Building a motherboard, it turns out, requires the same precision as defusing a bomb—one seemingly small, stupid mistake and the entire thing goes up in smoke.
Just ask the owners of the Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero who found their high-end desktop component charred after normal use.
Widespread reports across various social media platforms emerged over the past few weeks, describing how the Asus motherboard would throw up a BIOS code of 53, indicating a memory initialization failure. Some users smelled smoke coming from their boards and investigated to find a burn mark in the corner, just under the QLED. In most cases, the users heard a clanking or popping before the motherboard failed.
“...I get stuck on boot with QCODE 53 and QLED Orange (first time) and noticed a penny sized burn mark under the bottom right of the QLED, burnt to a crisp almost (top side, lot of soot) and melting the QCODE box a little,” someone wrote on Asus’s ROG forums.
“Then late at night I am merely surfing the web and all of a sudden it hard shuts off again, and this time when I look over there I see a component on the motherboard literally on fire. I quickly switch the psu off and unplug it from the wall,” Reddit user TheMaxXHD, who had two boards fail on them, wrote.
The desktop enthusiasts community spent a few weeks figuring out what was going on with these new motherboards before Asus chimed in, admitting to Tom’s Hardware that the boards are defective because a single capacitor was installed backward. Here is what the company had to say:
“In our ongoing investigation, we have preliminarily identified a potential reversed memory capacitor issue in the production process from one of the production lines that may cause debug error code 53, no post, or motherboard components damage. The issue potentially affects units manufactured in 2021 with the part number 90MB18E0-MVAAY0 and serial number starting with MA, MB, or MC.”
If you own Asus’ Z690 Hero motherboard, look at the product packaging and make sure your part isn’t affected by the manufacturing error. If it is, stop using it immediately and wait for Asus to roll out its promised replacement program. Asus is apparently working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to label the replacement program as an official recall; once it goes through, the fiery motherboards can be shipped off.
Even if your board doesn’t match those serial numbers, you should proceed with caution as Asus says it is continuing its investigation to see which boards are affected. This may sound silly, but if you don’t know your motherboard’s batch number, check to see if the “150" printed on the capacitor is facing the correct direction or if it is upside down. If it’s the latter, contact Asus’s support team and ask for a replacement.
Asus’s statement only confirms what popular YouTuber Buildzoid had already predicted. He identified what was wrong with the motherboard, explaining that the polarity stripe on the backward polarized capacitor was itself installed backward, causing nearby MOSFETs (transistors) to fry. Sure enough, every affected board shares the same issue where two MOSFETs tasked with sending 5V of power to other parts of the motherboard were burned up by the faulty memory capacitor.
Asus seems to be taking the right steps to get these out of customers’ homes, but such a potentially dangerous blunder calls into question the company’s quality control. We can only hope the company takes the steps necessary to reassure its massive customer base that its products are safe to use. In the meantime, you should at the very least steer clear of the Maximus Z690 Hero.