I added a pot to my board thinking that it was for a simulated analog input
In that cases, a decoupling condensor
The Aref is such a case, as this thread proves again. A 10nF capacity between Aref and ground would have done no harm and a lot of good....
WarningIf you're using an external reference voltage (applied to the AREF pin), you must set the analog reference to EXTERNAL before calling analogRead(). Otherwise, you will short together the active reference voltage (internally generated) and the AREF pin, possibly damaging the microcontroller on your Arduino board. Alternatively, you can connect the external reference voltage to the AREF pin through a 5K resistor, allowing you to switch between external and internal reference voltages. Note that the resistor will alter the voltage that gets used as the reference because there is an internal 32K resistor on the AREF pin. The two act as a voltage divider, so, for example, 2.5V applied through the resistor will yield 2.5 * 32 / (32 + 5) = ~2.2V at the AREF pin.