I think I have a static electricity problem.

I have two computers in my house and a fiancé that wears fuzzy socks. Sometimes, when she plugs in USB devices into the front ports of her desktop computer (or my computer), the computer will instantly lock up. Often the LCD will go a solid green or purple color after this happens.

She noticed this occurs most often after walking across the carpets, so I am confident that the front USB ports on both of our computers are not properly grounded. I checked USB port connections to the motherboard and the ground wire is mapped properly on all computers.

Is there anything I can do to add extra/proper grounding to the front USB ports on a computer? I am afraid that she is going plug in her iPod one day and poof, her entire motherboard will be fried.

  • related question: superuser.com/questions/106030/… – quack quixote Feb 10 '10 at 16:53
  • Touch the computer case before inserting the USB device. It's a common wintertime problem. Keyboards, mice lock up frequently due to low humidity and high static charges. Get in the habit of grounding yourself before you bomb your computer. – Fiasco Labs Apr 18 '13 at 1:55

The lockup is troubling. An answer to this related question indicated the poster fixed the issue by physically replacing the problematic front USB port. If the grounding is connected poorly on the USB port end, it won't matter how correct the motherboard header connection end is.

Another thing to do is make absolutely sure that she's not inadvertently touching the metal of the USB plug when connecting. If she's gripping the plug by the rear, plastic-covered portion, any static she's generated shouldn't be conducted into the system.

Finally, you could set up a grounding strip near your computer station, and both of you get into the habit of using it. This example shows the installation of a flooring strip, but the principle would be for just about any other solution. You could mount such a strip on the underside of the computer desk, on the desk leg, on a wall nearby, etc.

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    see also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antistatic_devices – quack quixote Feb 10 '10 at 17:07
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    You could test this theory by touching the bare metal on the back of the PC near the power supply before plugging your devices. If that works and you don't mind an ugly hack try removing a bit of paint from the metal case near the front and touching there. – Chris Nava Feb 10 '10 at 17:24
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    I had a box with this same problem, but before I knew why, static from a USB device caused the south bridge chip to melt a hole in itself, releasing the smoke inside. I think it was an ASUS P4P800C Deluxe board. I did an RMA on the board and noticed that the old chip was made in the Phillippines and the new one made in Korea, so they must have had a bad batch of chips. I never used anything USB on that machine again unless it was through a hub. – Bratch Feb 10 '10 at 20:28

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