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I ordered a small form factor PC online (ASUS VivoPC VM40B-02), new/sealed, which was delivered to my doorstep. As I wasn't there, it sat in direct sunlight for about six hours on a hot day (according to wunderground.com, the temperature for that time went to 89F). When I opened the box, the actual computer case felt like a toaster oven, being painfully hot to the touch (much greater than the outdoor temperature).

I'm concerned that this exposure could possibly have caused damage. For example, expansion or contraction of components inside causing shorts or other modes of failure, which might even put at risk any connected equipment (i.e., monitors, battery adapters etc.).

It is out of the return period, and the unit cost ~$240. However, the equipment I plan on attaching to it add up to more than that, and I'd rather replace the unit than hurt other hardware. My questions:

  1. Was this temperature exposure within the design specs, so my concerns are unfounded?
  2. Are prophylactic steps appropriate and warranted? For example:
    • Scrap this box?
    • Would a surge protector or battery backup attached to this device protect other equipment on the same circuit-breaker from this device if it would cause damage?

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

migrated from serverfault.com Nov 18 '16 at 20:46

This question came from our site for system and network administrators.

  • 3
    The inside of your computer will far exceed 100F in normal operation. – ceejayoz Nov 18 '16 at 20:48
  • Thanks, i thought that to, then found this: lifehacker.com/5965864/… . In the 'How hot is too hot section', this quote particularly worried me about warm temperature: "even make the hard drive expand" – user3645994 Nov 18 '16 at 20:50
  • 1
    Typically a computer would be delivered in a cardboard box. If it was in an airtight metal box in direct sunlight, maybe you'd have some issues, but do recall that cars themselves have computers within them that survive just fine. It's extremely unlikely your computer was harmed by the experience. – ceejayoz Nov 18 '16 at 20:52
  • Temperatures in direct sunlight bear not the slightest resemblance to the 'shade values' given by the weather services. Only way you'll know if it still works is to plug it in & see... – Tetsujin Nov 18 '16 at 20:53
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    If the case was "painfully hot", then it was a lot more than 37°C (blood temperature), but unlikely to be much over 60°C, which is a typical running temperature for the electronics; it's also well under the melting point of any plastics or resins that may have been used, so it's unlikely to have suffered damage. As @Tetsujin says, you can only try it. You may want to reassure yourself with a few stress tests before you connect anything to it. – AFH Nov 18 '16 at 21:06
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No..No..No...It will resist more than that to get broken.

I worked before for a company in Algeria that was using Acer Veriton series in some field operations.

  • They were imported from Malaysia through Egypt to Algiers port. Where in this path, all temperature may look normal.
  • Directly moved on truck, to a Saharan town. It get hold by customs for 2 months to a year, with temperature -6degc (21F) at night to +48degc (118F) at midday. BTW, The package is shipped in container, you should be aware how hot inside when it is closed.
  • After release, it is shipped to field with uncovered truck on 400~900KM (20~200KM unpaved). Around 7 to 14 hours, temperature in midday may reach in some cases +52degc (125F) in shadow.

Every machine works fine, sure we give it some fresh air 35degc/95F :) to cool down. In 3 years working there, I have found only 2~5 machines with dead Li battery only nothing else (CR2032 that one used for BIOS CMOS and time).

Usually, They put the storage and usage ambient temperatures in the manual. I could find only usage one, however the storage temperature should have much wider range.

Setting up your system

  • Use this product in environments with ambient temperatures between 0 ̊C and 35 ̊C.

Source: http://dlcdnet.asus.com/pub/ASUS/Desktop/Vivo_PC/VM40B/E8733_Vivopc_VM40B.pdf

  • 4
    This question has already picked up 4 close votes for being primarily opinion based!?!? which sometimes means "4 reviewers don't know the answer so they think that nobody else knows it either", and it will probably have to be reopened. – karel Nov 19 '16 at 11:54
  • @karel, :) have low rep I couldn't see that , otherwise I wasn't going to write an answer. But it is good to share this experience as i already have it. – user.dz Nov 19 '16 at 12:06
  • @karel Indeed, the "I don't know = close" mentality on almost all stackexchanges nowadays is sad. – Peter Nov 19 '16 at 12:07
  • And it was an acer. Which means they're pretty terrible and likely to die anyway. – Journeyman Geek Nov 19 '16 at 14:37
  • @JourneymanGeek I agree specially laptops. At that time, we had some Dell Optiplex USFF and they were good too (but they were few ~6pcs) . I have a friend in another company that provide same service. They were using Dell Optiplex (tower & SF), they were very good. Later, they had tried Dell Thin Client, there had some serious issues related to the working environment: high temperature & dust (actually precise sand). The work was requiring the machines to run 24/24h for a 1month to 3months on average, rest for a week or two then on again. – user.dz Nov 19 '16 at 15:01
5

Was the temperature exposure within design specs?

How hot did it get?

We don't really know for sure what temperature the unit was at. Objects can absorb sunlight and get hotter than the surrounding air, so it could have gotten hotter than the 89F air temperature.

It's hard to judge temperature from touch because metal objects conduct heat, and potentially a lot of it, efficiently to your hands while insulating materials don't, so metal objects feel much hotter.

However, one potential indicator of its temperature would have been its effect on your hands. Animal tissue starts to cook at about 115-120F. That "threshold" temperature for injury is reflected in the safety guideline for setting water heaters. Above 120F, you can get second and third degree burns (although at 120F it would take a number of minutes). Below 120F, you can still get first degree burns (source)

So it suggests that the unit was likely under 120F if you were able to handle it, and didn't receive any form of skin injury (no more than transient effects).

This is far from definitive, but it may give you a way to judge ballpark temperature relative to 120F (unless you have calloused hands). In this case 120F is a fortuitous number because it also happens to relate to the unit's specs.

Temperature specs

There are a number of temperature-related specs. There is a temperature range in which it's designed to operate, and another (typically wider range), in which it can be stored in a powered-off state. These ranges are usually published and readily available, even included in the specifications section of the user manual. That wasn't the case for this model (only the recommended operating temperature is listed).

I contacted ASUS tech support. Their recommended range is 0~35C ambient temperature both for operation and storage, with an upper limit of 50C (122F).

For perspective, that doesn't mean that the unit is guaranteed to self-destruct the moment it hits 123F. It's the limit that's guaranteed to be safe (probably with some margin). ASUS just doesn't make any promises above that temperature. The farther you get above 122F and the longer it remains there, the more risk there is of potential damage.

Risks from exposure

So if the unit didn't exceed 122F, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. If it exceeded that, but not by much, you probably still have nothing to worry about. If it exceeded it by a lot there's a possibility there could have been some damage.

Of course the likelihood of that is much higher if you're located in an environment like @user.dz describes. And if it reached temperatures well above 122F, you would probably have had a hard time handling it and not getting burned.

Potential damage

So worst case, suppose it did get exposed to damaging temperatures. What could have been affected?

  • Not the kinds of things you expressed concern about in the question. The electrical connections are exposed to far higher temperatures (molten solder), and greater temperature fluctuations during manufacturing.
  • An internal battery might be the item most sensitive to heat; it could shorten its service life.
  • Other parts that could fail would be anybody's guess. There's nothing you can do about components that have a shortened service life except deal with it when the part fails. But you can put the unit through its paces for hours, or even a day, to guard against infant mortality (detect it not prevent it).

    If it doesn't fail quickly out of the box, there's not much useful you can do to predict failure or worry about it (other than normal precautions you would take anyway, such as making backups).

Prophylactic measures

There is absolutely no reason to discard the unit out of concern that it could damage connected equipment. It's possible with any piece of equipment for a defect to damage connected equipment, but there's no reason to expect that this exposure to heat would create such a problem.

The unit cannot create surges. So a surge protector would be irrelevant in terms of protecting other equipment from this unit. However, it would be safe practice to plug all of the equipment into a surge protector to protect everything from external power line surges.

Similarly, there is no reason to expect that the heat exposure would create a condition where the unit could affect the wall outlet power. Any defect that did affect the power, wouldn't damage other equipment, so you wouldn't buy a UPS for that purpose. But again, using a UPS for all of the equipment would protect everything from external brownouts or power loss (or surges) on the power line.

2

The heat-generating sensitive components (CPU, motherboard, memory) of a consumer PC are typically rated to take in air at normal living temperatures.

The intake, usually at the front or sides of the PC, is supposed to be under 100F. The CPU will heat the air up significantly, perhaps up to 150F, then blow it out the back. That’s during normal operation.

As long as the machine was turned off while it was in direct sunlight, there’s little danger. The specific heat tolerances vary per component, and sometimes they will show it on the side or on the manufacturer website. You can confirm by asking this same question of ASUS directly.

  • Could you clarify if you are working in Celsius or Fahrenheit temperatures? 120 to 150 degrees Celsius would be a terrifying temperature to have right next to your feet or crotch area. Similarly the cpu is not designed to do anything but calculations and heat is a byproduct rather than an intentional design, it can work at those temperatures but it is the fans that are doing the work of moving the heat away from the CPU. – Mokubai Nov 23 '16 at 16:14
  • The question and the majority of the thread has been in F, but thanks for the reminder. Updating my comment. – Christopher Hostage Nov 23 '16 at 17:37
0

A computer's temperature can far exceed this temperature in normal use - in fact, the organization I own uses a very powerful machine that can get up to 140F, and if you even try to touch certain areas of it, you can feel the heat radiating off of it. However, this is perfectly fine, as we've had it running like this for hours, and it never quits. A computer is designed to withstand temperatures to a certain point.

Also, considering that this is a small PC, it has to withstand high internal temperatures when at work anyway, because it is smaller. This is, however, not to say that it is impossible for it to overheat; in fact, it will probably overheat more easily that a desktop when at work, but the cables, processor, motherboard, graphics, RAM - all of that should be okay just sitting in the sun.

Just for safety purposes, though, you may want to plug it into a power strip with a switch so that you can turn it off if something goes wrong. I would recommend feeling the computer as it turns on, just to try to detect if there is any sudden heat coming that shouldn't be there, but if none is detectable and the system has been running for over about 2 minutes, your probably just fine.

I've had experience doing this, but with a mini-ITX machine rather than a Nano or Pico.

So long answer short: It should be okay, but just to be safe, I would recommend that you plug it into a power strip with a switch so that it can be switched off if need be on the first boot.

0

The CPU will work fine at up to 100C (212F). The rest of the components are fine at up to at least 60C (140F) internal temperature under normal operation. 100F is cold.

To answer your second question, a damaged PC usually won’t damage external components like monitors, but it is not unusual for it to destroy internal components like hard disks.

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