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Can a grounding problem damage computers immediately ?

I have transferred my office. New office did not have grounding. I tried to boot 4 computers.

Two of them booted. One of them hung while booting and another one did not even boot.

The computers which were hanging and the other which did not boot... Is there any chance of severe damage? I've switched off everything.

This mess happened due to greedy electrician's callousness.

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how do you know this has anything to do with the grounding ? - and not say, the removal truck, cold, bumping down stairs in the move etc etc ? –  Sirex Nov 1 '10 at 10:56
    
I'd have to agree with Sirex. My gut tells me that this is more likely to be due to carelessness when handling the hardware during the physical move. It happened to me once. This is why I always transport my computers myself when I move. –  Leif Nov 8 '10 at 3:06

6 Answers 6

Computers are very sensitive electronic devices, and commonly experience data corruption in nongrounded environments, as well as outright physical damage. It's very likely that the said 2 computers had a serious damage due to non-groundedness. I suggest you show them to a computer technician to detect the damage and for possible recovery options. Good luck.

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Well, in my experience earthing shouldn't cause any major troubles. I have a small office in a building from the 15-16th century and the electricity system is not that new either and, obviously, it doesn't have earthing. We move there about 12 computers a year for a weekend and we didn't have any problem with them booting. The most likely factors of computer damage when moving to a new place are vibration on the transport that can damage solderings on the computers (haven't experienced an episode in a really long time, even with cobblestone streets) and a highly unstable voltage (really likely to upset computers and especially power supplies that are not in the best condition).

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Your mileage will vary. The last time I had a problem with grounding issues in an office, we lost a power supply, but no data. Obviously you'll not want to boot again till you know the power is good.

The problem for a general answer is that the level of damage depends on the exact design of the power supply and in which way the circuit was screwed up.

One more thing: Are you sure that the earthing is the only issue? I'd suggest a plug tester at the least (in the US these are available for a couple of dollars at any home store, they usually have 3 lamps and will light up in various combinations depending on the various ways the plug can be mis-wired.). If you know how to use one, a multi-meter (to check the actual voltages) might be a good idea.

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It's also possible that the reason the two computers didn't boot was to problems in transit.

Components could have become lose and/or damaged.

When you get a power circuit you trust and/or someone to look at the computers, double check that all the components are seated correctly before assuming that something is broken.

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When you refer to a callous electrician, I'm assuming that you are commenting on a problem with their work. Some thing to consider is that there are technically 2 types of grounding (in a matter of speaking). There is the grounding conductor (green wire usually and tied to an earth ground) and the grounded conductor (white wire usually referred to as the neutral). Under normal circumstances an issue with the ground should not cause any problems, not impossible though, but unlikely. Grounding is for nothing more than personnel safety, it is not required for a 120 Volt system to operate properly. However, an issue with the neutral wire (grounded conductor) can be a significant problem and can burn up power supplies and fry mother boards with a problem as simple as a slightly loose wire not making good contact and arcing. Make sure you have a qualified electrician look over the electrical system. Simple, but time consuming resistance tests can be done to assure good contact throughout the electrical system. If you have had electrical work recently done, any reputable company will come and fix their problems.

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My previous home had many ungrounded outlets. To protect my computer, I purchased a simple UPS device. Note that this doesn't really solve the problem - a UPS needs a grounded outlet to function properly. What it does do is transfer most (not all) of the damage to the UPS. That was about two years ago. I've since moved to a location with better wiring. The UPS died soon after the move; my power supply (and computer) live on.

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