True IT blooper #123: The cleaning caper

Which is more hazardous to your computers -- dust bunnies or Windex? You might be surprised at the answer.

A long time ago, on a dark and fateful night, an after-hours cleaning crew entered the electronics manufacturing facility where systems administrator Kevin MacKinnon worked.

The cleaning crew had a lot of experience cleaning offices, but this was its first job at the manufacturing plant. In fact, it was also the first cleaning crew ever to have a job keeping up the offices there.

Imagine the size of the dust bunnies that place had!

The cleaners toiled and cleaned and cleaned and toiled for hours. They were eager to prove themselves; they were hoping to land a permanent contract with such a large customer. By the time they left, there wasn't a speck of dust left in the place.

The next morning, MacKinnon arrived to a sparkling office. No dust, dirt, fingerprints or streaks anywhere. The place even smelled clean and sanitized. MacKinnon was thrilled and impressed.

"The place could have passed a white glove test, it was so clean," he said.

MacKinnon's joy quickly gave way to dismay though. One by one, as computers and monitors were being fired up for the first time that morning, they sizzled and died in clouds of acrid smoke and odor. There were even a few fireworks displays from electrostatic discharge.

It seems that the overzealous cleaners had sprayed copious quantities of Windex on each and every monitor in the

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whole facility! It naturally ran down the screens and pooled inside, waiting for that first bit of power so they could short circuit.

"Can you say new monitors for everyone?" MacKinnon remarked sarcastically.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the extent of their cleaning gaffes. In deciding to do a really thorough job, they even cleaned an empty office that housed the two servers to which all computers in the plant were tied.

"Of course, both monitors had died just like the others," MacKinnon recounted, "but these clean freaks also lifted up the servers and cleaned underneath them."

Apparently one of the cleaners slipped and accidentally dropped one of the servers onto the desk. It was only a drop of about 10 inches, so no damage was apparent externally. But internally was another story: absolute dead silence from the 'pre-head parking disk.'

"We had to rebuild the servers and let the cleaners go. Our staff just had to get used to the not-so-fresh work conditions. "We all did get a 'consolation prize' though: a free kangaroo-sized pet dust bunny for each and every one of us."

This was first published in January 2004

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