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How should I protect my laptop while traveling in southeast Asia? I will not be staying in star rated (ie: 1-5 star) hotels. I will often be in more rural areas where there are no grounded outlets and dodgy voltage coming in. My laptop charger specifically says "Connect only to grounded outlet". Oh and one more fun fact, often times a 3 pronged outlet isn't grounded, it just has 3 prongs for adapter purposes! Is there a way to safely charge my laptop in these areas?

And finally, even in Bangkok much of the outlets are not grounded (again despite how many prongs are on the wall's outlet), so this really applies to all of south east Asia, not just the rural areas.

Some people here recommend buying higher grade power supplies with voltage regulation (all areas). I'm unsure of whether or not this is simply hearsay or actually an appropriate solution.

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Nothing is going to happen to your laptop. We use ours all the time in these conditions! –  nikhil Dec 27 '12 at 19:43
    
Note that the issue of grounding is entirely separate from the issue of voltage regulation. –  Daniel R Hicks Dec 28 '12 at 3:09
    
If you're really nervous about this you can purchase an isolation transformer, to add another "layer" of isolation between the mains voltage and your laptop. Unfortunately, they're pretty heavy and not terribly cheap. –  Daniel R Hicks Jan 3 '13 at 12:51
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3 Answers

All you can really do is one of two things. One, create your own ground. This involves a little wiring, and pounding a grounding stake into the ground (6' copper). The other is to buy a UPS and have it be your "sacrificial lamb." Basically you are having the UPS take any and all damage while your laptop is charging. Problem is, I suspect some UPS's to be intelligent enough to not function on a ground fault.

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Any particular kind of UPS you think would be good? I'e spent hours searching for one that would help me (as opposed to be dead weight in my scenario) and I have been quite unlucky. –  Zombies Dec 27 '12 at 6:43
    
Most everything I know of involves lots of weight due to the batteries in the UPS. I'm sorry it's all the answer I can provide. –  Everett Dec 27 '12 at 22:49
    
Why would the UPS detect a ground fault?? –  Daniel R Hicks Dec 28 '12 at 3:07
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@DanielRHicks - UPS often try to detect ground faults because if you have certain types of ground fault, AND the UPS starts providing power, it could create a situation where the user might die. –  Michael Kohne Dec 28 '12 at 3:24
    
@MichaelKohne: Exactly. Consider if the ground line isn't connected properly and there are devices connected to it whose metal cases are connected to the ground line (even through a resistor). If the UPS produces power and pulls the ground voltage up (relative to the neutral), anyone touching those device cases and anything else connected (even indirectly) to a real ground could be electrocuted. –  David Schwartz Dec 28 '12 at 3:28
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Similar to Everett's answer, you can use copper wire & an exposed (metal) cold water pipe to create a ground/earth connection. (I would've added this as a comment, but I lack sufficient reputation to do that).

Also, I think the "dead weight" that Zombies refers to in the comment on Everett's answer means a UPS that won't function due to a ground fault (not the weight/mass of the UPS itself).

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The only reason I don't hand this out as a recommendation, is the very real possibility that someone can confuse a water pipe and a natural gas pipe. –  Everett Dec 28 '12 at 5:45
    
@everett - And the danger there would be what?? –  Daniel R Hicks Dec 28 '12 at 13:35
    
    
@Everett - Nice try, but that article is about the requirement for bonding metal gas pipe, not hazards associated with using a gas pipe as a ground. –  Daniel R Hicks Dec 29 '12 at 5:09
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@Joe - Which is why gas pipe is supposed to be "bonded". (The same hazard exists with water pipe.) –  Daniel R Hicks Jan 1 '13 at 14:20
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Any good-quality laptop power adapter is "double-insulated" and does not truly need to be grounded. The grounding is done for some laptops because the manufacturers, er, "got burned" due to some defective adapters they built, and they started grounding them as a sort of penance.

What you should probably do is carry a "suicide plug" (3-prong to 2-prong adapter) for use in situations where a 3-prong outlet is not present. (Note that you may even want to use this adapter on 3-prong outlets that are suspect, since the third prong could be wired to the neutral in a mistaken attempt to "ground" it.)

Further, you can take the step of running a wire from the ground tab of the adapter to a water pipe, or you can purchase a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) extension cord from a place that sells power tools. (Note, an GFCI does not need a ground to operate correctly and provide shock protection.) If you use a GFCI, be sure to plug any accessories you use into the GFCI as well.

The one thing that the GFCI does not provide that the "real" ground might (or might not, depending on the particular laptop) is grounding for the sake of noise elimination. But this would only be of significance if the laptop is connected to other devices.

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If you confuse a water pipe for a natural gas pipe, incredibly bad things can happen. If you use a metal cased Laptop (think Mac Book Pro) and do this, you can be electrocuted when you touch the metal case. This is not a guarantee, but it is a possibility. –  Everett Dec 28 '12 at 5:43
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@Everett -- You are quite wrong. Keep in mind that mains voltage never reaches the laptop -- the adapter provides isolation. The two metal-cased MacBooks I have don't have grounded adapters. And observe that (ungrounded) plastic-cased laptops have exposed metal shells for the connectors, et al. Also, there is no great danger in grounding to a gas pipe (though, in general, grounding is unnecessary). –  Daniel R Hicks Dec 28 '12 at 13:35
    
Not sure if this contributes to your conversation, but I used to get shocked a lot with my previous laptop (Panasonic Toughbook) from touching the metal lining around the outer edges when using un-grounded electricity, or when having wet hands (it was a waterproof laptop so i didn't worry about drying my hands prior to usage). –  glenneroo Jan 2 '13 at 17:44
    
@glenneroo -- You either had a defective power adapter or you were simply experiencing static electricity. –  Daniel R Hicks Jan 3 '13 at 12:48
    
I used that adapter for another 2 years without problems, not to say it still wasn't defective. Also the problem happened both indoor and outdoors in various countries around the world and I generally never experience static electric shocks otherwise. –  glenneroo Jan 3 '13 at 15:25
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