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Struck by lightning

By Mazrim · 21 replies
Jul 26, 2010
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  1. The title says it all. Our house got hit directly, and fried both desktop computers. I've rebuilt one so far, but the 2nd is giving me issues.

    Basically, I had to replace everything except the hard drive and the graphics card. The system seems to power on fine, but we get no image on screen. We tested the monitor on another system to make sure it wasnt fried with the rest of the old system, and it worked fine so we ruled that out. Our mouse and keyboard wont work now either.

    So I'm wondering if it's simply a case of needing to install a fresh hard drive (drivers for old hardware interfering with new hardware, etc?) and graphics card and start completely fresh, or if there's something else I'm missing.

    Could anyone lend some input? Here's my new system specs:

    AMD Phenom x4 3.3Ghz (new hardware)

    Nvidia Geforce 9800 GTX+ 1 GB graphics card (old hardware)

    Asus M4A79XTD EVO motherboard (new hardware)

    4GB G-Skill ram (new hardware)

    Thermaltake Toughpower 700W PSU (old hardware)

    Western Digital 500GB hard drive (old hardware)
  2. CMH

    CMH TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,039   +9

    Its interesting to note which parts you decided were fine, and which weren't.

    Can you elaborate on the process? What might be apparent to you at home (burnt chips, discoloration, etc) isn't to us online.

    I do understand that if the need to replace the motherboard arises, a change in CPU may be in order (and possibly RAM) which may be why they are new.

    However, making sure that other parts work fine, particularly the PSU, can be hard without checking it out with another system.

    On the problem at hand (and your proposed fix):

    What do you mean system powers on fine? Lights, fans and HDD sounds right to you? BIOS comes up? Usually if a need to fresh install the HDD comes up, you would only have problems getting into your OS (Windows).

    This brings up another problem. This is considered a whole new system, and M$ will need you to buy a new copy of Windows. You can call up their tech support and try to get them to agree that this is a replacement, no guarantees there.

    But to get there, your system need to at least get into BIOS. If it does, nothing else seems to be a problem.

    If you do have problems, it is possible that your PSU or graphics card is bust. Even if your fans and lights and HDD powers up fine, your PSU may still be at fault and that needs to get checked out.

    You can try and swap the old PSU with your other system (if it will take it). Do the same with the graphics card. I'd try them one at a time though. If they work with the old system, and not with the new, I'd be quite surprised.
  3. Tha General

    Tha General TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,106

    aren't you suppose to turn off everything when a storm comes by?
  4. CMH

    CMH TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,039   +9

    Thats if you live in the stone ages.

    Today, we have things like surge protectors for this, which I'm sure Mazrim will invest in soon enough.

    My own suggestion is to save the money, and buy a UPS instead. Unlike a surge protector, a good UPS provides power through a brownout or power spike, and enough during a blackout to save your data. And if you get hit by lightning, the UPS will take the damage instead. But I'd stick with a reputable brand.....
  5. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    Surge protectors seldom, if ever, protect agains a lightning stike within 70 of the house.
    If the strike hit power lines, or teleophone lines, or ethernet cables, your computer could be way beyond affordable repair.
    If you have home insurance, or renters insurance, it will likely cover the replacement of both computers.
    We work as a contractor for a group of insurance agencies, and had 64 homes where lightning destroyed the computers last summer... and almost none of them had a visible flash of lighting... they were all 'invisible" strikes.
    All were covered by insurance and completely replaced, except for data on the hard drive, which you are expected to back up.
    But if you mess with the computer or try to repair it yourself, and there is insurance coverage, the insurance company will cover none of it... at least not in the southwest. They will insist that the computer be inspected and tested by a Ceftified Computer Repair shop.
  6. Mazrim

    Mazrim TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 137

    Yea we had homeowners insurance that took care of almost everything, and once I get my fall semester loans, a part of it's going into getting a pair of UPS units. The lightning strike was only 55 ft from the house. It hit a tree, and conducted straight up the main pwr line, blasting 4 breakers on the central panel.

    Since I hand built these systems from parts, I had to take pics of each burned out part from each computer system. Good thing was that they paid for everything, for current retail prices for each component.

    To answer CMH: Yes, I had to dismantle and check for shorts and continuity for a few pieces that LOOKED fine. The rest were.....well......CRISPY lol. The only items that survived between the 2 systems were one PSU, the nvidia 9800 card, and 2 out of 4 hard drives.

    (let's just say that when the strike hit, and everything literally BLEW, I had to check my shorts for cake.)

    What's happening with the 2nd system, is that when I hit the power switch, fans all come up fine and are whisper quiet. However, I get nothing but a blank screen, no BIOS, no images of ANY kind.....NOTHING. It's weird. I tested the monitor for that system on my new rig, and it works fine, so I know it's not that.

    I have a PSU coming soon from New Egg, so I'll try it out when it comes and let you know. Plus I have an old nvidia 8800 GT card that's still brand new so I can see if that's the problem.
  7. CMH

    CMH TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,039   +9

    Yeah do that.

    I had a friend's comp hit by lightning. Blew a hole literally in the mobo.

    As for checking for shorts, its not a guarantee that an item still works, even if not shorted, so its still possible that everything in the comp is fried. Kinda surprised that the PSU didn't fry.

    Post some of the pics here, would be educational for others who hasn't seen it before. And for some fun, label them as static damage :D:D:D
  8. Mazrim

    Mazrim TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 137

    Ok update time: The card wasn't the answer. We still get a black screen on boot up. So I figured might as well just replace it ALL, and stop screwin with it. I ordered both a replacement hard drive and a power supply (Corsair 850W PSU, and WD 640GB 7200 rpm HD).

    I'll update once I slap those in. Let me know if you guys have other ideas to try as well.
  9. Mazrim

    Mazrim TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 137

    UPDATE #2:

    I think the new motherboard I ordered is DOA: I switched it over from computer system #2 (the one im trying to rebuild), to computer system #1 (my personal rig). Lo and behold, I get a BLACK SCREEN, no BIOS, no post, NOTHING. And all the parts in system #1 are brand new. I hate ASUS.
  10. tullriles

    tullriles TS Rookie Posts: 18

    Can we still see the pics? Inquiring minds need to know...;)
  11. Mazrim

    Mazrim TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 137

    Another update: So I RMA'd the board TWICE. Tested it in computer #1 - No problems. As of now, this new board and all the components are brand spanking new: And I mean EVERY SINGLE COMPONENT. Here's what I have so far:

    Corsair HX850 PSU

    AMD Phenom II quad core

    G Skill Ripjaws series ram

    Asus M4A79 XTD mobo

    Thermaltake V1 series CPU fan

    WD 640GB HD

    Razer Lycosa keyboard

    Logitech optical mouse

    ATi Radeon 5750 1GB vid card (has been tested in computer #1, works fine)

    I STILL get NO SCREEN when I attempt to power on. But now what also happens is that the MOMENT I plug the PSU into an ac outlet or power strip, all the fans come on at very low RPM. When I press power, the fans ramp up to max RPM and stay there. If I perform a hard power down by pressing and holding in the power button, the fans do NOT shut off, but instead revert back to a low RPM state and STAY there until I either move the master power switch on back of the PSU to off, or completely unplug the PSU from power.

    I have cleared the CMOS by removing the battery from the mobo for 5 minutes.

    The monitor DOES work: We immediately plugged it into computer #1, and the screen came right up.

    Im about to give up and send all this **** to the nearest recycling center if I cant get it working soon. This is retarded.
  12. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    So it appears you have tested, by switching out, everything but the ASUS motherboard? Have you gone over the ASUS board manual to see if you have missed anything there?
  13. Mazrim

    Mazrim TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 137

    No you misunderstand: I HAVE in fact replaced EVERYTHING: The motherboard was RMA'd back to New Egg for a brand new board TWICE, because the previous two were bad, or so I thought.

    This is the third time I have had NO screen come up at all, but now add the wierd power issues with a brand new PSU, and yea, im gettin pissed.

    This is a jumperless mobo, so there's nothing to miss there. Both the 4-pin CPU pwr and main board pwr are connected. Pwr is connected to the hard drive, and the vid card. I should get SOMETHING on the screen, but I DONT.

    And now the system STAYS on no matter how I power down, save for actually unplugging the PSU or switching the master switch OFF.
  14. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 7,157   +459

    It's as if the motherboard is shorting to the case. Did you use motherboard standoffs? I realize this is kind of basic but after all this time it seems as if something has been overlooked. Have you tried to assemble the motherboard outside the case with just the basics: CPU and heatsink/fan, one RAM module, graphics card (if no onboard video) and power supply?
  15. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +117

    So how does the guaranteed value work on these Surge protectors then?

    My surge protector is guaranteed £50,000 total value of items attached to it, and says clearly it will protect any connected equipment from a direct lightning strike.

    If it doesn't work, why has the manufacturer guaranteed a minimum connected value of £50k? :confused:

    I agree with the above; its got to be something simple as the likelihood of the mobo being DOA 3 times is very low. Something is shorting out, or isn't working as it should. Forgive me if this has already been covered, but the PSU is known to be good isn't it?
  16. Mazrim

    Mazrim TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 137

    Yes the PSU is good: Took the time last night after writing my last reply to hook it up to computer #1. Works out fine.

    I'll reassemble outside of the case and see if that works. Yes, Im using board standoffs.
  17. sprandel17

    sprandel17 TS Rookie Posts: 45

    Have you tried setting it up in a different location in your house? Maybe the problem isn't the computer at all.
  18. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    Unless it is your power outlet, as sprandel17 suggests, It has to be your motherboard setup.. re-do it one more time... following the manual as you go...
    You might want to borrow a line tester or get a friendly power company guy to check it under their safety requirements of their service.
  19. Mazrim

    Mazrim TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 137

    Just tried a different outlet, same result. More on booting components outside the case in a few.
  20. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    This problem is an interesting one. Perhaps we can all learn from what you find out. When you become victorious, let us know.
    We have a great number of lightning strikes that destroy computers out here in the desert, but we haven't seen the problem you describe.
  21. Mazrim

    Mazrim TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 137

    Ok, after MONTHS of troubleshooting, we found a combination of problems:

    1) Bad ram: Even though it cranked up fine when I swapped the ram from rig #2 to rig #1, a deep diag found errors. Having only swapped it to rig #1 one time, I decided to test it again, and lo and behold, rig#1 wouldn't post up until I swapped back.

    2) Bad, bad, bad, BAD power supply: The voltmeter tests checked out fine, but that was because I was checking the main circuit, NOT the modular gates on the unit. All but one tested negative (either overvolting, or NO voltage at all coming out of the 12 modular connection points), that one being the connector I used to fire up rig#1 when I swapped PSU's to check it outright.

    So lesson learned: Hardware can fool ya big time, so be EXTRA thorough, and test every possibility, even if it seems like it'd be a pain in the butt to do.

    I should've had rig#2 up and running MONTHS ago; I feel like an ***** now...... :/
  22. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    Typical experience with power supplies in the southwest where we have lots of invisible lightning.
    We simply replace any power supply of a computer behaving strangely, and we get rid of a many a problem.

    Thanks for the update, as we all benefit from these well-researched experiences.

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