Never Again

Lucky I Didn't Blow Up

When upgrading hard drives, make sure your wires aren't crossed.

I was working as an IT manager for a city branch of a large national title company about 10 years ago. Back then it was all about Windows NT and hard drives that could hold a "massive" 6GB of data. At one point we had outgrown our 2GB drives, and I was going to migrate the data from those drives onto the new 6GB drives while retaining the operating system on the original drives.

The upgrade was supposed to be just a data-file move and I was not planning on having to touch the OS. It looked like it was going to be an easy and straightforward upgrade.

Nothing Unusual
The drives were SCSI, so all I had to do was place them on the bus with the existing drive, simply move the data over and go home a little later that evening. As part of the upgrade I had purchased some new wiring harnesses for the system. Once I put the harnesses in, I brought the system down, installed the drives and started the system back up.

At that point I heard something strange, like a spark followed by a soft explosion, and saw fire coming from one of the old original drives. My heart sank and I could not understand what had gone wrong. I turned the system off and began going over what I had installed.

Never Again

A Simple Mismatch
Nothing was new except for the new drives and they appeared perfectly fine. So I started testing and found that the new drives worked fine in other computers. But then I noticed something that, to this day, I will never forget. All of the wiring harnesses had colored wires, and one happened to be plugged into a power-supply line that had colored wiring as well. However, the colors did not match. It seems that during the manufacturing process the power plug was assembled with the two powers switched. This meant 12 volts was going to the five-volt area and vice-versa.

Repairing the Damage
Well, so much for a short evening -- at that point I realized I was going to find out how good the backup really was. Since the new drives were unaffected I had something to make a good working server. But because the drive that held the OS was now smoking, I had to start over from square one.

After installing enough of the OS to run backup exec, I started restoring to tape. Once I found out that backup exec worked fine and all was well, I got the servers up and running -- just in time to see employees coming in the door that I had said goodbye to the night before.

Yep, that's right -- I had pulled an all-nighter.

The moral of this story is: When you are doing upgrades, do not skimp on checking everything. Something as simple as a wiring harness could affect your entire company.

About the Author

Rick Colbert has worked as an IT manager for 13 years. He is currently with Firstitle and Abstract in Tulsa, Okla. When not handling tricky upgrades, Rick performs other feats as a professional magician.


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