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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Computer 101: Capacitor Failure in some Motherboards.

The computer motherboard is the central connection of every piece of hardware that a computer can have. All connectors, processor, memory, storage and display are connected via this one piece of hardware.  That makes the computer motherboard one of the most important pieces of hardware. Without the motherboard the central processing unit would not be able to accept and process information. The document that we create with our computer cannot be sent to the printer to make hard copy of it without the data going thru the motherboard. Now that I have cited how important the motherboard is, we need to know what are the signs that it is about to go south on us. But if your motherboard is new then these article does not concern you but is like to know the sign then continue reading on.

There is one component in the motherboard that would displayed the sign that e are looking for. Oh by the way before we go on I will clarify that there is only one sign that you’re going to read in these article and where only motherboard component to look for to see these sign. The component that we need to look out for is the capacitor every motherboard has one. There are several capacitors in each motherboard. The sign that we need to look for from these capacitor is if each one of them is already started to grow their top side. If you observe each new motherboard and look at the capacitors that are installed, we will notice that each top side of the capacitor is flat. After a few year of usage each capacitor has tendencies to the wear and tear and this will result in a gradual destruction of its inner working. If each one of these capacitor started to bulge each top side, once all capacitor has each top side bulging already then the motherboard has already gone south.

The following information was taken from Wikipedia regarding capacitor failure or capacitor plague. I have made a copy of some parts of the information from Wikipedia and put a hyperlink from the page where it was taken from please read on.

This Part of the article came from the Wikipedia. Capacitor Plague

Capacitor Plague

“The capacitor plague (also known as bad capacitors) is an ongoing problem with premature failure of large numbers of electrolytic capacitors of certain brands. Capacitors are used in various electronics equipment, particularly motherboards, video cards, compact fluorescent lamp ballasts, LCD monitors, and power supplies of personal computers. The first flawed capacitors were seen in 1999, but most of the affected capacitors were made in the early to mid 2000s. News of the failures (usually after a few years of use) forced most manufacturers to repair the defects and stop using the capacitors, but some bad capacitors were still being sold or used in equipment as of early 2007, and faults are still being reported as of 2011.


An incorrect electrolyte formula within a faulty capacitor causes the production of hydrogen gas (confirmed by mass spectrometry[1]), leading to bulging or deformation of the capacitor's case, and eventual venting of the electrolyte. The failed capacitors analyzed by two University of Maryland researchers (by ion chromatography and mass spectrometry) contained no traces of the depolarizing agent normally found in such capacitors in order to retain the hydrogen in solution. The root cause of failure for bulging Taiwanese capacitors has been hypothesized to be dissolution of the aluminium into the electrolyte due to poor phosphate-electrolyte balance, rather than the normal evaporation of the electrolyte that all such capacitors undergo. This hypothesis has been confirmed by analyzing the electrolyte using energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS), which confirmed the presence of dissolved aluminium in the Taiwanese capacitors' electrolyte, but not in Japanese ones, and by electrical testing, which confirmed a thinning of the dielectric, because the capacitance increased before failure, rather than the normal decrease through electrolyte evaporation. The industry standard test failed to capture this behaviour, likely because the high voltage used in the test significantly retards the dissolution, whereas it occurs faster at the production environment voltages. 

A serious quality control problem is that the issue only manifests after use over a period of time; poor quality electrolytic capacitors have the same measurable parameters as good ones when new. Only extensive accelerated life testing with high ripple currents and high operating temperatures can identify inferior components. After some normal usage, the bad capacitors predictably fail far sooner than normal end-of-life; most electronic components do not systematically fail in this way. “

To read the complete article from Wikipedia just click the link provided. Capacitor Plague

Again the information above came from Wikipedia I just want to share it because in my work I have already experience these capacitor failure several times already in the same motherboard brand that we purchase back in 2007. I will not say what the name of the motherboard or the manufacturer. So far we purchase several computer with the same motherboard back in 2007 and already four units have that has the same motherboard brand has already fail with all four having the same cause a blown capacitor or the capacitor top part has bulge. To get the units back in action i replace the motherboard with a new one that matches the processor and memory so that both item would not need to be change only the motherboard needs replacing. I have shared this information so that it will help to others in determining the cause of a motherboard failure. So if ever the motherboard in your computer fail and that motherboard are purchase during that time period better have a look at those capacitors.

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