. All that heat and the combustibles involved also make some pretty neat chemicals...stuff you wouldn't want to expose any of your stuff to.

Naturally, I have no idea how much smoke or heat your
apartment was exposed to but I doubt if anyone else does either.

File a claim; it wasn't your fault.


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March 11, 2010 at 07:56:49
I live with my mother. She owns the apartment but has no
insurance on interior belongings, only on the structure through
the coop's insurance. Sorry I didn't mention it before, but once
it was settled that our belongings weren't covered, and the
managing agent is dealing with the coop insurance, then I just
put insurance out of my mind. At least until the contractors
show up and start doing a cac job...

I wasn't there when the smoke came into the apartment, only
afterwards, but the ceilings are all white, showing no signs of
smoke damage, nor was there any water near the computer
at all. I imagine that whatever smoke did enter the computer
was, by then, less than super-heated...

Anyway, the general consensus I hear is that I should be as
worried, if not more so, about the circuit components as I am
about the hdd's? I also happen to have my cpu (C2D E6400
stock 2.13ghz) overclocked to 3.00ghz, and the mobo (GB
E7AUM-DS2H) slightly over-volted for the oc. It was stable as
a rock though... I'll be sure to check the voltage consistency
when I get the chance! In the meantime, comments?

Also, would anyone want to handicap the chances of a mobo

Thanks for all the input everyone!

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March 11, 2010 at 08:00:03
PS No disks or external storage or anything of the sort attached.
PPS Yes, spend $100 on a PSU, pass it on through 3-4 builds,
it costs <$30 per build. I know :)
PPPS... I only got one build out my Antec EarthWatts :(

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March 11, 2010 at 12:13:45
The most likely thing that was damaged is the mboard.
You could keep an eye on the other voltages, temperatures, etc. in the bios Setup for that, but you may need to replace it.

Your GA-E7AUM-DS2H is still available some places on the web,



or you could probably buy a newer model that supports your same cpu (processor) , possibly the same ram too, for similar or less money.

Antec makes two lines of PSs these days - the cheaper line, Earthwatts ?, shorter warranty ( 2 years ?) , and a more expensive line, longer warranty ( 3 years ? ). The more expensive line is the only one they sold until the last few years, and those have an excellent reputation.

The 3.5" hard drives are relatively tough. They probably aren't damaged if they weren't exposed to extreme heat, or water or steam if the PS had live AC power to it while the fire was going on.

Optical (CD or DVD or both) drives and floppy drives aren't nearly as tough. They're relatively cheap to replace.

The cpu will tolerate similar or more heat than the hard drives will.

The ram could be damaged, but if so it's relatively cheap to replace.

If your ram passes a ram test, it's working fine.

However, BEFORE you run a ram test, do this first:

See response 2 in this - try cleaning the contacts on the ram modules, and making sure the modules are properly seated:


Some ram manufacturer's modules do not strictly adhere to the JEDEC standards that most mboards bioses use to determine ram settings.
In that case, the ram settings in the bios Setup that the bios has automatically chosen may not be correct.
Check the ram settings in your bios - the ram voltage, and the ram timing numbers - those should be the same as for the specs for the modules themselves. Often the ram voltage and timing numbers are printed on the label on the modules.

If the voltage setting or timings settings in the bios are different from the specs for the ram, change them in the bios. The timing numbers must be as close as you can get to the same, or slower timings (higher numbers = slower) - you won't notice the difference the slower settings make.

If you have a mix of different modules
- don't mix ram that different voltages arespecified for - the bios will force the ram to use the lowest voltage, if "by spd" or similar is used (default settings) - ram that a higher voltage is specified for is more likely to not work properly in that situation.
- the bios settings must be those for the slowest timing settings of all the modules, or slower (higher numbers = slower).

If you want to try a memory diagnostic utility that takes a lot less time to run a full pass than memtest86 does, this one is pretty good - Microsoft's
Windows Memory Diagnostic:
It can be toggled (press T) to do a standard or a more comprehensive set of tests - use the default 6 test one first - if it passes one pass of that, use the latter one. A few of the tests in the latter set are intentionally slower.
If you don't have a floppy drive, see the Quick Start Information at that Microsoft link for how to make a bootable CD of the Windows Memory Diagnostic (you need Windiag.iso - you don't necessarily need to use the program they mention to add it to the CD).

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March 11, 2010 at 13:56:07
It would not be your insurance. It would be the complex's or the neighbor that owes you. You are the victim not the cause. Get a good law firm. They would help recover from someone. The complex would most likely have general liability or if not take a lean against the complex.

Playing to the angels
Les Paul (1915-2009)

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March 17, 2010 at 14:02:11
Thanks for your help, everyone!

Tubesandwires, sir or madam, you deserve special mention.
Your posts were detailed, to the point, and answered the
questions asked. Great, thank you!

PS I haven't run the diagnostics yet, but rest assured I'm not
buying diddles without having done so! Thanks again :)

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March 17, 2010 at 14:08:16
I'm a guy.

Diddles? Maybe diddley as in diddley squat?

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March 17, 2010 at 14:16:51
Yeah, the English language has much higher fault tolerances
than do computers, you'll find ;]

Language was open source since its inception, didja know?

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March 17, 2010 at 14:44:35
Well Diddle in other cultures means something completely different. Just Like a Fag in England is a cigarette but in the United States, well lets just say you don't go around asking for one.

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March 17, 2010 at 17:10:12
Things change as time goes by too. When my sister was named over 50 years ago, her middle name Gay was considered a nice girl's name.

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March 18, 2010 at 06:30:16
All very interesting, and diddle does have its own definitions in
American English. My mistake, then. Although I still plead the
power of context hah

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March 18, 2010 at 16:47:47
T&W #13

That was when Gay (UK) meant jolly.

some other bloke...

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March 18, 2010 at 20:23:57
I recalled today that when I was taking music class in high school - I played the trumpet - I overheard the teacher one day talking to a guy who was learning to play the drums - he was describing a slower and faster beat, 4 beats at a time.
Paradiddle, paradiddle, radamacue, radamacue.

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March 19, 2010 at 08:30:10
Alright, I got around to checking voltages and running the
memtest (trying, at least).

Voltages look good to me. Keep in mind that I've had this
system oc'ed for 6 months, now. C2D E6400 oc'd to 3.00ghz,
36C idle, 45C load. CPU and RAM (Patriot DDR-2 800) both
overvolted (results 100% stable, correct stock ram timings
entered by hand)

Vcore - 1.35000v reports 1.346v (- 0.3%)
DDR2 - 2.100v reports 2.128v (+ 1.3%)
+3.3v rail - reports 3.248v (- 1.575%)
+12. rail - reports 12.048v (+ 0.4%)

I can't find actual voltages for the chipset (set +0.1v to 1.200v)
and FSB (set +0.2v to 1.400v), nor the +5v rail. Am I correct in
imagining that the +5v rail delivers voltage to the Vcore, RAM,
chipset and FSB? If so then the good vcore and ram voltages
indicate a healthy +5v rail, yes?

I cleaned and reseated the DIMMs first. The memtest: The
DVD drive is KOed while the system doesn't know it (smoke
residue on the laser head?), so no bootable CD/DVD for me. I
dug up my old (ca. 2000?) floppy drive, which I keep just for
bs like this, and was dismayed to find that I can't power the
damned thing because it has what looks like a 3-pin fan
header on it, for which I have no adapter.

I have a 16gb Cruzer Micro SDCZ6-016G, which is U3
capable. Does that also mean bootable? I don't know 'diddley
squat' about bootable thumb drives, can someone point me in
the best direction, please?

It sticks in my craw that every component I'll probably have to
replace doesn't bring any added performance with it... With
the mobo I'll have to take a step down to gf9300 igp, the last
available gf9400 solutions seem to have gained a collector's

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March 19, 2010 at 12:36:58
That sucks, I would save the receipts and see if renters insurance will cover it unless you don't have renters insurance but if the guy above you did you may have a case because the fire was started by him.

Also, most flash drives are not bootable. It is kinda hard to make one bootable but it can be done...


I would just buy a new DVD-RAM drive. They are like $50.00.

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March 19, 2010 at 13:13:08
At a store, maybe, but they're all usurers and thieves...

Online - $25 for a good DVD burner, all formats including DVD-
DL.. $30 if you want lightscribe...

I'll try out method 5 on the link, though, thanks. Methods,
besides Vista/7 updates, look very old though. Anyone know of
something more recent? I won't have time to try anything until
Sunday anyway...

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March 20, 2010 at 09:02:01
"I can't find actual voltages for the chipset (set +0.1v to 1.200v)
and FSB (set +0.2v to 1.400v), nor the +5v rail."

What readings you see in the bios depends on what the bios designer decided you can see in the bios version - brand name system bioses often have a lot less in them that those of retail mboard manufacturer's - and on what sensors are built into the mboard (or cpu) that readings can be generated from.

I've never seen a bios for a mboard ( that has the monitoring sensors that generates current voltage readings in the bios - old mboards don't have that) that does not have a current reading for what is supposed to be +5v.
The +3.3v, +5v, and +12v readings directly indicate the voltages the power supply is putting out, unless the mboard is seriously damaged - I've seen only one case where a damaged mboard produced false readings in the bios regarding those voltages.
The other voltages are determined by the mboard itself. I know from experience that when you "overclock" the cpu core voltage, the cpu core voltage reported in the bios may not be the actual voltage the core is getting.

If your mboard is damaged, some things may work that require e.g., +5v, other things may not.

If the power supply is damaged, all the power supplies I've seen the insides of source all their power grounds, +5v, +3.3v, -12v, and +5vSB wires from the same physical source on the power supply's board, respectively, but more sophisticated power supplies have two or more places the +12v comes from on the board. So - if the power supply is e.g. not putting out +5v in the wring from it to something, there is no +5v being put out by the PS for anything; if the power supply is not putting out +12v in the wring from it to something, the other +12v source(s) location(s) may still be putting out +12v.

"The DVD drive is KOed while the system doesn't know it (smoke residue on the laser head?), so no bootable CD/DVD for me."

If the laser lens was merely dirty and nothing else was wrong, while the computer is running, you would be able to eject and retract the drive tray when you pressed the button on the front of it, the led on it would light up when the tray was retracted when a disk is in the tray for at least a short while (that merely requires the power connector be connected to it - the data cable doesn't need to be connected) , and you would be able to click on the drive in Windows when it has a disk it can read in it and it should attempt to read it.

You can easily clean the laser lens with a laser lens cleaning CD, however I don't know if that would clean off residue from the smoke from a fire - in that case you may need to open up the drive and use some solvent on it to clean it, along with a Q tip or similar or a tissue or a clean soft cloth.
If you don't have a laser lens cleaning CD, most places that sell CDs and DVDs have them, or even some "dollar" stores have them for a buck or two.

The optical drive cannot work if it isn't getting both +5v and +12v power. The floppy drive, USB, PS/2 ports, serial ports, parallel port, all require +5v power. The hard drive(s) require both +12v and +5v but I've seen cases where it/they still work if there is no +5v, at least on an AT computer it does / they do.

"I dug up my old (ca. 2000?) floppy drive, which I keep just for
bs like this, and was dismayed to find that I can't power the
damned thing because it has what looks like a 3-pin fan
header on it, for which I have no adapter."

Floppy drives usually use a 4 pin male connector, but it actually only needs 2 or 3 connections - a 3.5" floppy drive does not use +12v - it only uses+5v - and there two power grounds (black wires) in the power connector from the power supply - the drive only needs one of them. The 3.5" floppy drive could have 3 or 2 pins on it's male connector and still work fine - but I've never seen one that has only three or two pins.

The wiring coming from all power supplies has at least one smaller female power connector for floppy drives, if not two or more, but sometimes it is / they are in/on wiring from the PS that has been wrapped up because it wasn't previously being used.

The floppy drive male power connector may have fins on a plastic guide that restricts where the female power connector can be plugged in - the connector from the power supply can't be plugged into the wrong pins if it has that - but if it doesn't have guide fins, if you get the female connector misplaced on the pins, you can easily fry the floppy drive's board.

All or nearly all the 3 pin headers on your mboard are for 3 (or 4) wire fan female connectors - see your mboard manual - +12v, power ground, and a third connection for rpm input readings generated by a sensor on the fan. Some newer mboards have a similar 4 pin header for the cpu fan. A 3.5" floppy drives uses +5v, only.

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March 20, 2010 at 09:55:09
"....16gb Cruzer Micro SDCZ6-016G, which is U3
capable. Does that also mean bootable? "

NO, it's not.
Your operating system is working, going by what you've said.
WHY would you want to boot with something on it ? ?

U3 smart enabled
Loaded with the following U3 programs * CruzerSync synchronization software * SignupShield password manager * SKYPE "Make video calls from PC to PC" * McAfee-30 day trial

There's no boot or bootable found anywhere in this article about U3:

It's not all that hard to boot an operating system from a USB flash or USB external hard drive if the operating system on it is older than Win 2000, if your computer's bios supports booting from a USB drive and you set the bios Boot Order or similar settings to boot from the USB drive....
BUT with Win 2000 and above, even if you manage to install the operating system on the USB drive, Windows will NOT load all the way when you boot from the USB drive !! You get the STOP: 0x0000007B error ( = INACCESSABLE_BOOT_DEVICE ).

I was puzzled why I got that error for two external USB drives that were clones of a working XP and Vista installation, respectively, in two different external drive enclosures, connected to two different computers that could be set to boot from a USB drive, so it just so happens I was looking on the web yesterday for a solution to that.

After MUCH searching, I found a solution, but it requires you use a program to prepare the USB drive before you place the operating system on it, AND that you replace the ntdetect.com file in the root folder of the operating system on the drive that you want to boot from with a patched version ntdetect.com.
(I haven't found a solution yet for when the operating system is already on the drive - replacing ntdetect.com with patched version alone does not stop the error .)
Apparently the default ntdetect.com in the root folder in Vista is identical to the one in XP (at least it is when it has SP3 updates installed in it). Apparently, I found you can't see ntdetect.com in the root folder in Vista in your user, even if Folder Options - View settings in Control panel are set to show all types of files - but it's there - you can copy the patched ntdetect.com file to the root folder and Vista will tell you the file name ntdetect.com is already there - and you can replace the existing hidden ntdetect.com with the patched version. You have to enable the hidden Administrator user, use the Administrator user, and have in that user Folder Options - View settings in Control panel set to show all types of files - then you can see ntdetect.com in the root folder, as well as other system and hidden files.

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March 20, 2010 at 10:04:10
I'm sorry, TW, I've been holding on to the hope of a
quick'n'dirty "this works, this doesn't" resolution. I'll gear up,
so to speak, for a serious learning experience from now on.

I'll be back with full hardware and bios info probably tomorrow.
And I'll be more particular about my observations (ie. I didn't
count the pins on the fdd power connector, it screamed
'legacy!' at me and so I went hunting for legacy connectors on
the psu... they could well be 4 pins)

I did, in fact, check every cable that came with my psu and
didn't find any 4-pin female headers. I'll check again, though,
when I get everything else together as well.

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April 13, 2010 at 11:48:21
Sorry to have disappeared, esp. after promising to be back haha

Bought a new mobo, everything's running smoothly. Now to deal
with my wireless devices, which haven't been working wirelessly.
I'll go to the networking forum for that, I suppose.

Thanks for all your time and input everyone :]

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April 13, 2010 at 18:48:10
OK, so the mboard was probably damaged.

"Now to deal
with my wireless devices, which haven't been working wirelessly."

Did you re-install Windows ? You didn't have to do that - you just run a Repair installation from the Windows Cd to accommodate Windows to the changed mboard hardware, assuming it was different, then install the drivers for the mboard hardware after Setup is finished.

You can't connect wirelessly to your router until the settings for the wireless adapter and the router are compatible with each other. If you re-installed Windows, the only thing that may be wrong is the security type or code or password is not the same for the router and the wireless adapter.You have to connect to the router via a network cable to your wired network adapter, then you can access the router's configuration, by using a URL for that in your browser 192.168.xxx.xxx, the last two numbers being specific to your router make and model, then supply a user name and/or password to get into the configuration (see your router manual) , then check and make note of the security type settings and code or password in the router's configuration, and make the security type and code or password for wireless adapter the same, then the wireless connection will work between the wireless adapter and the router.

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