Wired Apple Keyboard Keeps Shocking Me -- Help!
September 3, 2016 7:33 PM   Subscribe

My wired Apple Keyboard keeps shocking me whenever I depress a key for too long (aka any time I type) to the point that I have little sore spots on all my fingertips. The shocks are strong enough that I can hear them through my headphones as soon as the arc makes contact with my fingers. What is going on, and why isn't the issue resolved by grounding myself?

Possibly Relevant Additional Info:
  • This started today. My iPhone has been shocking me too since last week.
  • I have restarted my computer, unplugged the keyboard, cleaned the keyboard with canned air, and grounded myself using my a nearby metal bed frame. This hasn't helped, though the grounding may be insufficient because the metal frame has a thin coat of paint on it. Unfortunately there isn't any metal elsewhere in my house so I don't know what else to try.
  • I live in the desert. It's been really hot and dry, so I've been running two fans AND a humidifier plus all the other stuff in my room.
  • My bedroom has carpet. I do shuffle my feet. Shocks still occur even if I tiptoe through all the carpeted areas. (And I am really good at tiptoeing when I try, JSYK.)
  • If I keep one finger on the empty area between my arrow keys and the fn/home/delete/etc section, the shocks seem to be reduced, but I have tiny hands so that's not a feasible long term solution 'cause I can't type and keep a finger in that area at the same time.
  • I have swapped out my main Apple Keyboard for an older Apple Keyboard that I once thought was dead after I stupidly cleaned it with a Clorox wipe and the shocks are somehow stronger when I use the older keyboard.
  • I didn't know you could pick Pikachu as your starter in Pokemon Go, so I chose Bulbasaur instead. Am I being punished for my choices in life?
Obviously this is painful and not cool, so I gotta fix it (and I really hope there's a way that doesn't involve me ditching yet another expensive as hell keyboard). Also, I am about to get to Skyhold in DA:I and my left hand being all electrified and stuff IRL as well as in the story is a level of game play I really didn't sign up for. :( Thank you!
posted by Hermione Granger to Computers & Internet (38 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You may have a fault in your electrical outlet or, less likely, in the computer's power supply. I'd check out the outlets first with one of those simple plug-in testers.
posted by kindall at 7:41 PM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Grounding yourself would just provide a better path for the electric current. Don't even try.

Anyway, touching a bed frame wouldn't ground you because the bed frame is not grounded.

Make sure your 3-prong plugs are plugged in properly, all three prongs, and your outlets are properly grounded.

Also, wear latex gloves until this is resolved.
posted by JimN2TAW at 7:49 PM on September 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Wait. Your iphone shocks you? Like as it is in your hand and not plugged into anything. And it shocks you?

posted by sanka at 8:30 PM on September 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Latex gloves = check (shocks eliminated)
Outlet grounding = check (tested both power strip and the wall outlets they go into)
iMac power supply = check (unplugged, plugged back in securely)

Yes, my iPhone has been shocking me as well, mostly when I grasp the bottom of it where the speakers and lightning port with my fingers. This primarily happens when the phone is plugged in. The phone itself has been running really hot for the last month, and more so now that I'm playing Pokemon Go, which is a big battery drainer. I now have slight burn spots on my right index and middle fingers where the phone rests the most when I hold it. The tips of my fingers on my left hand are getting the most shocks from my keyboard for some reason.

After completing the grounding tests with my computer off, I rebooted and typed a bit with the gloves on, then removed them to see what would happen. So far the shocks have not returned. If they do, I will test my iMac's four USB ports to see if switching the keyboard to a different port helps.

Other suggestions for testing welcome.
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:41 PM on September 3, 2016

You are a mutant. Contact Professor X.

Seriously this seems wierd. You may want to take it into a service repair store for a quick diagnostic before you fry your motherboard.
If you have another available port for your keyboard use that one instead.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:04 PM on September 3, 2016 [7 favorites]

This primarily happens when the phone is plugged in.

To the same outlet or power strip as the offending computer/keyboard setup? Even if not, it might still be connected behind the wall...

Something like this happened to my mom - she had installed a big rack above her stove to hang pots and pans, but every time she'd touch it or take down a pot or pan, she'd get a shock. She thought it was static in the house (because that was the metal she touched the most often) but it actually turned out that the rack installation had somehow come into contact with a wire behind the wall, and that was what was shocking her each time.

When it was fixed, the person who fixed it said it was a fire waiting to happen.

If this is happening with the amount of regularity your post sounds like, something weird might be happening in your wall, and it could be dangerous. I would consider getting an electrician in, if you have a landlord who will pay for it or you can afford it.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 9:19 PM on September 3, 2016 [11 favorites]

Do you have access to the breaker panel in your place? Can you find an outlet that isn't on the same circuit that your computer is hooked up to and try that? You can get a long powerstrip if you need to. I agree that something weird is going on - either with the computer or the outlet. (You don't say if you're charging your phone through your computer USB/same outlet.) Do move your computer instead of avoiding the problem with a wireless keyboard as well since you're not sure what's causing it.

Get an electrician in ASAP because this sounds like a weird problem that shouldn't be happening.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:53 PM on September 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Shocks remain eliminated after gloves used.

Phone is plugged into a standard Apple USB Power Adapter using an Amazon brand lightning cable on a different outlet in same room on the wall adjacent to where my computer's power strip is plugged in. iMac is plugged in to a generic power strip using its original power cable. Will investigate breaker panel in the morning -- no wireless keyboard readily available at this time, but willing to dig through my storage unit to find one.

Let's say I'm the issue, not the wiring in my room. After I removed the latex gloves JimN2TAW suggested, the shocks stopped. I had been typing with them on for about 15 minutes before I gained access to a outlet tester. During that time, what might the gloves have done to my skin so that when I come into contact with my keyboard, the connection doesn't result in static electricity?
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:11 PM on September 3, 2016

Is it possible that your chair (or your desk, or whatever) is resting on a frayed cable, and that the shocks are because your body is making a connection between this cable and your grounded computer? Check the situation out very carefully, you don't want to suddenly make a better pathway and electrocute yourself.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:27 PM on September 3, 2016

During that time, what might the gloves have done to my skin so that when I come into contact with my keyboard, the connection doesn't result in static electricity?

I think there's a fundamental misunderstanding of physics going on here. Static electricity isn't something that results from a connection; it's something that a connection can suddenly dissipate, and whether that dissipation results in pain and/or burns is a matter of how fast it happens. Faster is worse.

When you shuffle across a carpet, you will experience triboelectric charging. You are now a large charged object, and because triboelectric charging only works when the rubbing substances are good insulators, you're going to stay charged until the charge finds ways to leak off you.

When you're charged and you touch something conductive, there's a sudden flow of electric current as the charge spreads to the conductive thing. If you touch something conductive that's also grounded, you get quite a large current because the grounded object is going to be capable of dissipating all the charge your body has accumulated rather than just soaking up enough of it to equalize. Also, as a large bag of salty water (sorry, but that's just how electricity sees us) you're quite a good conductor so you will probably discharge quite fast.

If you've built up a large charge (very easy to do with certain combinations of shoe sole and carpet) then discharging that into a conductive or (worse) grounded object can cause quite a large spark - certainly enough to be painful and quite plausibly enough to cause small burns.

As well as friction between shoes and carpet, it's quite common for people to build up a triboelectric charge from friction between carpet and the wheels on office chairs.

The path between the surfaces where the charge is being generated by friction and the rest of your body does not have to be highly conductive in order for charge to move from the generating point to your highly conductive biological self; all that a few tens of megohms of resistance will do is slow down the rate at which the charge transfers, not prevent it altogether. And when the air is humid, charge tends to leak off you through that. When the air is dry, it can hang around for some while.

Especially in dry air, the carpet itself can also hold a substantial charge for quite some while - and if you're walking about on it and repeatedly discharging yourself into your phone or computer, you might be unwittingly operating as the conductive plate in an accidental electrophorus.

If you're working with your computer and experimenting with latex gloves, you're not walking around on the carpet and building up a charge. So the fact that you didn't get zapped after taking off the gloves doesn't necessarily tell you much about the gloves; it just tells you that you didn't have much charge at that point.

If this model is right, you should be able to avoid fingertip burns by equalizing the charge between yourself and whatever you're about to touch with your fingertips before you touch it. Least-equipment way to do that is to approach the item cautiously with a folded knuckle, and let the spark between you and it hit you in the knuckle; that generally hurts less than having it hit you in the fingertip.

The "right" way to equalize charge is making sure that both you and the equipment you're working with are independently grounded, because that way the discharge currents don't flow through the equipment (possibly resulting in electrostatic discharge damage). The conductive path that grounds you should have a moderately high resistance so that your discharge current is not large enough to hurt or burn.

If this issue is annoying you enough to be worth spending money to fix, look into grounded industrial ESD workstation mats.
posted by flabdablet at 11:10 PM on September 3, 2016 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for your detailed answer, flabdablet. I have no understanding of physics (I focused exclusively on biology in school) so I recognize how much of what I'm trying to explain is riddled with misunderstandings on my part. Hopefully the issue has passed; I've been using the exact same set up (wooden desk, wooden chair, bare feet, no mats, and peripherals) for over a year in this location, so today's onset of keyboard shocks was unexpected and frankly pretty painful. At least now I have an interim solution (gloves), but I will keep everyone's advice in mind in case I do need to call in an electrician.
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:21 AM on September 4, 2016

If you get a single shock every time you sit down at the computer or pick up your phone, then that is fine, if slightly painful. But if I understand you correctly, you were getting continuously shocked at the keyboard, not just once per sitdown? If so that wouldn't be static discharge. Definitely get it checked out even if it's gone away for now. It could be a loose power socket, or something more insidious.
posted by Standard Orange at 1:44 AM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yes: this is *crucial* Hermione: are you getting shocked once when you sat down at the computer and touched the keyboard, or every time you hit a key?

If the latter, then it suggests that there’s something very wrong with the wiring in your house somewhere and you *must* get the problem fixed at source because it could very easily be the kind of fault that kills you stone dead.

Does your electrical system have ELCB breakers? I hope so...
posted by pharm at 2:47 AM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

This sounds like wiring problems that can kill you. I would not mess about with gloves as an interim solution, I would flip the breaker for that outlet and call an electrician.

With wiring faults you get repeated shocks ever time you touch the metal thing.

This doesn't sound like static shocks from dry air and shuffling feet or rolling desk chair wheels - you'd have experienced them in the last year. With static, you get one shock when you touch the metal thing, and then you've discharged the charge on you and you're done, no more shocks until you've shuffled your feet or something. That's with static.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:59 AM on September 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

If it's a mains fault, the shocks will typically feel like a buzzing tingle rather than a sharp snap, and they will persist for as long as you stay in contact with whatever it is that the fault has made live. If what you're hearing in your headphones when you experience a shock has any kind of buzz or hum to it, then yes you should be using a different mains outlet controlled by a different circuit breaker until you get the fault resolved, which you should certainly treat as a high priority.

If what you're hearing and feeling is single, sharp clicks and snaps that happen only when you initially touch your keyboard (or the first time you press a key far enough to bring your fingertip into arcing range of the laptop's metal body) then it's more likely to be static electricity and a workstation mat should resolve it.
posted by flabdablet at 5:06 AM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

This sounds like wiring problems and checking the breaker box may or may not help. The ground wire to the outlet may be loose, for example.

An electrician would be good but a friend (ideally with some electronics experience ) with a multimeter could check the AC and DC voltages between different points where you are shocked. What you have described does not sound like static, so it would be due to non zero potential differences (voltages) between points. Maybe one difficulty in debugging this would be if the problem was intermittent (i.e. A wire is failing but not 100% broken, depends on angle or something).

In short, get someone with a multimeter up in there.
posted by friendofstone at 5:50 AM on September 4, 2016

Response by poster: I was getting shocked every time I depressed a key, which was accompanied by a "bzzt" that Incould hear through my headphones when it happened. I did not get shocked when I touched the anodized aluminum that the rest of the keyboard is composed of, nor did I get shocked when I touched any part of my iMac, which also has the anodized aluminum all over.

I'm using past tense today because I am no longer getting shocked when I type, and I stayed up till 3am gaming so I could see if the issue resumed. Since it didn't, I figured I'd wait to see what happened today. Still no shocks. I have made no other adjustments to my routine aside from temporarily wearing gloves last night (still shuffled my bare feet on the carpet, kept my wrist wrests and mousepad in the same place, shut my computer down for the night, etc).

This morning I also checked every outlet in my room and the two rooms adjacent to mine using two different tools and all are correctly grounded. The USB cable to my keyboard also shows no signs of fraying or yellowing, despite the unit being 2-3 years old. Could this have been a bizarre fluke, corrected by me shutting my computer off a few times, unplugging power and USB cables, etc?

As a precaution, I am backing up all my data in case this turns out to be indicative of something more serious as some of you are saying.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:12 AM on September 4, 2016

So is the iPhone still shocking you? Whether that's the case would determine my course of action.

This is what I was going to ask before you provided the last update: Is your iPhone generally plugged into the iMac to charge, or is it plugged in to the same wall outlet or surge protector as the iMac?

If both the keyboard and the phone are shocking you when plugged into USB ports on your iMac, it seems like the problem could be the iMac. I used to get occasional pinpoint shocks from my previous MacBook Pro and from a previous iMac keyboard, like something was grounded incorrectly, so this is definitely possible. Aluminum conducts electricity. It's good that you're not getting shocked from the case of the iMac or keyboard, though.

If the phone is separately shocking you when plugged into the same wall outlet or surge protector as the iMac, then the problem is the wall outlet or surge protector. You can test this by unplugging the surge protector and plugging things straight into the wall outlet and seeing if they improve.

That said, the recommendation I was going to make still stands: DO NOT TEST THIS BY REPEATEDLY TOUCHING THE KEYBOARD AND IPHONE. You've been lucky so far, but if you change the variables here (what is plugged into what), you could create a really dangerous situation. The outcome of your "test" could be that you die.

You can and probably should buy a voltage detector, so you can test which surfaces are affected. But really, this is a situation where you should probably get an electrician involved, because the only way for you to determine right now whether the intermittent problem is with your iMac or with your outlet or with all the wiring in your place, unless you own a voltage detector or can go buy one locally, is by putting your body directly in the path of potential electricity.

If you can buy a voltage detector locally, do that first, and if you determine the problem is the iMac, take it to the shop. If you can't buy a voltage detector locally, call an electrician (or your landlord if you rent). If you can't get a voltage detector and can't someone out to your place this holiday weekend, at very least you should probably consider making an appointment to take your iMac, keyboard, and iPhone to the Apple Store, to rule out problems with them.

As someone who recently was shocked by the shower-curtain rod in my old apartment due to a water leak (I have since moved!), I will be very intrigued to hear the outcome! Electrical mysteries are always interesting (unless they harm you).
posted by limeonaire at 9:28 AM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Note: I was thinking about it more, and a voltage detector actually might not be as useful in this case as I thought, since either way you're going to have electricity running through the wires to your iMac, your keyboard, and your iPhone if it's plugged in. So the detector won't necessarily tell you much to differentiate the problem. The answer to the question of where you're plugging in the iPhone would probably tell us more.
posted by limeonaire at 9:37 AM on September 4, 2016

Response by poster: Thank you limeonaire!

My iPhone is charged on a separate outlet and plugged directly into the wall that is adjacent to where my iMac's power strip is plugged in. They have never shared an outlet and I only plug my phone into my iMac to back it up. The phone is not shocking me anymore either.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:38 AM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hermione - perhaps you're a victim of a mild Magna Tonitrus?
posted by ShooBoo at 9:50 AM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Glad you're not getting shocked currently! This sounds like the problem could indeed be an intermittent one with the wiring for the circuit in that room. In a lot of places, entire rooms or areas of the house or apartment are on the same circuit, so since you've had the issue with different devices on different outlets in the same room, that would seem like a potential common factor. It makes me wonder what would happen if you switch which outlet the iMac's surge protector and the iPhone are plugged into—if the problem would recur with each device then. Or if you knew which parts of the house or apartment were on a different circuit, e.g., possibly the kitchen, you could test with an outlet known to be on another circuit.

Since you're in the desert, I wonder whether temperature is a factor here—i.e., if the problem is caused when the temperature changes, causing a loose wire in your bedroom's circuit to expand or contract and contact the wrong thing in the wall.

The only other potential common factor I could think of would be if you are starting to get some kind of repetitive stress injury that affects both your hands. You said you are actually getting physical burns from the phone, but that heat could be a battery issue separate from the shock issue. I raise this possibility because that was actually a factor when I got shocked in the shower—I have a shoulder injury on my left side that causes my arm to feel like electricity is running through it on a pretty regular basis, and when I touched the shower-curtain rod at my old place and got shocked in my right arm, one of my first thoughts was, "Wait, is my right shoulder messed up now, too?" The buzzy feeling of being shocked felt almost exactly the same as the repetitive stress injury. (The fact that gloves shield you from the sensation wouldn't rule that out, as they could be applying compression to your wrist that helps the problem if it is RSI.)
posted by limeonaire at 9:57 AM on September 4, 2016

accompanied by a "bzzt"

Forget everything I wrote above about static electricity. You need an electrician.
posted by flabdablet at 11:17 AM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

on a separate outlet and plugged directly into the wall that is adjacent to where my iMac's power strip is plugged in

Same circuit branch, then. Electrician, stat.

One possible cause for this kind of thing is that the ground connection for your whole house is no longer doing its job. This can be because the big fat ground wire that should run from your breaker box to a ground stake is loose and/or corroded where it connects to the stake, or because the soil around the stake has dried out for the stake's entire depth and is no longer providing a conductive path into the earth.

It might even be because the house ground doesn't actually go to a stake at all, but connects to your water pipes instead (a surprisingly common cheat, not code compliant anywhere that has sane codes). Do you ever get an electrical tingle off your shower taps?
posted by flabdablet at 11:24 AM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

One possible cause for this kind of thing is that the ground connection for your whole house is no longer doing its job.

Assuming the power charger is not defective, the device should be isolated from the power mains. The device floats with respect to house ground. Note that most chargers don't even have a third prong for grounding. So a faulty AC ground should not cause a problem other than possibly increased electronic noise emissions.

Many chargers have what is called a Y capacitor connecting the primary neutral to the secondary to reduce EMI emissions. These are very high voltage rated (4000 V typical) relatively low capacitance (420 pF typical). They are film types that are designed to fail open circuit.

Sometimes people will feel a slight tingle because of tiny currents across the Y capacitor, but getting significant shocks should never happen.

Something doesn't seem right, but I wouldn't chalk it up to a problem with the AC mains because the charger should isolate the user from that.
posted by JackFlash at 11:45 AM on September 4, 2016

Speaking from a background of significant (electronics shop grade) experience with electrostatic dissipation, I've got a bit of an impression that this could be be environmental rather than electrical in nature, but I still think it would be extremely prudent to get the electrical professionally checked out just as soon as you can. The likely causes for all of that have been covered above. A newly developed electrical problem could well give these symptoms. I would actually have pointed at the computer's power supply as being suspect were it not for the phone.

However, with extreme heat and dryness, electrostatic discharge can build up at a furious pace. You can discharge by touching a knuckle to a grounded surface, as flabdablet suggests, or better yet a coin. You can also try some basic electrostatic reduction measures. You're already doing the humidifier, which is good, but without knowing what the actual humidity in your inside air is, it is hard to tell how effective that is. The cheapest remediation is actually fabric softener on your clothes when you wash and dry them, and you can also spray carpet with a diluted mix of fabric softener to help reduce static buildup.

The symptoms here are fascinating and unusual and I hope you post an update if you discover what the issue actually is.
posted by jgreco at 12:29 PM on September 4, 2016

None of the electrical explanations really add up. I'm wondering if you might have a skin or nerve condition in your fingers that makes pressure feel like an electrical shock but really isn't. Especially the way the symptoms seem to come and go. And any shock strong enough to make your finger tips sore would likely knock you out of your chair or stop your heart. You could test this by having someone else use your equipment exactly like you when you feel the shocks.

So instead of an electrician, perhaps you should see a physician.
posted by JackFlash at 1:40 PM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I live in the desert. It's been really hot and dry, so I've been running two fans AND a humidifier plus all the other stuff in my room.

If your house or building happens to be grounded by metal rods pounded into the earth (or even if it's grounded to pipes, I suppose), and hot and dry weather has been prolonged enough to amount to a drought, it's conceivable your grounds have developed too much resistance:
If your ground rod is not conducting well to the Earth, you can experience problems with your electrical system, e.g. lights dimming or even an electrocution hazard condition can exist. Berkeys can check the ground rod connection to the Earth and determine if it has less than the required 25 Ohm resistance. Extreme drought can effect this and could require installing an additional 8’ ground rod more than 6’ from the existing ground rod
But that wouldn't explain why putting on gloves for a while, unplugging and replugging everything and then taking off the gloves would make the problem go away.

Unless perhaps, for example, it takes some intermittently operating device to put voltage on the malfunctioning ground line, such as a refrigerator or air conditioning system, and you just chanced to catch it during an off cycle when you took off your gloves and tried again.
posted by jamjam at 6:57 PM on September 4, 2016

a skin or nerve condition in your fingers that makes pressure feel like an electrical shock but really isn't

would not account for "bzzt" in the earphones whenever it happens.
posted by flabdablet at 8:50 PM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

would not account for "bzzt" in the earphones whenever it happens.

Could be unrelated EMI interference. How would you explain shocks on the iPhone even when not (primarily) plugged into the charger? And burned finger tips without being knock on your butt? Seems unlikely. Seems possible that damaged fingertips might be causing the "shock" sensation rather than the other way around a shock causing damaged fingertips.

A typical debugging strategy is to swap out pieces of the system to see if the problem goes away. They've swapped outlets, swapped chargers, swapped devices. The obvious next step is to swap users.

Needs more data.
posted by JackFlash at 9:21 PM on September 4, 2016

The obvious next step is to swap users.

In cases of electric shock, the obvious step is to call an electrician.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:30 PM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

In cases of electric shock, the obvious step is to call an electrician.

Maybe. But would you call an electrician for an electric shock from static electricity from the carpet?

I don't think it is clear yet that there is an electrical shock. How can you get an electrical shock just holding an iPhone in the open air? How can you get an electrical shock only when touching the plastic keys of a keyboard but not when touching the adjacent metal chassis?
posted by JackFlash at 12:18 AM on September 5, 2016

When the situation is unclear, call an electrician.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:13 AM on September 5, 2016

Response by poster: Am in discussion with my local electrician! He will stop by tomorrow to assess what's what, even though the shocks stopped and have not returned since I posted this AskMe.

The little burns/sore spots were not from single, prolonged shocks. They were the end result of typing rapidly and having each depressed key shock me briefly as I typed. Lots of little shocks in rapid succession = eventually painful. And since this seems to be getting missed over and over, I have gone through all the outlets I my room and those in the rooms adjacent which are all on the same breaker twice to test for grounding and voltage issues using two of those light up plug in testers. All outlets have come back as being correctly grounded and having normal voltage output.

RE: Me needing to see a doctor. I have no neurological conditions that would contribute to this, but thanks for the interesting suggestion. (Recently had a thorough check up; hence the ready answer.) Since this issue only occurred with that specific keyboard and phone, and not with any other devices or surfaces in my home, I am fairly certain that rules out me being the problem.

Will keep you all posted as this story unfolds. So I don't threadsit anymore, please feel free to MeMail me if you want other details about this situation just out of curiosity or whatever. :) Thanks again for all your input!
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:02 PM on September 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

When you ultimately figure it out, definitely post back here, though! This is a super interesting question, and I hope you get it resolved!
posted by limeonaire at 7:35 PM on September 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Hermione, does your electrical system have Earth Leakage Circuit Breakers (ELCBs, or whatever it is they call them in the US) ?
posted by pharm at 2:17 AM on September 7, 2016

In the US these are called GFCIs (ground fault circuit interruptors).
posted by kindall at 10:07 AM on September 7, 2016

Response by poster: Alright! I have waited a few weeks to provide you with a final report to ensure that my testing period was long enough to be considered pretty solid.

As suggested, I had the local master electrician visit and assess the wiring in my room, the state of my home's breakers, etc. He deemed it all in totally working order, and suggested I buy an anti-static mat and ground it by sticking the clamp into one of the sockets nearby. I did so. The mat completely resolved the shocking, and helped me determine that while my keyboard and USB hub are functioning just fine, my 8 year old USB mouse was dying and causing some additional issues I hadn't paid attention to when I was still being shocked. (RIP, my most faithful peripheral.)

So! New mouse, new anti-static pad that covers my entire desk = all problems solved. Thank you very much for all your input (and sorry if this report isn't quite as exciting or dramatic as it perhaps could have been had something more major been afoot.)
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:54 AM on September 30, 2016 [7 favorites]

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