[RESOLVED] Case grounding/static electricity issue

I’ve had my FW16 DIY edition for a few weeks now (it’s great!), but since a few days ago I keep getting shocked when I touch the case after running the computer for ~1 hour or more.

My understanding is this generally means the case isn’t properly grounded, which it should be by virtue of being connected to the ground of the power supply, which it turns should be connected to the ground pin of a wall outlet. I’m using the stock FW charger (with a ground pin), which is on a power strip that’s itself connected to the wall outlet with a ground pin. I’ve had no issue in the first few weeks, and I’ve kept the laptop plugged in the whole time, so it hasn’t really been charging—it just stays at 100%.

Not sure if devices might have an impact. I’m using 5 of the ports, with one HDMI; one DisplayPort; a USB hub with mouse, keyboard, and the occasional phone/headset charger; the FW charger; and a jack.

I’m not well-versed in electrical engineering so any information about this type of issue, even generic, would be much appreciated.

Is the laptop the only thing shocking you?
Did you maybe get a new carpet or something, or just the weather is drier?

If not, your ground connection might be faulty, do you have a multimeter to check continutiy?

Getting shocked would mean the laptop IS grounded, getting a tingle from the laptop means it isn’t and the power supply isn’t either (which most usb-c power supplies aren’t).


Getting shocked generally means you are grounded and what you touch isn’t, either way there is a difference in potential between the laptop and the one touching it thus the shock.

I’d say usually it’s you touching something grounded while holding a charge but definitely agree on the second bit.


Many laptops are plastic, so are insulators, and therefore you won’t get a shock when you touch them.
If the FW16 is metal and is grounded to the mains via the power supply, then the static charge is probably built up on your clothes, and then discharged when you touch the laptop. But that would only happen if you had not been touching your laptop for the ~1 hour you mention.
If you are using the laptop for that entire hour and then get a shock, then the problem may be an intermittently faulty power supply.
So, you need to determine whether the shock is static being built up in you my your cloths, or a faulty power supply.
The best way to test this is to try to touch something else that it grounded before touching the laptop. E.g. If you have metal pipes, touch the metal pipe before touching the laptop. If you have metal objects that are attached to the mains, the metal outside is normally grounded also, so you could touch that.
If you get the same shock from the metal pipes, the problem is your clothes.
If after touching the metal pipe, and then you still get a shock touching the laptop immediately afterwards, then the problem is the laptop.
You can google to find which cloths pick up the most static, and maybe change your clothes.
If you have worked out that the problem is the laptop, it could also be a fault in any of the equipment you have attached to the laptop. E.g. a display etc. But it is pretty easy to narrow it down by simply unplugging the equipment and seeing if the problem goes away.

Thanks for all the answers, that’s very helpful. I’m discovering a lot here, and indeed I can’t rule out that I might be the one carrying the charge.

The laptop is the only object shocking me (not sure what counts as a tingle—it does hurt), but it’s not immediately obvious what other grounded metal objects I might have around me. I’ll try and play around. Unfortunately, I don’t have a multimeter to check continuity between the laptop case and the ground.

I’m pretty sure I was wearing a wool sweater over the week-end and that might have been the first time since I got the laptop, so there’s that. I keep my laptop away from my desk and use external displays, so I indeed get shocked after not touching the laptop for a long time.

On the other hand, urgh, this is gonna be painful to investigate.

It’s a “funny” feeling, as you touch metal covers of laptops (for instance), it feels like it is not smooth but rather like jagged or finely rigged. It is also a continuous effect, in the sense that it does not disappear just by touching once. The effect keeps on (until you unplug the charger).

(NB: I haven’t felt that tingling effect with FW16 and its charger so far).

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by tingling he meant continuous current rather than a quick discharge, static shock means one of the two objects that came into contact were carrying unbalanced charge and they equalized, if the laptop wasn’t properly grounded it would continuously discharge into you, its nearly impossible to make an electronic device not build up unbalanced charge, especially a more complex electronic like a whole laptop rather than something “simple” like a remote or kids toy

Water lines are usually grounded, so are radiators. Washing machines and similar devices should also be grounded.

The it’s not unless you are ultra sensitive.

If it’s one shock and then nothing it’s probably static from you, if it happens every single time you touch the laptop it may be a really wonky psu and you should stop using that immediately.

Relevant xkcd:


Ok it’s definitely not a tingle. It’s instant, not particularly “funny” (:P) and then it doesn’t happen for a while. Looks like it should be static from me, but what I’m surprised by is that it’s the first time I’m encountering this. How did I go so many years without having this problem before?!

I guess I now have to be the scientist in this picture and “collect” more “data”.

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Either not having a metal laptop or said metal laptop didn’t have a grounded psu. A lot of laptop psus aren’t grounded, especially usb-c ones. The framework ones is one of the exceptions.

It is possible to make un-grounded psus with leakage currents low enough to not be felt but as it looks most manufacturers don’t bother (especially not for 230V). My dbrand skin makes this less of an issue though (and I kinda enjoy the tingle tbh XD).

Cool, so I did some mild tests with other grounded objects and the results, well, shocked me. I think I’ll call it here. Good news: nothing’s wrong with the laptop. Bad news: still hurts. >_>


If you often carry a charge due to friction with cloth and want to release that charge before touching something that zaps you, you could ground yourself using a resistor which leads to discharging slower preventing the shock.

For example sharpen a pencil on both sides, touch the graphite on one side and something that is grounded like a water tap or your framework with the other side for about one second.

Carrying a lot of charge can become verry harmful for electronics when touching anything other than ground. So touching the case of your Framework wont do any harm to it. But you should allways discharge before swapping SSD, RAM etc.

If you fear a hurtfull zap, use a resistor like the graphite in a pencil to strech the discharge time from instant (zap) to a second.
For people that handle electronics often there are special ESD armbands available. But using a pencil does the trick for you.

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If you sit at a desk when this happens you could look into a grounding strap for your desk, you only build up charde when you aren’t grounded, so if you stay grounded you shouldn’t build up the static

Also, as a matter of comfort, it can help a lot to use a humidifier - a few percentage of humidity can relieve the conditions that allow static buildup.

Another strategy is to move the point of the arc a bit further from your body, as @schentuu recommends, really, but instead of a resistor, which makes sense, if you have keys, or a coin with some copper on it, you can just touch that to a surface first. It will arc, so don’t touch it to anything valuable, but you may get shocks when you touch anything that has a differnet voltage, or that is grounded, so you can get penalized by science when walking on carpets then touching a door, and then touching something with a different ground. You’ll figure out where the problems area are once you start testing this out (with a key, a penny, or a larger coin that is conductive, like e.g. just a copper slug works)

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ESD is high voltage but low current.
It’s not the flow of current, that hurts. It is the heat of the spark when current jumps the small gap between your skin and a grounded surface, verry short before touching it. So firmly holding a coin or a key will move that spark between the coin and the grounded surface while the current flows without hurting from your skin into the coin, as long as there is no gap.
That way you can discharge, too.

And everybody should discharge allways short before handling electronics like the SSD or RAM to prevent destroying those components.

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So at least you have found the cause.
Now when you touch it hurts because there is zero resistance to ground.
What you need is a grounding mat on your computer desk with a 100k resistor to earth.
This will drain you static charge without shocking you.
Draining the static charge fast == shock. Resistance == zero.
Draining the static charge slowly == no shock. Resistance == 100k Ohms
Just place it wherever you normally rest your arms/wrists while typing or simply remember to touch it before touching metal devices, and you won’t get a shock any more.

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Like Peter was getting at, dry air is much more likely to generate these kinds of shocks. You can use a humidifier to mitigate this. Ironically, not enough water in the air can help you fry your electronics :wink:

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