I had a fire in my house last week.

I have several home brew computers that look like they have not received any actual fire or water damage. I've heard that the acidic qualities of the smoke may also be an issue for the components of computers.

Before applying power and starting the for the first time, I am considering giving each machine a thorough cleaning by breaking them down to their components and cleaning them with denatured alcohol. I plan on dabbing each connection using foam swabs and then patting dry with pure white paper towel. I also plan on replacing the heat transfer paste between the CPUs and heat sink/fans. The primary goal is to avoid having to invest in a new computer at this time. The secondary goal is to retrieve data.

Does anyone have any better ideas or suggestions for long-term success?

  • Though not likely what you wanted to hear, I'm guessing you could mark this answered? – Everett Aug 13 '12 at 20:37

The consideration isn't just one of smoke. There was likely some damage due to heat. Hard drives would be particularly sensitive to this. If just one soldered contact on the motherboard got hot enough to bridge another contact, you could get all kinds of bizarre issues (including damaging data when the computer is started up). You REALLY need a known good system to pull the data off the hard drives. You also need to consider that the power supplies may have been damaged even if the logic boards weren't. If the transformer melted you could send AC through your system and cause another fire.

Also, denatured alcohol still has a huge amount of water in it. You may want to use wood grain alcohol. I believe it is 100% alcohol (not 20 to 30% water like denatured).

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