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I'm possessed of an ADSL modem that can take either ethernet / USB cable. Every once in a while, say, visitors/colleagues drop by ; at which point my ethernet cable is unplugged from the modem ... and their's plugged in. All this while my computer usually remains powered up

So I find myself wondering whether leaving the other end of the cable in air may damage the NIC. Thoughts, anybody?

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Over the years, I have had similar setups, with different cables/devices, and have yet to experience any ill effects. The only hazard I can think of is static. –  iglvzx Dec 28 '11 at 8:49
    
I've heard of the possibility that the loose wire acts as a kind of aerial and increasing interference on the other wires, but I've never experienced anything close to such an effect myself. –  Sirex Dec 28 '11 at 9:56

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Electrically its unlikely - the connectors on the standard ethernet jacks are recessed and are unlikely to make contact with anything. Tripping on it and falling (or the system dropping) on the other hand, can potentially be quite catastrophic

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