SATA plug melted!

SATA fire

 

So I was making ISOs from some BD discs when I noticed a rather odd smell coming from my living room. Further investigation revealed that it was coming from my mediacentre PC that drives my projector.

The PC had shut down, and I assumed the PSU had died. But it turned out to be a Molex to SATA adapter that had caught fire and melted. Unfortunately it also wrote off the hard disk to which it was attached, since it destroyed the power socket. The PC had been running fine for the past three years without a hiccup.

A quick Google search revealed that this is actually quite common. It’s quite worrying that a little connector adaptor could have potentially burned my house down! Luckily the PSU had good short-circuit and overload protection and managed to shutdown before the whole PC burst into flames. Amazingly the PSU, motherboard, and all other components were perfectly fine once the hard disk had been replaced. I had to strip out everything from the case and clean out the bits of melted plastic and soot, and then rebuild the whole PC.

I certainly wont be using one of those Molex converters again. In fact I’m not even sure I trust SATA power connectors any more. They have always looked flimsy and had poor electrical contact areas. Not to mention they easily fall out if you so much as nudge a cable while putting the cover back on. Is this seriously the best they could come up with? But what else can you do?

Posted in Geekorama.

Steven Hale leads the operation and development of the international Birmingham Solar Oscillations Network (BiSON), a global network of automated robotic solar telescope run by the University of Birmingham in the UK. His research interests are instrumentation and electronics, and high-resolution optical spectroscopy techniques. In his spare time he has many interests including photography and aviation, and has a private helicopter license rated on the Robinson R22 and R44 aircraft.

This is a private blog and in no way represents opinions or endorsements from the University of Birmingham.

37 Comments

  1. Based on size and wording on the device, this may be the same adapters our company just recalled for or local customers in the US. We have contacted the US Consumer Product Safety Commission as we have seen 4 such fires. They seem to be generic adapters with no clear manufacturer other than the word Amphenol on it. Details at our website.

  2. Wow ..

    I’ve had 2 of these light over the last 2-3 months myself.. At lease I know now..

    seems like a class action lawsuit in the making…

    in both cases fire companies were called…

    it’s just a matter of time before someone gets hurt..

  3. I had similar melting on mine, powering my Pioneer DVDR.
    I’m pretty sure this one says “Wingsonic” in a distinctive double line font on one side, (melted the name in the middle) and a regular ‘SATA’ on the other.
    May have burnt my place down if I hadn’t been sitting right next to the rack.
    Scarrrry what a $2 device can do!

  4. Thanks for the post. I just had one of these “Amphenol” adapters burn up on me, flames and all! Very glad to have been in the room at the time.

  5. … just happened to me… No markings on mine (bought it from Maplin [UK], though…).
    Like some here, I was sat next to my PC when it ‘spontaneously combusted’. By the best of luck, I managed to get the side cover off and blew out the fire just as it was getting going…
    So I can report that the fire was specifically between the yellow (12volt) and black ground wires.

    The drive itself appears to be unharmed – I’ll be checking that tomorrow… I’ve already replaced the cable and plugged in a new drive and it all appears to be OK … so far.

    I normally have the PC on 24/7 – mainly ‘cos it takes an age to wind up in the mornings (must get that large SSD…), but I guess I’ll have to suffer that wait now.

    Next job is to look up temperature sensors and associated PC card…. πŸ™‚

    Duncan.

  6. Our company ran in the same problem as well. Adapters started burning after 2 years of use (even those that were not connected anywhere).
    We put some of those adapters in x-ray and here’s what it looks like: Image

    I don’t know what the phenomenon is called but basically the copper “grows” thru the plastic and causes short circuit. Cause is probably impurities in the plastic.

  7. Hi Arto,

    Thanks for the image! That’s really interesting to see. Would you mind if I use it in a follow up post to this one?

  8. Sure.

    Someone with more knowledge about electronics can probably explain what has happened in that picture of mine.

  9. Pingback: More SATA adapter fires! – Steve's Stuff

  10. Most product safety standards (including UL60950) consider anything under 240W of available power (to create heat) not a fire hazard. Even if it were that much power available on the 12V connection, the enclosure of the computer would contain any flaming, molten material from escaping, and so spread of fire is very unlikely.

    My STATA2 drive connector failed the same way last week, so I just replaced it with solder connection right to the card edge connector on the drive. The HDD was just fine, works as usual, but I back it up once a week now!

    Provide a response, and I can post a photo of my repair.

  11. Thanks for the info, Ralph! Good to hear you got your drive working again. I didn’t think at the time to attempt a direct power connection to the board. Oh well.

  12. I was quick to blame the Sata connector too when similar thing happend to my 2tb HDD found the computer off and stank of burnt plastic. , found the plug all melted , I need the data on the HDD so I decided to strip it down and see what happend , it looks like the issue is the 12v rail not the. 5v and the motor is a complete short my guess is the motor has shorted and caused connector and molex to short πŸ™ , the board it’s self seems fine other than a melted power socket , my next task is to swap the 4 hard drive plates to a matching working hard drive hope it works :/ anybody ever attempted this at home ?

  13. Thanks for share this info. Today this happen in a Dell computer where I had installed a power adapter cable with twin plugs to connect a SATA DVD drive. Interestingly the spontaneous combustion took place at the unused end of the twin SATA power connector. There was enough flame and heat to melt the SATA data cable and the DVD drive case aw well and fill the room with smoke. I haven’t checked the DVD drive yet but the rest of the computer survived the incident.

  14. I’ve had TWO of these ignite/melt in less than a year. Neither burned the drive badly enough that it ruined the drive. I was able to clean the contacts and the drives have still functioned. (But have been delegated to non-critical roles.)

    Dedicated sata power from the PSU for every drive for me from now on…

  15. additional note: I don’t believe either of mine had any manufacturer markings on them. Impossible to tell now.

  16. Thanks for your comments Nolte.

    I agree I only use dedicated SATA power from the PSU now. It’s interesting that there don’t appear to be any reports of PSU connectors burning up, and in principle there isn’t any reason why they should be any more robust. It must just be that the adapters have low built quality.

    Steve.

  17. The same thing just happened to me on this 2015/08/17.
    Earlier this evening, i was taking a bath and suddenly the smoke alarm went off in my living room. I scrambled over and saw 3 inch flames raging inside my PC!! Luckily, my smoke detector is 6 feet directly above my PC, and also the top front bay slot happened to be open for ventilation so i could see the flames quickly. I immediately unplugged the main power cord and blew onto the flames to put them out. I opened the case. The Molex to SATA adapter was burned down to chars near the SATA end …
    Based on my experience, and Dale’s comment, i think is caused by accumulation of dust, and that this can short just any SATA power connector, these pins are very close together…
    I was so lucky that the fire only took down my DVD, and my whole PC rebooted just fine…

    After a scare like that, i’ll no longer use MOLEX to SATA adapters, and dust off the regular SATA power more frequently…

  18. Hi Jack,

    Sorry to hear about your incident! You’re right, you’d think it ought to be a problem related to the SATA connectors themselves. But how come it’s only ever these Molex-SATA converters we hear about going up in smoke? I don’t think I’ve ever seen any reports of the same problem with SATA connectors that are integral to the PSU.

    Very odd. Best just stay away from these adapters in any case.

    Steve.

  19. I had 2 catch fire, no apparent reason, within 1 month of each other. Lucky I was close by & able to disconnect power before major damage – So it’s possible to avoid these adapters altogether? – I’ve bought 1 replacement DVD drive, but looking for a cable to connect to the Molex…

  20. Hi Amy,

    Sorry to hear about your troubles! The only way I know of to avoid these adapters altogether is to make sure you buy a PSU with the number of SATA connectors you require, avoiding the need to convert the Molex connectors. Some of the more expensive modular PSUs mean you can select exactly how many SATA or Molex you want, and so I tend to choose these from now on whenever I have the need for a new PSU.

    Steve.

  21. Wow…thank you for this post! I just had a fire from a molex to sata power adapter this morning, and have been scouring the web for answers/info! Luckily I caught mine early, and my HDD seems to be operating fine with a new cable πŸ™‚

    This is what caught fire in mine, after 3 years of use. As you can see–it’s got GREAT reviews πŸ™ http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003L5D0OE?

    Can we trust SATA power Y splitters, like these?
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16812200468&cm_re=sata_power_splitter-_-12-200-468-_-Product

    Thanks Steven!!

  22. You are a very clever individual!

  23. I just had one of these adaptors catch fire as well, just on the sata end. This connector was not even connected to a drive so it wasn’t a poor connection that heated up.
    Amphenol is clearly imprinted on one side of the connector.
    I’ve been involved in mobile electronics in very dusty and wet enviroments for 40 years and I’ve never seen any amount of dust cause a fire at 12 volts.

  24. I had a short too just like that. A very bad smell in my room first and then I saw “yellow flickering light” inside my PC that is standing on the floor next to my desk.
    Luckily the PC case was half open (I did not make any changes to my PC hardware in the last 2 months or so, nor was there any vacuming or any other phisical movement done in the last week)
    First I thought it was my SSD, but that SSD survived. Only damaged connector but it still works.
    The connector an wires (Yellow and it’s black) were melted.
    I did not know that a pc PSU was able to deliver that much current causing a fire.
    I will never leave my PC powered on while going away from it.
    I do not see any company name on the connector.
    On the black connector I see 3 x 3 indots (marks) Maybe those indots are from manufactoring. On my other sata power connectors I do not see those indots.

  25. Just had a smoke filled room and a melted adapter just as the picture showed. I was installing a used graphics card and turned on the pc and was putting it back into the cabinet when i smelled “it”. I immediately removed power and opened up the case and traced the smell to the power connector to my backup hard drive and lo and behold, the black amphenol connector melted between the yellow and black wires. KEEP SPREADING THE WORD THAT THIS CONNECTOR IS NOT SAFE! I believe i bought mine at Frys Electronics over a year ago.

  26. Pingback: Computer Spontaneous Combustion / Sata Power Meltdown | Life & Other Stuff

  27. Also just had one fail and one about to fail. Mine were both in HP Proliant ML110 Servers and have HP part numbers of 456853-001 and are manufactured by Amphenol.
    I have Xray’d the one about to fail here http://tinypic.com/r/vqpdlf/9

  28. Hi BM,

    Thanks for the report. These things are a death trap. Out of interest, how did you identify that one was about to fail? So far all the ones I’ve seen have looked perfectly fine until they melt.

    Steve.

  29. Thanks BM! That’s really good to see and hopefully will help others spot connectors that are heading for failure.

    Steve.

  30. People, if the connector says Amphenol then it is NOT a Molex product.

  31. Well – Aug 12, 2017 – – smoke very strong in living room coming from computer.
    Opened it to find the connectors [2] appearing very close to the photo on this page.
    I wonder what could have happened IF…..the event went beyond the incipient stage.
    One of the hard drives was an exact copy of the other – containing CLASSICAL music I treasure. I hope I can STILL connect an [proper] cable once I scrape off the melted plastic from the HDD contacts. Assuming there wasn’t any electrical current damage to the innards. The other drive, the heat so hot it melted the contacts as well.
    This is the information from the wire: E330859; AWM; 1007; VW-1; 80 (degree symbol) C; 300V; 18AWG; RoHS. The wire strands are an silver color metal. The burning appears to be at the yellow & black wire termination at the HDD connection.

  32. Aug 12, 2017 – had the event with the ‘molex to dual SATA connector’ to two HDD.

    I had more information with the data about the wire I posted here 15 minutes ago but – the post appears to have ‘disappeared’?!

  33. Hi Joseph,

    Thanks for the report! All comments go to moderation before being displayed, hence your post “disappearing” until accepted. Sorry about that.

    It’s worrying to hear about so many of these fires. I keep warning everyone I know against using these adapters. The short always appears to be between the +12V yellow wire and a black ground wire. Perhaps this wouldn’t be so dangerous if it were between a +5V red wire.

    I’m glad to hear you caught it before any significant damage occurred!

    Steve.

  34. Interesting to see this thing still begin this active.

    In my case the 12V wires were cut off so it can happen with 5V as well. I’d imagine the migration happens faster with higher voltage tho.

    BMs x-ray also shows the migration very nicely. Only slightly melted since there’s not as much current as there would be with proper shortcircuit. In that picture it’s more like a small resistor between 12V and 0V.

    PSUs can definitely push enought current to cause a lot of heat (and ignite plastic that isn’t properly fire proofed). 600W PSU can push out 20A on 5V rail for example and way more on 12V rail.

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