Hardware

Electric shocks are an undocumented feature in some Dell laptops

Some Dell laptop models with a brushed-aluminum finish, such as the XPS-M1330 and XPS M1530, appear to give out intermittent electric shocks. This is the result of the connection between the mains lead and the power adaptor, which isn't earthed properly because it has only two pins.

Some Dell laptop models with a brushed-aluminum finish, such as the XPS-M1330 and XPS M1530, appear to give out intermittent electric shocks. This is the result of the connection between the mains lead and the power adaptor, which isn't earthed properly because it has only two pins.

When the folks over at Crave rang Dell to complain, they were told that Dell is willing to replace all affected two-pin power supplies with three-pins. Interestingly, the company doesn't seem to publicly acknowledge that there a serious problem.

Excerpt from Crave:

We've discovered a worrying new feature in some Dell laptops: If you touch them, you may get an electric shock. This discharge can vary in strength from a gentle tingle to a sudden jolt. Disturbingly, you could also be shocked when connecting printers, PDAs, and other peripherals to the offending laptops.

Dell's stance, according to its Knowledge Base article, appears to be that this is not a cause for concern:

The electric current on all Dell products have been measured and proven to be well within the safety limits per safety standards -- IEC950, EN60950, UL1950, etc., even with an input voltage of 240 volts. The voltage (tingling sensation) does NOT present any risk of injury to the user. It is recommended to unplug the AC adaptor from the parent device before attaching any cables or accessories, as this reduces the possibility of experiencing the tingling sensation.

Suggesting that customers unplug their AC adaptor before connecting their PDAs or other wired peripherals seems ridiculous.

Have you ever experience electric shocks on your laptop?

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

6 comments
igor106
igor106

I have experienced this on two out of four laptops I owned sofar. One of them, an old PIII Compaq Armada700 had three pin cable but still pinched every once in a while. The other, Toshiba M35X, now dead, had two pins. The two that I still use that are safe are the IBM Thinkpad (a Cel. 366) and my new HP530, both using three pin cables. The Armada did not have the aluminum finish, but it still "sparked" while the HP has aluminum finish but does not spark. It is an interesting phenomenon, but I think it is not always related to the finish, nor to the 3pin issue, as my experience taught me sofar. Hope someone will figure this ou.

Jaqui
Jaqui

while Dell might not tell you before hand, they have several pages of information about it, so it is NOT undocumented.

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

I have never heard of this. Most laptops have no conducting surfaces exposed as most are plastic cased units and will not conduct any current. I have encountered many situations on desktop units however. All of these cases were a result of older homes witout a grounded outlet and non-polarized plugs and ground busters getting plugged into the same outlet and the plugs got reversed, resulting in the full 120 volts between the case of the computer and the case of the monitor. This normally will not be lethal but can result in injuries from falls and involuntary knee-jerk reactions to the shock. Some people who have heart conditions and pacemakers can go into cardiac arrest from even small shocks and this could prove deadly to them.

paulmah
paulmah

Have you experienced laptops that give you an electric shock before?

Mysticmayhem
Mysticmayhem

I've owned an E1505 for over a year, and yes, I get the static zap when I touch it or try to pick it up. Could it be the carpeted area I tread? My constant activity? Never gave the issue much thought until I saw this article about static shock, but I always attributed the shock to some other cause, not necessarily the laptop.

johnp
johnp

Many notebook models from Dell, Apple, HP and others use two-wire adapters and, under specific circumstances, any can produce a tingling sensation. This is not an "electric shock." It is also not a safety issue and it won't harm system components. For more information, Dell has a post on its Direct2Dell blog: http://dellone2one.com/one2one/archive/2008/01/18/41538.aspx