Before I start, let me inform you that I have been working as an IT Manager for large international companies for my whole life, and I have received masters degree from IT technology. I therefore believe, I am fully competent to do what am doing now. However, now I face an uneasy challenge which I have never seen before. My troubleshooting is very limited because every single failure in solving it costs me significant amount of money.

I am working on my startup project, part of which is having a storage server with 72 TB of storage space. I have built the storage server myself, as I have built hundreds of PCs and servers before. My problem now is, that the server keeps destroying the hard drives.

After turning on the Server, all the hard drives either burn with a cloud of smoke and a burn mark on the HDD board or are not recognized on any other PC where I connect them to afterwards.

As my resources are limited, I have built my server from value parts where possible:

As you probably understand, I can not troubleshoot and test my progress on additional hard drives. Every failure would mean another HDD destroyed. I have destroyed already 12 of brand new WD Red 4TB HDDs.

I came here for an advice, how to troubleshoot and identify the broken component. Would purchasing a multimeter and measuring power output on key connectors help with my problem? How should I progress? Do you have any other idea?

What you believe can be causing the problem? Of course, all the connectors are correctly connected. This was the first thing I have checked. Moreover, they would not fit with any other connectors, so they are surely correctly connected. My motherboard behaves correctly, it does not randomly reboot.

In this situation any advice will be worth of considering. But please, remember, I do not have any spare PSU or chassis with 20 bays to replace and test again.

The 20-bay storage chassis has backplanes which connect the HDDs together. Do you think that there might be something wrong with the backplanes that would result in such problems?

Thank you in advance.

  • 5
    Oh and sidenote : that machine can barely be called a "server" due to the consumer grade components like the motherboard or PSU.
    – user186340
    Mar 7, 2015 at 17:14
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    @AndréDaniel, I believe, purpose defines server not its components. A server serves a service. Something that is a workstation now could have been a server 5 years ago. Thanks for your advice with the multimeter. Mar 7, 2015 at 18:39
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    I disagree, a server is about production service and that entails two things; retaining the data you have and being as available as possible - value, performance, manageability are all very important two but not compared to these two and you seem to have problems with both of these issues when it's actually very easy indeed to build a secure and reliable server of that size using server-grade parts.
    – Chopper3
    Mar 7, 2015 at 18:48
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    @Bunkai.Satori There is no professional solution with the constraints you've imposed. It's like asking for a Ferrari, but demanding it's made out of straw and dead cats.
    – Wesley
    Mar 7, 2015 at 23:26
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    You've invested a lot more than 4.000 EUR if you count your time. Unless you're working for free, the cost of your hourly salary times the number of hours you've spent is probably edging up towards the cost of an off-the-shelf server by now. Mar 7, 2015 at 23:28

2 Answers 2


I'm a bit iffy on the competence bit. I'm a IT management grad and they don't teach you squat about hardware. There's a few simple truths here

  • At some point of time dead hardware is dead hardware.

Time/effort costs money. You may not be able to fix this

  • Hard drives arn't free

    well unless you have a service contract that covers everything. We do. Our supplier will send us new drives via DHL in 4 hours for our drive enclosures. There's a reason real server stuff costs money

  • STUFF IS BURNING OUT is never a good sign.

The magic smoke must not escape

  • Damn it jim, you're an IT manager, not a hardware engineer

You actually don't really have a good enough understanding of hardware to fix it. Hell, our supplier just swapped out our entire enclosure when we had some small part break.

If its new? Its under warranty. Use it.

I'd also consider a few incorrect notions you would have. Old servers arn't workstations in most places (We run our servers to the ground, and our workstations get rotated down. We don't use our servers as workstations). A server would have shiny things like redundant power (which a workstation would not) and a workstation would be an e-atx box, rather than a rackmount.

School dosen't count for much sometimes, common sense does, and common sense is your hardware is broken and you need to get it replaced under warranty if its new and the damn thing is eating hard drives

FWIW, its the enclosure.

  • 3
    @Bunkai Please, just stop. If you're having to repeatedly bring up your credentials, you're using them as a crutch. We don't care.
    – Andrew B
    Mar 7, 2015 at 23:31
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    Professional? Professional is calling up the contractor and yelling at them for selling you shit that's broken. Your disk array is probably where the problem is. Call up your vendor, and yell at them. Point out you have had 12 disks burnt out. Our vendor would probably send out a service engineer and take care of it. I'm sorry but no matter how fun hardware is, a true professional would know when to let another true professional do his thing Mar 7, 2015 at 23:33
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    I'd also add that a disk array that is burning out disks is a VERY large paperweight, and the arguments about costing time is plainly illogical. Its costing you time now - every moment till you pick up that phone, or firing up the email client, and letting your enclosure vendor know he sold you a bum unit. Mar 7, 2015 at 23:37
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    @Bunkai.Satori If you knew what you were doing, you wouldn't be doing this in the first place.
    – Wesley
    Mar 7, 2015 at 23:53
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    You've burnt out 12 disks. Your way isn't working. Maybe, just maybe just listening to a guy who actually babysits much bigger, critical disk arrays might be a good idea, especially when its an easier, cheaper solution? Mar 8, 2015 at 0:00

Such catastrophic failures can be caused only by a much higher voltage on the power rail. It should be relatively simple to use a multimeter to measure the current/voltage going to the SATA power connector.

As you mention a (custom built) backplane: have you tried to connect a single hard disk directly to the power connector, bypassing the backplane-provided power?

  • hi and thanks for your response. Yes, besides the 12 HDDs in the main hdd-bay area, I have two 2.5 inch HDDs which will keep the database and the OS. These were connected the whole time directly to the PSU and bypassing the backplanes, even during the server crash. These two were intact. These two WD Blue 512GB are the only two HDDs which work until now. Mar 7, 2015 at 18:43
  • What could these backplanes do to have such an effect to my HDDs? If they get the balanced and correct amount of power, they can not simply multiply the available power to have it enough to burn the HDDs, can they? Mar 7, 2015 at 18:47
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    So you found your problem: the backplane. Maybe a short-circuit or something similar. With the help of a multimeter your should be able to track down the specific issue.
    – shodanshok
    Mar 8, 2015 at 7:39
  • Thank you for your comments. Yes, I will focus on the backplanes. The chasis has 5 backplanes, and into ech 4 HDDs are connected. It looks to me highly unprobable that more of them would be broken, just because all the drives which were destroyed. The drives were connected to 3 different backplanes. Mar 8, 2015 at 12:57

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