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Old 5th January 2009, 10:00 AM   #1
BPSCG
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Airport Scanners Putting Static Charges On My Laptops

I went through a lot of airport security this past Christmas, and every time, I had to take my laptops out of the bag (work machine and personal machine - yes, I needed them both) and put them in a plastic tray to go through the X-ray machine.

When I retrieved my laptops, I got a static shock every single time - five airport security areas, two laptops, ten static shocks.

I figured this can't possibly be good for the machines; fortunately, everything remained in good working order. But it raised some questions for me:
  • Are modern laptops impervious to routine static shocks? Or was I just really lucky?
  • If I was just lucky, is there some kind of rubber mat I could put under the machine in the tray, that wouldn't run afoul of TSA regulations?
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Old 5th January 2009, 07:49 PM   #2
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Most likely it was YOU who had the static charge, scooting along in your socks. Try touching something metallic first before picking up your computer.

Anyway, It was harmless because the components that are sensitive to static damage are all properly grounded to the circuit board and the frame of the laptop. The charge just goes through the case and the frame.
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Old 6th January 2009, 06:04 AM   #3
BPSCG
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Originally Posted by Reality Believer View Post
Most likely it was YOU who had the static charge, scooting along in your socks. Try touching something metallic first before picking up your computer.
I did that for security checkpoints nos. 2-5.

Quote:
Anyway, It was harmless because the components that are sensitive to static damage are all properly grounded to the circuit board and the frame of the laptop. The charge just goes through the case and the frame.
Okay, thanks.
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Old 6th January 2009, 06:56 AM   #4
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"Past Christmas" is the keyword. During winter, when outside temperatures are low, indoor air humidity will be low, too. So you get an extra buildup of static electricity.

It is not the scanners that put the charges on your laptop(s). The capacitance of a laptop to ground is far too build a charge that can be felt. However, the scanners and their conveyor belts are metallic structures that are almost certainly grounded, so the charge that your body builds up will discharge when you touch something on the scanner.

A laptop would not survive for a week if it was not throughly protected against ESD (Electro-Static Discharge), so have no fears; it is only an inconvenience.

Hans
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Old 6th January 2009, 08:01 PM   #5
Soapy Sam
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I've never experienced this, though I go through a lot of airports.
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Old 7th January 2009, 03:34 AM   #6
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I can say the same, but for some reason, some people are much more bothered by static electricity than others.

I suspect at least the following factors apply:

1) Individual senesitivity to electrical shock; what one feels as a big jolt is hardly noticed by someone else.

2) Different skin resistance; having worked with ECG equipement I know there is considerable individual variance.

3) Different dressing habits; different types of clothes have different abilities to build and retain static charges.

4) Different ways of moving; some people drag their feet more than others.

Hans
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Old 7th January 2009, 09:19 AM   #7
Soapy Sam
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That makes sense. I tend to poly/cottons and I lift my feet (having been smacked often as a kid for scuffing my shoes).
I only ever have static problems in Colorado and points west.
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Old 7th January 2009, 10:25 AM   #8
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I blame the black helicopters, and of course, ChimpBusHitlerCheney.

And, of course, global warming, whoops, I'm informed it's now called "climate change," just in case things unexpectedly head the other way...
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