is it fine to use rMBP in an ungrounded house?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by shin93, Jul 31, 2014.

  1. shin93 macrumors newbie

    Dec 14, 2012

    My house is not properly grounded, so it gives that vibrating/tingling sensation when I slide my finger on the MBP case even when I use the 3 prong plug. However I don't care about that vibrating feeling at all. What worries me is that, would it damage my rMBP? I just bought this rMBP in Japan and now I'm back to my house in Bali, Indonesia and since then I haven't used my rMBP in fear of the ungrounded outlet would damage my 2500$$ machine :p

    So should I get my grounding fixed ASAP or can I just use my rMBP without worry? from quick Googling I found that some people say nothing to worry about and some other say that it would certainly damage my electronics. Soooo which one is right?

  2. Meister Suspended


    Oct 10, 2013
  3. Rbk23 macrumors regular

    Jul 8, 2014
    My parents house has 2 prong outlets. It's an old house and I never had any problems with electronics growing up.

    Never noticed vibrations though.... that doesn't sound good.
  4. Freyqq, Jul 31, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2014

    Freyqq macrumors 601

    Dec 13, 2004
    Get a surge protector?

    EDIT: apparently it needs to be grounded in order to work it won't help here
  5. shin93 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 14, 2012
    Okay, got it, I'll get my ****ing house fixed :D;)

    old house in wherever you live is probably more modern and properly built than a new house in where i live :p I never had that vibrations when i was in Japan either.

    Would that work? I already use a voltage regulator but it doesn't do anything. I'll just follow what Meister said and get my house fixed since I have history of getting my electronics broken frequently.

    Anyway thanks for the replies. Guess I won't use my rMBP until my house is properly grounded.
  6. Nermal Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 7, 2002
    New Zealand
    Perfectly normal when ungrounded; both of my MBPs (2006/2011) did it. At least I think the 2006 did, or is my memory playing tricks on me? Didn't it have a plastic case?
  7. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    I too live in an a house that still has old wiring, though I can't say that I get that sort of issue you describe.

    Easier said then done, many people don't have tens of thousands of dollars to rewire a house.
  8. Meister Suspended


    Oct 10, 2013
    Good point. But it doesnt cost 10s thounsands in a 3rd world country like where the OP is.

    Having ungrounded electricity plugs and a "tingling" sensation sounds insanely dangerous.
    The rmbp will be the least of his problems.

    Before considering anything else Id get that fixed asap!


    that would be a quick fix!
  9. joe-h2o macrumors 6502a

    Jun 24, 2012
    No it won't be!

    A surge protector is a pretty useless thing anyway, assuming we're talking about those extension strips that you plug into the wall. In the event of an actual surge they're unlikely to help much and they will do *nothing* to stop you being electrocuted.
  10. benvh macrumors newbie

    Jul 29, 2014
    San Francisco, CA
    *i'm not an electrician*

    But I remember reading somewhere that a cheaper/easier alternative is to install a GFCI outlet, like the ones that are hopefully in your bathroom. Might be worth researching a bit.

  11. Fean0r macrumors newbie

    Apr 13, 2014
    Don't take this the wrong way but can I suggest that if you don't know about a life-and-death subject like electrics, please don't give advice on it. Better say nothing than give the wrong advice.

    A surge protector won't do anything here. It protects equipment against voltage surges. It doesn't protect people from electric shock, or do anything to replace the earth.

    Now, about the OP's question, I've just done a bit of googling and it seems as though this is fairly common, even for places where there is an earth connection. It seems that many MBPs are anyway only connected to earth at the power supply, not at the laptop's chassis.

    BUT. This seems to be region dependent - in some areas, Apple do seem to earth the MBP chassis. I'm not an electrician but I do have some professional qualifications and experience in electrical installation and theory. It sounds to me like there's some sort of earth leakage going on within the MBP, and when you touch it it's using you as a connection to earth. This thread corroborates my hypothesis:

    Having an earth connection installed, at least for that one socket, shouldn't cost that much in Indonesia. I would at least have a good electrician round to check the problem out, as it could be an indication of other problems (either with your house wiring, or with your laptop) that could be dangerous.
  12. westom macrumors regular

    Nov 8, 2009
    To separate chaff from honest answers, view the reasons why. Any recommendation without reasons why and without numbers should be immediately disposed as hearsay or urban myth. The surge protector recommendation is a classic example of how to know to ignore it.

    You did not say if it connects to a wall receptacle with two prongs or three. That is important to add or eliminate many suspects.

    If connecting a two prong appliance, then a third 'safety ground' (ie installed by an elecrician) would be irrelevant here. Further relevant is use of a power strip.

    Wall receptacle can only be three prongs if protected by a GFCI or if connectded by three wires back tot he breaker box. And that is all about protecting humans (not transistors).

    Tingling is sometimes due to a fault in an appliance's line filter. Safety ground (wall receptacles do not have earth grounds) normally would leak away that current resulting in no tingle (ie 60+ VAC). Possible that the filter leaks too much current when operating in a higher voltage country.

    That 60+ VAC is not harmful to electronics. But this assumes a two prong wall receptacle connection. If three prongs, then significant other possiblities exist. If connected to other devices, well, how those other devices also make leakage current irrelevant is but another variable.

    To say more and remain honest requires more facts. One simple tool that any layman or junior high school science student can use is a digital meter. These are quite inexpensive. Can say so much more if instructions for using the meter are requested.
  13. kupkakez macrumors 68000


    Apr 4, 2011
    I also don't know if I'd go around "googling" on life and death situations either. :rolleyes:
  14. dyn macrumors 68030

    Aug 8, 2009
    Here in Europe the power adapter comes with the long cable and with a duckhead. The cable has a connector that is grounded, the duckhead is missing that option. It's been this way for years now and no problems with it whatsoever (just the funny tingly sensation, it goes away when you put one finger on it and use the other to touch).
  15. Fean0r macrumors newbie

    Apr 13, 2014
    Which is why I suggested getting an electrician round, and warned about the possibility of the fault being an indication of other more dangerous problems, instead of just saying "buy this" or "do that". :rolleyes:

    The background information I gave about other peoples' experience would be useful to an electrician investigating the cause of this.
  16. westom macrumors regular

    Nov 8, 2009
    Concern is well directed. Whereas leakage current (typically well below a milliamp) is not a human safety issue, that leakage might be a symptom of a more serous problem that could eventually threaten human life.

    Recommended is how to empower the fewer who really know this stuff. Get a meter and ask for instructioins. Since resulting numbers will say more about what exists; what may be a source of that leakage.

    Also needed is what does and does not have a safety ground prong or receptacle (what connects to what). Again, because what exists may not be dangerous. But could be a symptom of a more serious problem.

    Googling is not a solution. But is how one starts to learn this stuff. One reason to identify and then solve problems - to learn from the experience.
  17. simonsi macrumors 601


    Jan 3, 2014
    That can be a short course.

    OP - get yourself proper advice from a LOCAL electrician familiar with your local power systems. There are too many variables in the wiring, voltages etc for a global internet forum to give SAFE advice.
  18. pragmatous macrumors 65816

    May 23, 2012
    Nothing is safe from an ungrounded house. You should spend the money and get that fixed instead of buying a computer. It will save your life.

  19. shin93 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 14, 2012
    wow I thought there would be no more replies!

    I haven't fixed my house yet, been very busy lately. But I did try plugging my MBP to my friends' house from the same village to my friends' house in the city. Guess what every houses were the same. It still gives those vibrating tingling feeling on my MBP. One of my friend who has ASUS notebook with similar material to MBP's (aluminum?) also get those vibrations and sometimes get shocked too. Kind of unbelievable if houses in this whole island are not grounded...

    I'll speak to a qualified electrician soon, and hope they can give some solutions. But so far I have never heard of anyone getting electrocuted to death here though...:( I'm more worried about my 2000$++ laptop's health :p

    Anyway thanks for all the replies guys! :cool:
  20. westom macrumors regular

    Nov 8, 2009
    Multiple layers of protection exist. To be electrocuted means multiple failures must exist. Using a meter in advance can mean an electrician's answers are informative. Same applies to Google. Without first doing some homework, then what an electrician says might make no sense. Then you did not learn from the experience.

    Tingling might be a defective layer of protection. Or simply normal leakage when a computer, that requires a safety ground, is not grounded by that receptacle.

    Yes, many variations exist. So many that if you do not first do homework, then what an electrician might say would only be confusing and therefore not helpful.

    Same multiple layers of protection also say why tingling is not hardware harmful. But hardware problems are more likely if multiple appliances are interconnected (ie computer connected to a printer via USB port).

    An electrician typically would not know this. But interconnected devices would be safer (from what also causes that tingle) using ethernet rather than using USB. But a condition that makes that difference relevant should be cured in advance. A third safety prong would eliminate the risk and should remove the tingle.
  21. smithrh macrumors 68020


    Feb 28, 2009
    You can get "ground loops" in an ungrounded situation, these are really not good at all.

    I grew up in an ungrounded house, and found out that if you happened to touch the fridge and oven at the same time, WHAM. Parents re-did the kitchen soon after that, uh, shocking experience.

    I now live in a modern home, and yet I too feel the tingling from time to time. I narrowed it down to an ungrounded lamp with a bad dimmer circuit, so this leakage can even happen in a modern environment if something in the system is broken or not itself grounded.

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