It’s amazing the things that can cause a lump in your throat. Say, for instance, your computer not booting.

Tonight I was trouble-shooting a trackball I thought to be dead, and I went to plug it in to a USB port on the front of my work computer. I had not properly grounded myself first, and this being Alaska in the winter, and me wearing sweats, and my chair’s cushions being very much made out of polyester, I had acquired quite the static potential.

As soon as the trackball’s USB plug contacted the metal around the computer’s USB port, there was a nice “pop” and the power on the computer dropped hard. No graceful shutdown, just went black.

Oops. So I pressed the power button. The fans started, but nothing else. Shut it off, tried again. Still nothing after a couple more attempts. Now, I’m a little nervous for a few reasons: 1) This is my work computer 2) The computer is on loan; 3) I have no spare; 4) I just started a new job three days prior and calling in with a sick computer the next day was not going to look good.

So after a little consternation, and some prayer (this is my livelihood we’re talking about after all), I remembered a little peculiarity I’d run into in the past. Computers, being electronic devices, often contain capacitors, whether those capacitors be in the power supply, or on the motherboard. Since most computers these days never truly turn off (it’s a “soft” power switch) those capacitors might not fully drain. Somehow, in certain situations, the system gets “wedged” due to various reasons (a static discharge, for instance).

So, the fix was thus: 1) unplug computer, 2) hold down power button for a while (I did a minute, I think I’ve heard 30 seconds will work). This drains the capacitors fully. 3) Plug computer back in and press the power button. It’s Aliiiiiive! And working fine.

That’s enough excitement for the night, thanks!

P.S. Anyone care to enlighten me as to why the capacitor drain trick works?

UPDATE: Some interesting discussion of this on Reddit

Note to xzxzzx: Sorry that you couldn’t link. I thought I had those enabled.


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