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Being shocked by notebook computers

:: Monday, June 11th, 2007 @ 1:54:20 pm

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I mentioned to Cindy yesterday that I am frequently shocked by my notebook computers, and she was incredulous. When plugged into wall power, both my old Thinkpads (T series) and my current MacBook Pro produce streams of electricity that feel like constant needle pricks (not jolts, but a sustained pinprick). The shocks usually come from the corners of the top cover (LCD area), and along the front edge of the bottom of the notebook (in front of the keyboard). Having your forearm shocked as you type is not a pleasant user experience! I only feel the shocks when I’m plugged into 240V, but my Mac is currently shocking me when plugged into 110V as well.

Has anyone else experienced this? I’ve spoken to at least two people who have reported similar experiences, but it seems that most people haven’t ever had this happen. It’s happened to me on more than three separate notebook computers, so I have concluded that it can’t be specific to just my machine.

Maybe my skin is extra-conductive.

| Oakland, CA | link | trackback | Jun 11, 2007 13:54:20
  • http://www.ThomasHan.com/blog Thomas Han

    Hmm.. this is interesting. I have a MBP, but have not experienced this myself. Let me ask around and see if any colleagues here have the same experience on any of their Apple notebooks

  • Chester

    Hm. I don’t recall ever getting shocked by static electricity buildup in any of my laptop computers.

    The next time it happens, I suggest you slap your computer around to remind the little shit who’s boss.

  • Andy

    I have had this happen when overseas on 240V outlets that are not grounded properly (or at all). Drives me up the wall.

  • http://echeng.com echeng

    I figured it might be a grounding issue. Most international destinations I go to do not have ground. :)

    I hope someone has a definitive answer + suggestions for what to do to prevent it!

  • Angyl

    I get that off of my G4 powerbook, to the extent that I started to fold a piece of cloth and put it under my right wrist, which was where I was getting shocked the most – the cloth is the screen/kb protector for the laptop so it was convenient and it also prevents the wear that tends to happen on the wrist-spots of the leptops. Not so much of a problem with my Macbook (not pro).

  • http://echeng.com echeng

    Angyl – I use the same thing to prevent shocks (my protective cloth), although it can make it hard to use the trackpad if placed improperly. I’ve also started typing with my wrists and forearms suspended. Probably not a good thing.

  • http://www.tonywublog.com Tony

    All the time with Mac G4 laptop and MacBook Pro laptop. Accustomed to it. Happens more often at 240V than 110V, but still happens at 110V.

  • http://www.taekim.com Tae

    Hey Eric, just wondering what were the major reasons why you switched back to Mac and if you’re happy with the move? What do you use for email program/contacts on the Mac (Apple Mail? Address book)? I switched to Mac 2 years ago, but switched back to PC last year because of speed issues. But now with the new Macbook Pro, I’m considering switching back to Mac. LOL. I also have a Blackberry 8800, which I need to use (Missing Sync I guess).

  • http://carlosrull.com randomguru

    i’ve never ever experienced that. hmm… even in europe when i took my laptop a couple of years ago.

    but i can see the potential when using a different electrical source in another country.

  • http://www.carbonos.com Matt Segal

    I get shocked all the time when using a plugged-in Ti Powerbook G4. It really doesn’t seem to make a difference where I am – whether it’s domestic/foreign hotels, dive boats, or an airport. It’s especially painful if you have the misfortune of touching a piece of grounded metal at the same time.

    It doesn’t help that the charger has no ground :-/…

  • Adman

    Does it shock you if you use it in the bathtub?

    Seriously, that, uh, doesn’t really sound safe….

  • http://echeng.com echeng

    Yeah, it sucks. My Dell used to shock me as well. In Indonesia last week, Norb discovered that if you run your finger along the aluminum bar just above the keyboard (of the Macbook Pro), your finger… “vibrates” with some sort of electric shock.

    It isn’t happening now, but I confirmed that it happened while I was on the boat, connected to 240V.

    Scary stuff!

  • http://underwa.ter.net cor

    Hi Eric, I get shocked all the time, especially on Thinkpads! My current vaio doesnt seem to be shocking me as much, and neither did my older G4 mac. Like you said, it’s always on the edges/tips, and sometimes it’s approaching painful.

  • Ry

    I deal with 10 macbooks for work. I’ve been shocked/have shocked each one of them. So far, 4 of them generated enough electricity to shut them down. I’m wondering if it’s the materials used to make the damn things contributing to this.

  • Weiwei

    hi, Eric – I actually had the same experience on my old T-21. But I have been using T42 for a while and it doesn’t happen.

  • http://echeng.com echeng

    Ry – I’ve had my Macbook Pro shutdown suddenly a few times in the last few months. It’s really annoying. But in my case I think it’s a battery issue — it only has happened on battery power, and in each case I’ve had to plug the machine in again to turn it on again. (it was a complete, instant shutdown — not a low-battery standby)

  • http://www.lars-kirchhoff.de Lars

    Hi Eric, extactly the same it happened to me every time I’ve been in egypt with my dell. It is/was really frustrating, but I think it is also somehow depending on the people as you said already. I think some are more sensetive, because I asked several people if they could feel it and they didn’t and in my case it happened more often, when I was using the laptop right after a dive.

  • http://www.runturtlerun.net The Other Tony

    Used to get shocked by my Powerbook G4 on 110V and 240V. Now on my Thinkpad T42, I think it’s only happened when overseas when plugged into 240V.

  • http://www.connal.com Heidi

    Maybe it’s your magnetic personality…

  • Ry

    It seems to only happen mostly with me. I wear Blackhawk boots. Maybe I’m generating static that way. The boss is threatening to make me wear a static discharge strap on with a 20 foot tether if I shut down another laptop. >;0P

    Check this out, though: http://lowendmac.com/ibook/ti7.html

  • James

    Eric, this shocking/tingling happens when you have an electrical grounding problem in your home. You should call an electrician to have it looked at.

  • http://echeng.com echeng

    If it were only that easy. I am on the road the majority of the time in remote locations of the world. Sometimes it is a miracle that we even have power.

  • Nava

    Hi,

    I’m experiencing this all the time with powerbook G4. Are Apple aware of this phenomenon? May be their engineers can suggest something to prevent this?

    Thanks

  • http://simon.klaiber.com Simon Klaiber

    I also think it is a grounding issue.

    I never had this problems here in Germany (Very strict regulations on Earthing systems) but several times in other countries.

    I encounterd this on all liveaboards I was on. I gets worse when you are not absoluty dry. For instance when entering your PCMCIA Microdrive reader after a dive. Ouch!

    Simon

  • Terri

    I know the thread’s a bit stale, but my Thinkpad x41 Tablet had started shocking me this past month … and quite hard. I thought I must have been going crazy at first, that I needed to get up and stretch…. I make a habit of laying down on the couch, with the tablet on my stomach, and sure enough — it’s gone from shocking my arms/wrists at the front edge/corners, to shocking the skin on my stomach — at the points of the little case screws — all of them! And of course, what did I go and do, but the old “lick”/9V test… OWWWWWWW.

    And shortly after that?: my battery is now stuck at 3%, won’t charge, and there is a faint crackling coming from inside the case…. I think it’s time for a backup. :P

    Of note: I bought my x41 last year, just before the recall. I verified on the Lenovo website that my battery and tablet model were NOT part of the recall!! sigh How much you want to bet that they still won’t replace/repair, though, now that it’s just outside warranty…..

    (#*&@#!^#&%!

  • Robert

    Beware of the macbook pro though.. It gets so hot that you cant even have it on your lap. It gets up to around 100 degrees :O

  • http://virusremovalhelps.com/help-win-7-antivirus-2012-virus-removal/ Win 7 Antivirus 2012 Virus

    I got shocked too after reading your article:)

  • Anonymous

    i was shocked by my laptop and was in a coma for 3 days they said i had rabdomyolisis which when the circulation is cut off from your arm it swells up i had eight surgeries but my arm was saved.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zeppelin.fogarty Zeppelin Fogarty

    My PowerBook G4 does the same thing.

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i hate computers.