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Ceiling fan somehow interacting with computer?


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#1
Tshin888

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Um... hmm.. I guess this is where you would post this...

Just for a quick bg: I have a computer I pieced together that is running Windows 8. I used it in another place - no issues. Ever since moving it into this house where it is now, every time the computer is on and I turn on or off the ceiling fan (via the wall switch), the OS's chime that a device has been connected/attached to the computer is activated. Nothing else comes up. No notices/anything, just the sound-effect.

I'm more than a tad bit confused and the slightest bit alarmed. I spent a lot of money of this computer and don't want anything to harm it in any way in any way that is avoidable.

The only other thing I can think of is the computer is connected to a Phillips powerstrip/surge-protector. It was in the other place too, so I don't know how it could be connected to it, especially as seeing how the other two switches in the room do not trigger the same event.

Oh yeah, one other thing: I do have a Passport running (and though it may be in no way connected, seeing as how this is a common issue) it TENDS to SEEM that the "recycle bin on drive E:/ is corrupted" notice comes up after such stuff with the ceiling fan happens. I do try not to use the ceiling fan when the computer is on for now though. And it happened this morning even though I am pretty certain I did not trigger that anomaly last night. But seeing as how I live in Las Vegas and summer is coming, and I am in the hot room in the house... I would really like to be able to use the fan and not be concerned that I am hurting the computer if I do.

It is REALLY weird. Should I be concerned? Thank you for anyone responding... I know this is a weird issue.
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#2
RKinner

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My guess is the fan motor, which is essentially a large coil of wire, creates a burst of Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) when turned on or off. This could be normal. What is not normal is the fact that your PC sees the pulse. The PC should be inside a metal box which should be grounded creating a Faraday Cage effect which should shield it from EMI. I would check the ground on the outlet where the PC is plugged in and also the power strip to make sure it doesn't lose the ground. Recheck that you did not forget to connect all of the grounds when you built the thing.

It is possible that the EMI is getting in via a wire acting as an antenna. Disconnect your Passport to make sure that is not the source. The USB cable is supposed to be shielded so if this is the source then perhaps the shield wire is not being grounded in the PC. Perhaps the USB jack on the PC is not grounded or the cable is defective.

I would expect that any decent power supply would have some noise filtering on its input and a bigger filter on the output so it seems unlikely that it would get in that way but I suppose the power supply could be defective.

Another possibility would be to stop the EMI at its source. Is the bare copper wire from the ceiling fixture connected to the green wire of the fan? (Does the bare wire exist? Some older house will only have two wires and no separate ground) This is how the case of the fan gets grounded and I would expect that that would also reduce any EMI. There could also be a problem with the fan itself. Have you got another room with a fan you could try the PC in? Be interesting to see if it's just the one fan. A .001 uF capacitor rated for at least 250 volts connected between the black wire (hot) and the white wire (neutral) would probably cut down on the amount of EMI generated by the fan.

Ron
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#3
iammykyl

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Hi.
Once upon a time I was a builder and have often seen dodgy ceiling fan installations where connections have been made to the power circuit. if this has been done, and your passport is not plugged into the surge protected power strip, a pulse could be triggering the "new connection detected"
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#4
Tshin888

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Thank you both so much for your responses. I will recheck my grounding in my PC. It was the first rig I've ever built, but I am pretty sure I didn't neglect it. We'll see (I do make quite a few mistakes lol). And I will try to figure it out with your advice and some troubleshooting.

One fine nuance: I just realized that it is never a "new device connected" sound event... it is always a "device disconnected" sound event from hitting the fan switch on or off, either way. Whatever repercussions that would have on any of the possibilities of what is causing this I do not know (or if there even are any), but it would seem to mean one thing rather than another I would imagine... like instead of a surge, it's some kind of "dip"... but alas I do not know... I am no computer expert...

This house's wiring is suspect btw. I have yet to check the ceiling fan's, but there are no lights in a couple of bathrooms connected by a wall. They just stopped working one day... We have flipped ALL of the breakers multiple times to no avail and all of the attached bedrooms/hallways work fine. As a matter of fact, so do all of the outlets in said bathrooms too. It is obviously poor wiring to blame. So I wouldn't be surprised if this other phenomenon originates from the something of the same. It is rather new, but it IS a Vegas cookie-cutter home :/

Edited by Tshin888, 28 April 2013 - 03:50 AM.

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#5
Kemasa

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Power is a serious issue. It could be that the fan is not grounded properly, using ground instead of the neutral, etc. Having other power issues is a sign of a serious problem, which could cause a fire, so you really need to get it checked out asap.

You could use a UPS to protect the computer better.
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#6
RKinner

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but there are no lights in a couple of bathrooms connected by a wall. They just stopped working one day...


Sounds like a gfci outlet has popped. Look for an outlet (usually near one of the sinks) that looks something like the one in the picture here:

http://www.homedepot...15#.UX1vXUoTSSY

Press the black or Test button and you should hear a click and the red or Reset button should pop out if the gfci had not been tripped. Push the red or Reset button to reset it. If you find one that doesn't click then it is probably the culprit. If the reset button won't stay in then you have a short between neutral and ground. I've also seen idiot electricians daisy-chain two gfci outlets together (output of one feeds the second one) which is stupid and can cause problems.

You may want to read up on them here:

http://www.thecircui...ve.com/gfis.htm

Ron
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#7
westom

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This house's wiring is suspect btw. I have yet to check the ceiling fan's, but there are no lights in a couple of bathrooms connected by a wall. They just stopped working one day...

Ignore grounding of a computer. A computer's power supply must make transients (noise) on white and black wires irrelevant And connects the safety ground (completely different from earth ground) directly to a motherboard. A wiring defect can connect a safety ground transient directly to the motherboard. No 'magic box' solutions (ie UPS) will avert or even try to supress that connection.

Does fan wiring create a problem? Easiest answer comes from installing (if only temporary) a GFCI circuit breaker on that circuit. GFCI in the breaker box; not a wall receptacle (ie pictured in that Home Depot url). If a wiring defect exists, that GFCI will detect it and trip (ie when fan switches). GFCI causes a permanent disconnect; not a temporary disconnect as another has speculated.

If something is learned from that GFCI, then more useful advise can be provided.

Otherwise, literally inspect wire connections inside every junction box on that circuit.

Ignore EMI. Even massive EMI from a lightning strike only four feet from computers caused no problem. EMI never had power sufficient to cause your symptoms. Your symptoms imply an anomaly somehow directly connected to the computer (ie an anomaly on the safety ground wire that should never exist).

Edited by westom, 28 April 2013 - 05:20 PM.

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#8
Tshin888

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Thanks everyone. Rkinner: btw, there is no GFCI outlet in those bathrooms. Like I said, the outlets work, just the actual light fixture (and fart-fans) do not. Best I can figure, there was probably a poorly stapled wire somewhere on the frame of the house (yikes).

As far as the computer and the "device detached" signal with every fan on-off... well... your advice westom sounds the most accurate. Unfortunately that all seems well outside my realm of comfortable finagling... I'll probably have to live with this until we leave. It just worries me.

I'll just try my best not to touch the thing while the computer is on (and the power surge protector I have gives me a bit of confidence I suppose), but yeah, the house's wiring worries me more at this point than possible computer damage (I guess signalling to the computer a device has been disconnected can't really harm it?? Can it??). Between these things (a possible fire?!), and the missing heat-kit in the attic air-handler, we are planning to move... and I'm even trying to push for renter's insurance for the interim (this is a relative's house actually, they are renting).

Again, I appreciate all of the help. It just seems like too much to deal with in a house they would rather leave anyway.

Last thing... anyone consider this to be more than a minor concern (to my computer and to our lives)? I'll probably leave it at that question haha... I don't have the money, knowledge or comfort to pursue this to the point of resolution unless it is ultimately dire.
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#9
RKinner

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Most places the county or city building code will require GFCI any time there is water nearby. It could be inside a cabinet or out at the electrical box or perhaps in the kitchen or laundry room.
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#10
Mark

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Hi,

We can't reassure you concerning some possible faulty wiring without having a pro look into it directly. Are there risks involved ? Possibly, yes. Best you can do, considering the situation, would be to make sure you have working smoke detectors and also notify the owners about the electrical problems in the bathrooms (lights and exhaust fans not working) ; those could be on a separate circuit by the way, so it could be linked to a bad breaker (not tripped, just faulty). Again, I can only speculate without further investigation.

Do I think you could harm the computer from this fan situation ? Probably not.

Best of luck :-)
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#11
westom

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Last thing... anyone consider this to be more than a minor concern (to my computer and to our lives)?

What was recommended requires layman skills. Which is why the items are sold in Home Depot, Lowes, and most other stores that also sell hammers. If uncomfortable, then find a friend who has done this stuff. Because every 'guy' should know this simple stuff.

GFCI was a simplest solution because it finds so many possible problems, including some cited by others, and those that might also be a serious threat to human life. You are asking, first and foremost, to learn what any homeowner (existing or future) should know. That knowledge comes by learning from events such as this.

However you added another fact. It is a rental. You cannot change wiring in a rental. Even if wiring is a major threat to human life. However learn to become informed. And learn to avert even a rare but possible fire.

Second, another simple tool is a light bulb wired to a three prong plug. Normally that light connects black (hot) wire to white (neutral) wire. Instead, wire it black to green (safety ground). And do not touch any other appliances because a defect many make those other appliances hot. When connected to each outlet, that light should glow with same intensity as when connected normally. Furthermore, that light should immediately trip out any GFCI protected circuits (ie bathrooms, kitchen). All those indicate good conditions. Does not test for all faults. But indicates that some human safety wiring does exist.

BTW, your test light should not cause any computer interruption. And again, even if this makes no sense to you, it is major facts making possible assistance from the fewer who actually know this stuff. And makes learning possible. To understand why some wiring, that still powers appliances, might also be a human safety threat.

Your computer is probably the canary in the coalmine. Symptom of a problem that, when identified, can avert other future problems.

Third, while at the hardware store, also get a cheater plug. This permits a two wire receptacle to power a three prong appliance. Temporarily install it on your computer power. Then power cycle the fan. Does that cheat plug eliminate the anomaly? Again, a major fact that probably means little to you until you learn some basics that every homeowner should know.

Do not leave a computer powered via that cheater plug that only subverts human safety connections. The plug, like the miswired light, is a test fixture. A temporary connection. A tool to identify possible reasons for your anomaly.
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#12
admin

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@westom, mostly solid advice, but I don't consider removing the service cover, pulling a breaker, and replacing with a GFI breaker, "simple stuff every 'guy' should know". Not to mention a GFI breaker will cost about $40 or more.

A simple approach, especially for a renter may be an outlet ground tester. Linked is one from Amazon, but you could pick it up at any hardware store for $5-10. If the outlet tester shows a fault then that is something that can be brought to the owners attention for repair.
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