Magic Smoke

What Does Magic Smoke Mean?

Magic smoke is an enduring IT joke about processor function and hardware capability. IT pros or others may humorously or sarcastically refer to “magic smoke” when talking about the smoke that emerges from a hardware device in situations like overheating or improper connections.


Magic smoke is also known as blue smoke or factory smoke.

Techopedia Explains Magic Smoke

The idea is that those who are in on this joke have set up the false theory that processors and components have “magic smoke” inside that they somehow use to function. In this fictional scenario, if you “let the magic smoke out,” if it leaks or escapes, the hardware does not work anymore. In actual fact, the hardware stops working because it has been fried – the smoke is a consequence, not the causal factor. Language experts explain this as an example of a “post hoc ergo propter hoc” logical fallacy.

For example, when the system gets overheated and starts to smoke, an engineer might say to another – “you let the smoke out” – maintaining that facetious idea that the device is releasing magic smoke that it uses to do computing tasks.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.