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Dell Laptops Have Shocking New Problem

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the jolt-of-reality dept.

Portables 475

dapsychous writes "A friend of one of my coworkers has noticed a problem in Dell notebook computers (also covered in this engadget article about a problem that has been popping up lately in Dell 17" notebook computers). It seems that these computers are putting out between 19 and 139 (65 according to article, 139 according to him) volts of AC power as measured from any chassis screw vs. earth ground. This has led to several problems including fried ram, blown video circuits, and a stout zap on his left hand. According to him, Dell has tried to keep him quiet about the problem and has even gone so far as to have him banned from a few websites, and threatened him with legal action if he tells people about the problem."

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What did he expect? (0, Flamebait)

baldass_newbie (136609) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921852)

He bought a Dell!

Re:What did he expect? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17922038)

This has led to several problems including fried ram, blown video circuits

Sounds exactly like a MacBook.

Re:What did he expect? (-1, Troll)

Penguin's Advocate (126803) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922386)

? The MacBook is perfect in every way.

The poor implementation of power saving in Linux (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17922190)

...is to blame here. Most probably, it doesn't cut power but increases it above hardware tolerance.

A million eye balls attached to half a million idiots? Most definately.

Re:What did he expect? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17922286)

This is an old problem. I have experienced the shocking with a Dell Inspiron 8000 laptop. As for Dell's forum, those moderators are a bunch of Brady Bunch-loving nazis. Try typing the word "piss" in your post on their forum and see if they don't sick the bastards on you. I actually like Dell computers; I just don't care for their jackoff forum moderators.

Non-repro? (4, Insightful)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921860)

I'm running an E1705 (manufactured in May of last year) and I'm not seeing this. Maybe his unit just sucks at grounding. (They're called manufacturing defects for a reason, and last I checked, they're covered by warranty and by law.)

Re:Non-repro? (0)

Cornflake917 (515940) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921948)

I've got a M1710, I haven't encountered anything in that respect either. Although, I am experiencing occasinal crashes when I play video games (WoW or CS) for more than an hour or two. I think it might be a heating issue.

Re:Non-repro? (4, Insightful)

Tongo (644233) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921982)

I don't think the story is about the shock. The story is about how Dell tried to shut him up.

Maybe the guy should be carefull so that he don't sleep with da fishes.

I had this problem too (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17922166)

On an older Inspiron 8600 laptop. I contacted Dell Warranty Support and my laptop was replaced with a newer E1505 core duo model within a week.

Normally I would have been happy, but the new system had inferior graphics and disk drive, and was incompatable with the upgraded RAM in the old system. Dell would not reconcile the issues, and just had their tech support deny my claims.

Re:Non-repro? (5, Funny)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922270)

Speaking of non-repro, if you have the laptop in your lap and your feet in the bathtub, you may never have to worry about not getting a date on Saturday night ever again. It only takes one line voltage zap and Mr. Happy will be terminally depressed, as will his two small buddies. So remember, NEVER put a ground strap on your ankles and sit down to use a Dell laptop during a thunderstorm on Friday the 13th. In Texas. While wearing an aluminized Mylar bunnysuit and no underwear. However, this is all too common.

Re:Non-repro? (5, Funny)

Bandman (86149) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922336)

Is it wrong that the first thing I thought was "but won't the bunny suit create a faraday cage around you?"

Re:Non-repro? (1, Funny)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922420)

Faraday cage good for electrostatic charge, maybe not so good for current flow from laptop to testicles to ankles. Let me get some aluminum foil and test this.. be right back.... $#%)(&!!!!... whimper... yup, it's a baaaad idea...

Re:Non-repro? (-1, Redundant)

general scruff (938598) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922384)

My dell laptop has also been perfectly fi-GAH!!...

/NO CARRIER

Dude, you're getting a (1, Funny)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921866)

shock...

Re:Dude, you're getting a (3, Funny)

eviloverlordx (99809) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921920)

shock...

I guess this means we shouldn't urinate on the third screw then, eh?

Oh shit. (2)

Sneakernets (1026296) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921878)

I'm on one of those right now. i will be calling Dell ASAP to see if I am affected.

*sigh*, Is there not a company we can trust anymore?

Re:Oh shit. (3, Funny)

Abolo (932400) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921942)

Google? They seem nice.

Re:Oh shit. (5, Insightful)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921986)

*sigh*, Is there not a company we can trust anymore?
Has there ever been?

Re:Oh shit. (3, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922122)

I know it's fashionable here to bash corporate America and all, but not all companies are big bad corps with a will to shaft you out of your hard-earned money. I trust many big companies because they provide quality products and never tried to screw me, and I trust even more small companies, and if you think about it, I'm sure you do too.

That said though, Dell isn't in my white list, that's for sure. Michael Dell is in for the money, period...

Re:Oh shit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17922280)

Care to name one? Just ONE? And don't say Purina, my grandfather died in an industrial "accident" because they were too cheap to put a door on an elevator.

Don't say Tyson Foods, who fried a few dozen people when their plant caught fire and the doors were chained shut.

Don't say MS, don't say Apple, for God's sake don't say Sony.

Nor any clothing manufacturer.

Nor any automaker (Ford frying policemen) not tiremaker (Firestone).

No, the only "good" company is privately owned by a man or woman with morals. Only a sociopath is qualified to run a publically funded company.

So name one. Just ONE.

Re:Oh shit. (1)

goldspider (445116) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922396)

Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Perfection.

Re:Oh shit. (1)

lixee (863589) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922450)

I trust many big companies because they provide quality products and never tried to screw me,
If they didn't provide quality products, you'd go look elsewhere. Same if they tried to screw you. That's the only reason you trust them.

That said though, Dell isn't in my white list, that's for sure. Michael Dell is in for the money, period...
And so are the absolute majortity of corparations. They all put their interests above public interest. Try to watch Achbar's very insightful "The corporation" to get a sense of how just how bad it is.

Re:Oh shit. (1, Informative)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922024)

get a volt meter and check for voltages between a chassi screw and earth ground, it will most likely be DC current...

Re:Oh shit. (2, Funny)

Bandman (86149) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922390)

unless something has gone horribly, horribly wrong

You trust them? (5, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922050)

i will be calling Dell ASAP to see if I am affected.

Um, and why would you expect them to give you a straight answer? They'll probably just play dumb and say they've never heard of the problem. (Which will probably be true, at least for the drone you'll be talking to.)

Get out a voltmeter and test it; that would seem to be the easiest solution, and less likely to lie to your face than some Customer Service rep. Probably faster, too.

Until a problem like this becomes terribly public -- and by this I mean more public than just being covered on some technology websites -- I suspect Dell will deny it, except in cases where people absolutely insist that they have a problem, and demand a replacement. In those cases, they'll get a replacement machine just to shut them up.

So I'd just get out the old multimeter, measure the AC voltage from one of the chassis screws to the nearest good ground, and if it's more than a few millivolts, call Dell and tell (not ask) them that you need a replacement unit.

Re:Oh shit. (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922066)

I'm on one of those right now. i will be calling Dell ASAP to see if I am affected.

You need to call Dell to check if that painful feeling in your fingers is for real?

SHOCKING! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17921888)

First Piss

I wonder if this has anything to do with (0)

wiredog (43288) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921916)

the weather? Dry air == lots of static electricity. I ground myself before I touch anything electronic at this time of year.

Re:I wonder if this has anything to do with (5, Insightful)

Baron Eekman (713784) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922228)

How does static electricity get you an AC current?

Re:I wonder if this has anything to do with (3, Informative)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922260)

Dry air == lots of static electricity.

But this guy says he measured his voltage with the multimeter on AC. Static electricity is the buildup of charge on something capacitive (like you and me) and would be measured as DC. That is, if you could measure it at all, since we make pretty bad capacitors and any ordinary multimeter would quickly drain the charge away.

Re:I wonder if this has anything to do with (1)

Fist! Of! Death! (1038822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922416)

Bollocks. A static discharge is in the region of Kilo Volts, and is basically a very quick spike in the time domain. This not be static...

Third-hand hearsay... (4, Insightful)

goldspider (445116) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921918)

...it doesn't get much more reliable than that!

Re:Third-hand hearsay... (4, Funny)

AdamKG (1004604) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922176)

My friend's cousin's grand-uncle's doctor begs to differ!

Link to article's down already.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17921938)

I wonder if Dell has something to do with this...

just fix the laptop and stop screaming (2, Interesting)

swschrad (312009) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921940)

if a power supply doesn't do it, pop out the drive and put in a new chassis.

is Dell that bad at support nowadays? or is it just another "call me Bob" who has no clue who he's working for this month overseas and doesn't care?

new campaign (5, Funny)

physicsboy500 (645835) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921958)

Dell's new marketing campaign should be: Dell: our computers are elecrifying!

Only in America! (5, Informative)

aslate (675607) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921962)

Okay, not really, but shouldn't happen in the UK. According to the article:

"The latest word is that VG's own problems were solved by springing for a three-pronged grounded power adapter"

You can't get a non-earthed plug in the UK, the earth pin is physically required to open the plug socket. This can be a dummy pin, but you're only able to do that if the unit itself is double-insulated.

Re:Only in America! (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922114)

You can't get a non-earthed plug in the UK, the earth pin is physically required to open the plug socket. This can be a dummy pin, but you're only able to do that if the unit itself is double-insulated.

Aren't there around 3 types of socket in common use? The tank-like giant socket with three rectangular pins. The socket with three round pins (possibly in two different sizes!). Also an "electric razor socket" putting out 115V in a bathroom. I know the first type is the official standard *now*, but I saw a lot of the other types whilst in England.

-b.

Re:Only in America! (1)

jareth-0205 (525594) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922458)

Errr... how long ago were you here?! The sort of Soviet-styled three-rectangular-pin has been mandated by law for a *long* time now, and has been dominant on everything for atleast 20 years. I've never seen a wall socket with round pins (though have occasionally seen the odd round 2-pin plugs and adaptors for very old tech). The electric razor 115v socket is only really seen in hotels.

This shouldn't be hapening in America either (2, Insightful)

technoextreme (885694) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922128)

This guy is measuring a voltage that is higher than our main voltage by twenty volts. Ten volts is plausible but twenty????

Re:This shouldn't be hapening in America either (1)

taniwha (70410) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922308)

could be something like an inverter to drive the tube in the backlight .... more likely though it's not the laptop per-se that's the problem but the powerbrick - a real monster for those big laptops - I had my 9100's replaced a few months back, time to break out the multimeter ....

Re:Only in America! (1)

sabinelr (1061112) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922388)

It is true that the three prong plugs are intended to prevent stuff like this. Generally you should expect no such problems using the external power supply, but it is possible that a small capacitor has been connected between the ground side of the DC output and the input AC side. An old practice that some EE could explain the rationale for. If this is happening on a docking station, make sure there really is a ground on the third prong. Half of my house (built in the middle 1950's) is ungrounded, although some outlets are 3 prong, so it is misleading. Even though the small capacitor is not an electrocution hazard (unless it short-circuits), it still is stimulating to feel, and such leakage could be a hazard to IC's. There could also be a design flaw in the power supply that is causing leakage. It might be a good idea to measure the AC voltage between the power supply DC plug and the ground of the AC. DO NOT stand on a bare concrete floor barefoot while holding the DC connector while the power supply is plugged in. Don't ask me how I know that.

Not unheared of.. (1)

TigerPlish (174064) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921964)

long ago, i had an AST "tower" (pentium II, or was it I? So long ago.. ;o) that zapped me mildly. I measured from chassis to ground a nice 40 VAC. But only when the network card (coax) was in it. o.O

Re:Not unheared of.. (1)

tchuladdiass (174342) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922052)

I had the same problem with a generic pc. The machine was plugged into a surge protector, and the wall outlet had a faulty ground connection. Cheap surge protectors will dump about 20 - 40 volts to it's ground connection in that instance (which is then transfered to the system case). Therefore, you'd get a shock when touching the system and the thinnet cable (which was earth-gounded on one end in accordance to specs).

Why would there be high voltage in a notebook? (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921974)

Don't they run off a low voltage DC supply? What bit of the hardware inside would be upping the voltage to that sort of level? I can't think of anything offhand. Anyone know?

Re:Why would there be high voltage in a notebook? (1)

Skater (41976) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922104)

That's what I was wondering, too - the brick converts the power to relatively low voltage DC, so I don't know why there'd be any AC current inside a laptop...

Re:Why would there be high voltage in a notebook? (1)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922110)

How about the electroluminescent backlight for the screen? These are usually excited by higher voltages. To boot, the supply wires for it would likely pass through the hinge, providing a mechanical opportunity for failure (i.e. pinch point, resulting in exposed wiring, exposed wiring grounding out on notebook chasis).

Re:Why would there be high voltage in a notebook? (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922162)

What bit of the hardware inside would be upping the voltage to that sort of level? I can't think of anything offhand. Anyone know?

It's needed to run the electroluminescent panel which lights the screen. ALSO, there can be 19VDC or whatever *between* the adapter + and - VDC pins. But, the whole system could be floating at some high AC voltage in relation to earth ground (as opposed to in relation to one another) if the AC adapter doesn't do a good job at isolation.

-b.

Re:Why would there be high voltage in a notebook? (1)

Em Ellel (523581) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922168)

Don't they run off a low voltage DC supply? What bit of the hardware inside would be upping the voltage to that sort of level? I can't think of anything offhand. Anyone know?
Its the little noticed but critical part called the SLG (Stupid Lawsuit Generator). McDonald's used to use it in their "coffee" product.

-Em

Re:Why would there be high voltage in a notebook? (4, Informative)

Alioth (221270) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922278)

The LCD backlight - typically runs somewhere in the region of 150V ac. There will be an inverter in the laptop to produce this voltage.

Mod Parent UP, useful information (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922424)

Please read and mod up the parent -- provides useful explanation/answer to question.

Re:Why would there be high voltage in a notebook? (1)

WaterDamage (719017) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922324)

An inverter or possibly multiple inverters on the MB. There may be plenty of components that need higher voltages. I've known some LCD backlights that require voltages of 80 to 100 VAC to operate.

Re:Why would there be high voltage in a notebook? (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922426)

Easy, the power supply is connected to mains, depending on your part of the world between 100 and 230 Volts.
Especially the switched mode power supplies will pass through some of that tension.
Measuring it with a (digital) voltmeter does not mean much due to the very low drain (high internal resistance) of such a meter.
Yet something that's classed as double insulated, a requirement for equipment without a ground pin, should not be able to give off a nasty shock unless it's broken.

65 RMS is what, 91 P2P? (1)

Speare (84249) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921990)

My EE is very fuzzy nowadays, but 65 volts AC root-mean-squared would indicate a higher voltage peak-to-peak. But not as high as 139 volts peak-to-peak. I get 65*2*sqrt(2)=91, but forget if that's even the right way to calculate it. Maybe the 139 volts is a high-water-mark sort of non-repeatable measurement?

Re:65 RMS is what, 91 P2P? (1)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922220)

For a sine wave AC waveform, your calculation is correct. Vrms x 1.414 = Vp-p

I think the problem they are experiencing is the high voltage for the LCD screen backlight shorting onto the notebook chasis.

Re:65 RMS is what, 91 P2P? (1)

mrcdeckard (810717) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922394)

For a sine wave AC waveform, your calculation is correct. Vrms x 1.414 = Vp-p

I think the problem they are experiencing is the high voltage for the LCD screen backlight shorting onto the notebook chasis.


i think you meant Vrms*2*(2^(1/2)) for Vp-p. Vrms*(2^(1/2)) gives Vp. Vp is voltage of peak referenced to ground (unipolar). you have to double that to get voltage of the peak referenced to the the "other" peak -- Vpp (bipolar) .

65*2*1.414 does equal 183.8, so maybe that could be it. but where in the hell is the 65 Vrms coming from in a laptop? seems like your suggestion about the lamp makes sense.

mr c

Right. (4, Insightful)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921992)

Sounds like someone broke their labtop and is pissed that Dell won't replace it for free.

fix? (1)

Ghost_3k (521943) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921994)

The forum post also mentions "*Update* The following problem appears to be solved by getting a 3 pronged grounded adapter fro Dell."
The big question why didn't it come with one by default?

I sometimes feel a small current when I'm touching the bottom of my Dell 6400/E1505 too... and I thought I was the crazy one...

Re:fix? (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922218)

The big question why didn't it come with one by default?

If the adapter is double insulated and isolates the laptop from the mains via a transformer, a ground isn't legally necessary. And a lot of US outlets in homes (especially in the Northeast) still don't have ground pins. So people tend just to break the ground pins off of plugs rather than replacing the outlet and running a ground wire if necessary.

-b.

Sample size of one... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17921996)

Why are individual gripes making it to /.? What is the statistical significance of this observation?

A single manufacuring defect (if that is the problem) isn't worthy of /.

Also, did the "friend" modify the laptop at all? Perhaps disassemble it or otherwise "improve" it?

We've all gotten a lemon at one time or the other.

Stop griping... get a life.

Re:Sample size of one... (1)

Magada (741361) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922242)

You must be new here, and so is the guy who modded you insightful :). It's Taco's website (well, not anymore, but he has total editorial control) - dig?

Re:Sample size of one... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922326)

Dig? I thought that was another website. Maybe that explains things like this "article".

On a couch perchance? (4, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921998)

The articles are rather light on details, but I'm wondering if some of these people are using their laptops on a couch and sliding a bit when they sit down? I've had an Inspiron 6000 for a bit over a year now and I've learned in the winter to be careful to set it aside when I'm getting on or off of the couch, lest the static electricity give me a nice zap.

The fact that he's measuring AC (which is very surprising since the laptops don't have any ready access to AC outside of the power brick AFAIK) make it less likely though.

Re:On a couch perchance? (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922236)

The fact that he's measuring AC (which is very surprising since the laptops don't have any ready access to AC outside of the power brick AFAIK) make it less likely though.

Screen backlights run on 400Hz AC somewhere between 100 and 200V. Also, if the adapter isn't isolating the laptop from the mains power well, you can get the correct voltage between + and -, but the whole system can be at some AC voltage in relation to earth ground (as opposed to laptop - input).

-b.

Re:On a couch perchance? (2, Informative)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922240)

You are forgetting about the LCD screen backlight, which is powered from a stepped-up AC supply in the notebook. My guess is that this supply is shorting out to the notebook chasis, perhaps in the screen hinge, causing this problem.

Re:On a couch perchance? (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922298)

Well, actually the laptop will have an AC supply. The laptop will have an inverter in it for the EL backlight, producing on the order of 150 volts AC.

No need for a lawsuit (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922004)

threatened him with legal action if he tells people about the problem.

Why bother? they just have to tell him that, to fix the problem, he just has to touch these two tiny screws there with both hands and power on the machine. Problem solved!

Seriously though: where is 130V coming from (or is even used) in a laptop? I was under the impression that there's nothing high voltage in there, save for the LCD backlight perhaps?. So perhaps there's a chance that this is all a bunch of crap from some dude who's pissed off at Dell for some reason (and god knows there are plenty of reasons).

Re:No need for a lawsuit (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922356)

I was under the impression that there's nothing high voltage in there, save for the LCD backlight perhaps?

Bingo. Most of those backlights are little fluorescent tubes and run off AC generated internally.

Dude! (1)

theantipode (664138) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922014)

... you're getting a defribulator!

Honestly, though. A friend of a coworker is hardly the most reliable source. This doesn't seem to be a widespread problem, seeing as the only mention of it thus far is a single thread with no replies on a message board.

Macbook has same problem (4, Interesting)

Bananenrepublik (49759) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922016)

My Macbook has the same problem: whenever it pulls in a lot of current, I get an electrical shock when touching the head of one of the screws. I'm not alone with this problem, there are several threads on the Mac support forums about this, e.g. this one [apple.com] . Of course there's no official statement from Apple :-(

Mine does this! (1)

XMyth (266414) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922018)

My work laptop (an inspiron 6400) has this problem.

I've been shocked a few times and have gotten memory parity bluescreens at least twice.

HD has bad sectors too.

Was already going to call in a support request this weekend when I have time to have the damn thing replaced.

Engadget readers going to die! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17922044)

Have a look at the comments on the Engadget story - there are literally dozens of people saying "yeah, me too, I get shocks off my laptop all the time" - but they just ignore it. How stupid are these people? Are they hoping for a Darwin award? If you're getting a 60 volt shock that hurts today you might be gettng a 230 volt shock tomorrow *which might very well kill you*. OK, you're fairly young and like to think that you're fit and healthy, but are you *certain* that you don't have some latent heart defect?

Honestly, if you are getting *any electric shock at all* (apart from a bit of static and it's easy to tell the difference), GET IT SORTED BEFORE IT KILLS YOU.

Batteries (0, Troll)

rekab (990669) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922064)

Do they use Sony Batteries Too?

Hooray! (2, Funny)

aerthling (796790) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922070)

Let the corny puns begin!

Thank goodness I resisted buying a Dell!

Re:Hooray! (3, Funny)

weeboo0104 (644849) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922244)

I didn't even have to resist buying one.
Shocking laptops? Who needs that kind of impedance when trying to work?

Maybe Dell should just give away the defective laptops. You know, ohms for the poor.

Re:Hooray! (3, Funny)

Clever7Devil (985356) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922312)

I don't care watt you say. This issue has the potential to increase reluctance to buy Dell.

Definitely check your ground... (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922076)

My parents had a problem with their garage door opener. Turns out, if you were in your socks (or less, depending on the age of the kids running around) you could get a pretty good jolt from the garage door RAILS coming down the side of the opening.

Tested with a volt meter, got anywhere between 60-130v rail-to-ground. And it was intermittent.

Upon unplugging the garage door opener, the voltage went to nothing. So, I asked him "Who wired that outlet?" He responded that he had wired the outlet, and was sure that there was a ground wire hooked up. So, I took the volt meter and hooked from ground on the outlet to ground on the ground strap of the breaker box. No connection.

Once he re-wired the socket, we had no further issues with the door rails. However, it's funny to mention that he had two seperate electricians out, and they couldn't figure out why there would be voltage on the rails. I'm guessing they were making the same assumption that my father did - that the ground in the box was actually hooked up properly.

Now, the guy in the blurb may have a good case against Dell, but I'd be curious to see where the laptop is being plugged in to, and if there's any relevance to shocks at that point. I know my house was built a long long time ago (1951) and the upstairs, while someone put in grounded outlets, it doesn't physically have the ground hooked up - due to the wiring used at the time of it being built.

Re:Definitely check your ground... (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922322)

I know my house was built a long long time ago (1951) and the upstairs, while someone put in grounded outlets, it doesn't physically have the ground hooked up - due to the wiring used at the time of it being built.

That's an electrical code violation. If you have to have a 3-prong outlet on a 2-wire circuit, you must use a GFCI outlet, which gives you electric shock protection. That's allowed by the US National Electrical Code. The outlet plate should then be marked "Isolated Ground". This warns people that plugging in a computer there may have problems, because it can't dump static and noise into protective ground as usual.

If you're going to wire up power, read a manual on how to do it. It's not rocket science, but there are very specific rules and screwing up is dangerous.

I have the answer (0, Troll)

slackoon (997078) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922098)

Don't buy a DELL!!! my gateway computer cost me $899, it's got a 120 GB HD, 1 gig ddr2, 15.4 ultrabright widescreen, 128 megs dedicated video and more. I've had no problems at all! or buy a mac!!

Re:I have the answer (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922262)

Don't buy a DELL!!! my gateway computer cost me $899, it's got a 120 GB HD, 1 gig ddr2, 15.4 ultrabright widescreen, 128 megs dedicated video and more. I've had no problems at all! or buy a mac!!

It may come as total shock to you, but I know plenty of people who are ready to scream "get a DELL! I've never had problems with it" with as much enthusiasm as you do for your Gateway box, and none of these testimonies prove anything at all about the quality of Dell or Gateway products.

Re:I have the answer (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17922412)

buy a mac!!

But what if I want a real laptop that runs good software?

Watch the ESD (5, Informative)

Whip-hero (308110) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922140)

For a while, I thought I had a similar problem with both my new Dell laptop, and an old dumpster-diver I had before that. I was getting shocked occasionally when I touched the machines. I initially blamed it on poorly grounded wiring in my house (a rental), until I realized that the problem was electro-static discharge build up from sitting on my Durapella couch.

I worked it out recently when cold winter temperatures drove the humidity way down. Whenever I got up from the couch I would feel the charge build up, then I would inadvertently discharge myself of a light switch, a metal corner post in the drywall, or worse, on some home electronics. After I accidentally blew out the panel of buttons on a DVD player, I did some experiments. By rubbing my hand on the couch cushions for a few seconds, then using a piece of metal held in my hand (less painful that way) to discharge myself to ground, I found I could jump a spark 2 cm or more. Sometimes, I can get multiple sparks on one charge.

It's kind of cool, if you know to expect it. And, the remote still works for the DVD player...

So what your saying is... (1)

Mysticalfruit (533341) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922156)

If my Dell laptop doesn't explode in a shower of sparks and fire it'll instead shock me? Yeah, that makes me want to run out and buy a Dell..

I'll stick with my old Compaq...

I had this problem years ago with a Dell Laptop (5, Interesting)

stungod (137601) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922160)

About 5 years ago, I was doing IT work, and had to support a bunch of Dell laptops my employed had purchased prior to my starting there. the one in question was an Inspiron, don't remember the model number, but it was probably a P3-800 or so.

Anyway, the user was complaining about power issues with the laptop - things like it sudenly shutting down, starting up by itself and running the battery down, etc. Then out of the blue, she said, "and it's shocked me a couple of times." Like that's expected behavior.

I was somewhat skeptical about this, and figured it was a static problem or something unrelated but found out the harsh truth while I was on the support call with Dell. They had me do the usual bonehead stuff like do a hard reset, update the BIOS, remove/replace the battery, etc. I was typing on it and got zapped on the thumb with a serious shock. That's when I noticed the little scorch mark next to the right trackpad button. Looking down through the gap between the button and the case, I could see a little bit of metal from whatever was underneath. Enough charge was building up in there to arc to my hand, which can't be good.

The Dell support guy heard me yelp when I got shocked and asked me if everything was OK. I told him I just got a nasty shock from the laptop and he said, "can you hold for a minute please?"

I waited for about 2 minutes, and then some other guy came on the phone and said that they were sending out a replacement overnight and that I should return the other one right away. The replacement was a top-of-the-line Inspiron for the time, quite a step up from the one that zapped me. I figured it was a pretty good response.

So I issued the user a new Thinkpad from our closet and kept the nice Dell for myself. It worked out for everybody.

What? (1)

neo (4625) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922172)

My laptop shocks me all the time. I thought this was a feature to keep me awake on long flights.

Seems like a SLAPP suit to me (4, Informative)

Buran (150348) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922210)

"Dell has tried to keep him quiet about the problem and has even gone so far as to have him banned from a few websites, and threatened him with legal action if he tells people about the problem."

On what grounds would this be a valid case? Once you sell something to someone that they own (not license), you cannot tell them what they can and cannot do with it so long as you do not cross any other lines and violate someone's privacy (which is why I suppose selling stuff you bought at auction from a storage company is illegal -- although I think most of what those guys did was OK, and the judge overreached). So this guy has every right to say "My computer shocks me, here's what kind of machine it is" because it's not slander, it's the truth.

Seems to me like this guy can file under anti-SLAPP rules, can't he? This company is trying to shut up someone who is exposing their mistakes -- and yes, it is a valid complaint (why wasn't he given a grounded power supply when it is known that failing to ground electronic devices can shock users?) and yes he has the right to be publicly heard if he wishes to. No one has the right to not be offended by what he has to say.

Likely Just Luck (1)

jeichels (805414) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922226)

Last time I was at my accountants, I got zapped by his new Dell Laptop. Maybe just luck.

voltage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17922266)

One thing really important to understand about grounding is that electricity finds the path of least resistance to complete a circuit. (pun intended). My guess is that he probably is working barefoot on a concrete floor.

Also, I don't see why the transformer is not isolating the high voltage between the AC and the Notebook.

Europeans have to be more careful with their AC. 220 volts breaks skin resistance much faster than 110V. Remember kids- amperage kills, but voltage gets the party started!

Volts that jolts, mills that kills (1)

hughk (248126) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922294)

A long time ago, I noticed some similar problems with equipment powered off a two-wire power feed (actually a monitor). It could build up quite a voltage relative to earth (up to 90v) and possibly to other equipment. This wasn't a PSU fault and was down to some kind of leakage current in the switched mode power supply when it was switched on. If the current stayed in the microamp range, (which it did) then apparently this wasn't a problem. However you really didn't want to connect equipment together (even a BNC video connector) after switching on. As has been noted, modern stuff can be fried by this kind of current. Easily.

Of course, you can preconnect everything but then you have a lovely problem chasing mains hum on the audio. If you don't then you get a slight tingle (as being reported on the Dells).

The microwave oven is your friend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17922302)

Whenever this happens to my Dell, I put it in my microwave and run it for a few minutes. Dries out any moisture that sometimes accumulates inside.

Problem with his test method (2, Insightful)

trailerparkcassanova (469342) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922354)

He needs to have a good ground. He's using the metal case of another PC as ground so he might just as well be measuring the voltage off the PC case.

Just a new Vista Security 'Feature' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17922374)

People, people: If you can't *touch* the computer, then you can't install anything bad. Or even turn it on.

Come see the shockingly effective new Total Security (TM), now in microSoft Windows Vistzzzzzzzzzzzttttttttttttt.............

Static discharges (1)

Yurka (468420) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922392)

that you get from shuffling on the carpet and then grounding through someone's nose are on the order of thousands of volts. The numbers in the article are useless unless there is an appreciable current flowing.

Also, the guy in question appears to be using non-grounded plugs and sockets. That's asking for it in my book.

Same problem with Toshiba 17" Satellite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17922414)

The same problem exists with this laptop. They would not
take it back (Toshiba Sattelite 17"). Yes it was out of warranty.

Has Dell lost it? (1)

n1hilist (997601) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922418)

Is this due to the power 'leaking' or is this a case of the notebooks been so fast they need the power?

I guess this is due to the race to make the fatest notebooks and not revise any sort of means of quality control and forward planning.

This surprises me a little, I haven't seen much of Dell's new stuff, but all of the Pentium 2 class Dell notebooks we have and their P2 class Optiplex desktops have been utterfly reliable machines.

I guess their standards have dropped severely.

I have the Same Issue (1)

Laoping (398603) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922432)

I bought a Inspiron E1505 at the end of November. I have this same issue. I have not contacted Dell yet, because I live in Minnesota, on the humidity is so low, I was not sure if that was the issue. I get shocked when I touch the screws. I sorta hurts. Well, now that I know I am not the only one, I will be contacting Dell support tonight.

Sounds like the AC adapter (1)

Cracked Pottery (947450) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922452)

It would be interesting to see if the DC plug has some leakage to the third wire ground while it is unplugged. It would be useful to either look at voltage on the notebook screws with a scope or otherwise compare the frequency to 60 Hz or determine if its more likely leakage from an inverter within the notebook. I would guess a poor design of the adapter with a two prong plug. Hopefully only very small currents would be available. It might also be advisable to test the wiring of the outlet that it's plugged into.

Darn, I thought the Tingle when I touched my.. (1)

ZugBonk (982171) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922474)

Dell was from all the Porn I was DL'ing..
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