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Dealing with static electricity during winter

Lately I’ve had bad luck plugging in USB devices into my home development PC. I would go to sync up my Zen (or since Christmas, my iPod Touch) and bad things would happen.  As soon as the USB cable touched the device, the PC would reboot.  I hate it when that happens.  I learned to touch some metal object to ground myself, but that didn’t always work.

It’s pretty dry in my house during winter.  Walking across the carpet, I seem to pick up a critical amount of static electricity.  Oddly enough, the reboot never happened when I sync’ed  my daughters’ iPods to the family PC that we all share.  Same dry air, nearly the same carpet.  But different PC hardware.  The family PC is a basic Dell Core Duo box.  Nothing fancy, but good enough. 

My machine is one that I had custom built.  Roughly the same CPU, just the AMD flavor, but with more bells and whistles.  I wanted dual NICs, RAID 5, FireWire, beefier PSU, and a quieter case.  I wrote about that machine a while back, it’s worked out pretty well so far.

It seems that it was the case that’s doing me in.  I’ve been a big fan of Antec cases, and this case is a Sonata II.  Nice design and very easy to work.  It has the extra touches that you would want, like a dust filter in front of the fan that pulls air into the case.  But it appears that that there are grounding issues with the USB connectors on the front panel.  I did a few quick searches through the series of tubes and found way too many hits for “antec sonata usb ground static” to be coincidental.

The obvious solution would be connect a wire to the front panel that has the USB ports and ground it to the case.  That will be a weekend project because the internal drive bays block access to the front panel.  In the meanwhile, I’m taking the lazy way out.  I had a spare 4 port USB hub that Microsoft gave out at DevConnections a few months back and I connected it to one of the USB ports on the motherboard shield at the back of the PC.  Those ports are grounded.  I also an running a vaporizer in my office when I’m working.  I need to get a humidifier, but the vaporizer was handy.

Between those two hacks, the static discharge problem appears to have been eliminated.  I’m not thrilled with Antec at the moment.  These are premium cases (or at least more expensive than the budget cases) and you would think that all of the ports would be grounded.  After skimming through the various message boards about this problem with multiple Antec cases, I wonder this will be my last Antec case.