Whisky Death

And not just an ordinary death, either. I killed Whisky, and I killed it but good. Here’s the story…

Whisky’s – er, was – my desktop computer. One of the early Core-i7 systems back in 2009, it rocked rather nicely and handled anything and everything I threw at it. Okay, I hear ya: by today’s standards it was certainly getting a little long in the tooth, but I didn’t care. It still ran like the day I built it. Until March 27.

That morning I was running through the logs, see. We run lots of machines here and I like to keep tabs on ’em. And I found that one of the terrabyte drives, an old Seagate, half of a mirror of some rather important data, had failed. I knew the day would come eventually. Over a year ago the drive reallocated a couple of sectors, but the count was stable at 2 and never rose. I’d figured it’d start throwing more and I’d notice and replace it. And every time we’d be buying drives for this or that I’d shrugged it off. “Next time.” So there wasn’t a hot spare on the shelf.

So instead of getting on with my morning I set out to protect the data. I pulled a couple of other drives and a SATA card – spares for a Linux server – from the shelf and went to install ’em in Whisky’s cavernous case. The plan was to build a new mirror array and copy the data to it. But Windows was balky, seeing the card but not the drives attached to it. Hmm.

Who let the smoke out?
Not Whisky, just a representative image. But the damage is just as real.

The data cables were known-good but the modular power cable came from the parts box. So I grabbed another, plugged it into the power supply and the other end into yet another unmounted and unattached drive, figuring to see if it would spin up.

And that’s when the smoke came out.

I heard it and smelled it and nearly hit my head on the underside of the desk as all the internals went dark.

With eSATA you can do that, hotplug, the power connectors are such that you can apply and remove power without trouble. Not so with a regular raw SATA Molex. Clearly, I hadn’t paid enough attention.

At that point I wasn’t sure what had died.

But data data recovery was most important. I walked the good mirror half into the garage where there’s a project running on an old AMD box. Hey, any place where there’s some space, some power, and a network jack’s fair game, right? Windows 7 would be able to make sense of the mirror. Something more than an hour later the data was safe on our internal network, not a single byte of lossage.

I started troubleshooting hardware with the power supply. I found the 12V motherboard 8-pin connector voltage lacking. This is rural Florida and everything isn’t as available as in the northeast. I found a new one, retail, at a store about an hour and a half away. I used the trip wisely, stopping at other stores out in that area: Costco and Ikea.

Later that night I stripped Whisky to the motherboard and attached the new power supply.

I threw the switches. No response at all.

That smoke they put inside this stuff smells. Eau-de-silicon, we call it. It’s an expensive smell.

And that’s how Whisky begat Porky.

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