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Everything was working fine until one day the computer would shutdown a split second after the power button was pressed. All the fans would start spinning and lights would come up and then everything would go dark half a second later. After this happened clicking the power button had no effect. The only way to start again is to unplug the power cord and plug it again.

I suspected the power supply first, so I bought another one, but I faced the same issue. I unplugged everything and reseated the RAM/GPU and hard disk drives. After this the computer booted. I thought I was good to go, but then I noticed my secondary hard disk drive was no longer working.

It was not visible in the BIOS or windows. I replaced the hard disk drive with another one and after a while the original issue came back. So I reseated everything again and was able to boot back up, but to my horror the new hard disk drive was dead as well.

At this point I thought maybe something was shorting the system, so I took everything out including the motherboard from the case, and to my surprise there was a loose screw stuck between the back of the motherboard and the case. I removed this and put everything back together and now the powerdown issue doesn't happen, but I am not 100% sure the system is secure.

Is it possible that a screw causing a short can damage the HDDs? My OS drive was an SSD, and it is running fine. The ones that died are 1 TB regular hard disk drives.

  • Do you know the general area that was shorted? If it didn't fall loose before you could inspect it, where exactly was the screw when you found it? – Hydranix Apr 27 '17 at 2:43
  • @Hydranix it was to the left of the cpu, between the IO panel and the heatsink, just on the other side. One thing I noticed when I saw it was that it didn't fall down on it's own as if it was stuck there. – Barış Uşaklı Apr 27 '17 at 2:49
  • Just for curiosity's sake, whats the motherboards model number so I can get a visual. – Hydranix Apr 27 '17 at 2:53
  • @Hydranix its asus p7p55d, I circled the area where I found the screw on the other side, at least that's the rough area imgur.com/HSBw0R3 – Barış Uşaklı Apr 27 '17 at 7:18
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    You can consider finding a matching make model version hard drive, removing the controller and putting it on your potentially shorted drive. Might just get lucky. – Chris Apr 28 '17 at 18:40
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Yes, it's definitely possible. For example, the screw could short the +5V line to the +12V line and fry the hard drive's onboard controller.

  • How can I check if there is still a shortcut in the system? Should I just get a new case/mobo/cpu to be safe. – Barış Uşaklı Apr 27 '17 at 2:40
  • I had something very similar happen years ago. I had a cheap one-size-fits-all chassis. It was those little brass screw in pegs for mounting the motherboard. Destroyed $400 in hardware before the first boot from one of those little pegs I had overlooked. Shorted power supply circuit into the memory or some other vital area since 1/4 RAM sticks were dead, along with cpu and motherboard. :( – Hydranix Apr 27 '17 at 2:47
  • @BarışUşaklı if the screw has been removed from behind the motherboard, the short is gone with it. Internal damage is possible, but if the motherboard POSTs correctly, chances are you are safe. – Hydranix Apr 27 '17 at 2:50
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    I unfortunately achieved this ... I actually spotted (years ago) my CD drive cable looked loose, so I pushed it together, it was the wrong way round, I blew everything ... controller, all IDE devices..... – BugFinder Apr 27 '17 at 6:54
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    Received the repaired PCB and now the drive is working again +1 – Barış Uşaklı May 15 '17 at 23:33
8

Yes it can.

A hard drive can fail indirectly: often hard drives which are used for long time tend to fail at next reboot/startup (caused by short circuit or normal power switch).

Other option: a surge from the wall socket or caused by induction after a short-circuit reached the drive electronic or controller (see below).

Note that there SHOULD be all kinds of fuses, diodes, capacitors and shielding that a electrical problem does not spread but cheap hardware is commonplace.

Just to mention it, there is also the problem of (logically) corrupt sectors if power fails while writing. This also should be covered by the drive (rotates long enough to finish write) but might not. Such corruptions might result in transient read errors but could need a disk repair or special tools to refresh the sector.

Typically hard to tell the reason, but a screw connecting the mainboards power lines with the grounded chasis (or with each other) does sound like a probable cause for a short-circuit which induced damage to the disk. (And again, it should not :)

One could say: you have been screwed. :)

However I want to add that your symptoms can also mean that the drive died first and short-circuited the computer or that the PSU was overloaded with the startup current demand from the drives.

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    No guarantees, but if it's working now with the errant screw removed it will most likely continue to work (assuming the screw was the problem). – BobT Apr 27 '17 at 2:41
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    @BarışUşaklı if you can replace the hardware on warranty or insurance or some other inexpensive way, by all means do so. If you're considering buying new hardware, then only you and your wallet can determine if that's worth it or not. If the machines working fine now, I wouldn't worry too much. Hard drives are cheap. Motherboards and processors are not. – Hydranix Apr 27 '17 at 2:44
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    @Blaine I am listing all alternatives I can think of to answer the general question in the title, but I totally agree with your assessment what's a likely one is (however I think +5V/GND is more likely if the screw touched the case) – eckes Apr 27 '17 at 2:45
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    Not sure about buying a new machine, but certainly make sure to check backup procedure and run a file system check (incl. media repair and/or raid check) – eckes Apr 27 '17 at 2:47
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    I will try to get a replacement PCB for the dead harddrive and see if I can make them work. – Barış Uşaklı Apr 27 '17 at 5:02
6

Yes!

I've lost two HDDs due to a short circuit. It was quite spectacular. An integrated circuit at the bottom of one exploded, resulting in a loud bang, a little fireball and a nice crater:

Photo of hard drive's printed circuit board. An integrated circuit with a cone-shaped lump with a hole in the middle is visible.

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    Ah, the magic smoke escaped! – Peter Mortensen Apr 27 '17 at 16:09
  • I removed the PCB and there were no visible damage on them, I sent them to a repair show to see if they can be fixed. – Barış Uşaklı Apr 29 '17 at 19:37
-1

Out of habit and past experience (have fried a lot of mobos ;-)) I insert a sheet of foam between the chassis & motherboard before screwing the board in place. This ensures:

1) A snug fit
2) No Short circuits as no motherboard part touches the bare metal surface

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