Smoke testing

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Smoke testing refers to the first test made after assembly or repairs to a system, to provide some assurance that the system under test will not catastrophically fail. After a smoke test proves that "the pipes will not leak, the keys seal properly, the circuit will not burn, or the software will not crash outright," the system is ready for more stressful testing.

The term smoke testing is used in several fields, including electronics, computer software development, plumbing, woodwind repair, infectious disease control, and the entertainment industry.


History of the term

"The phrase smoke test comes from hardware testing. You plug in a new board and turn on the power. If you see smoke coming from the board, turn off the power. You don't have to do any more testing." [1]

Smoke testing in various industries

Electronics and electrical engineering

In electronics and electrical engineering the term smoke test or power on test is used to refer to the first time a circuit under development is attached to power, which will sometimes produce actual smoke if a design or wiring mistake has been made. Most often this smoke comes from burning resistors, which produce a unique smell familiar to many technicians. For certain circuits, overheating and burning due to circuitry that is still not properly operating can be avoided by slowly turning up the input voltage to the unit under test by using a variable autotransformer and watching the electric current consumption[citation needed]. As a poor-man's "autotransformer", a properly-sized incandescent light bulb in series with the power feed can provide a similar benefit: if the unit under test has a short circuit or other overload, the bulb will light up and provide a high resistance, limiting or preventing further damage to the unit being tested.

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