September 24, 2007 1:02 PM   Subscribe

Why does my hard drive shut down when my cell phone is near it?

Whenever i have my phone near my external HD, it will randomly shut down. i have tested this on certain days: one day i'll leave my phone nearby, the HD will shut down. if i leave my phone across the room, it won't do it at all.

Why does this happen? is this preventable? is my HD just shitty? I charge my cellphone from my computer via USB.

i'm running an external HD in an alluminum bodied case, and a powerbook G4 if that matters...i really don't know.
posted by furnace.heart to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Call phones cause serious EMF, when one is near my unshielded speakers you can hear the warbling very loudly. Your aluminum case is probably exacerbating the problem by acting as an antenna. Get a longer cord.
posted by IronLizard at 1:24 PM on September 24, 2007

Cell, phones I mean.
posted by IronLizard at 1:27 PM on September 24, 2007

Have just bought a Toshiba Portege laptop and the manual says not to use a cell phone closer than 30 cm, because of the phone's effect on the computer's audio system.
posted by Idcoytco at 2:37 PM on September 24, 2007

Does it only happen when you are charging your phone? Or any time the phone is nearby? It's probably EMI as IronLizard says, just don't leave your phone so close. If it only happens when you are actually charging it, even when the phone and HDD are a reasonable distance apart, it could still be EMI, but this time from interference occurring on the cables (they tend to act like antennas). Or it could just be that the phone charger is putting too much load on your USB ports and your HDD isn't getting enough power and is shutting down (this shouldn't be a problem, but I've seen some pretty dodgy USB phone chargers).

For what it's worth, if your phone is causing your HDD to shut down through EMI, and they are more than say a foot apart, then yes, your HDD is shitty.
posted by markr at 2:53 PM on September 24, 2007

At work, we had a particular firewire drive that would shut off whenever a RAZR phone would RING near it.

The hypothesis was that it had something to do with the bluetooth in the phone (several people had the same phone, and all of them did it, but just to this one drive).

Solution: we kept the phones away from the drive.

Is it just when the phone rings, or all the time? Have you tried shutting off bluetooth on the phone?
posted by MythMaker at 3:21 PM on September 24, 2007

While idle, the phone's transmissions to the tower are very infrequent, just an occasional "hello, I'm here", to save battery life.

When a call comes in, there's a big handshaking process that happens, with the tower "you still out there?" and the phone "yes I am!" and then the whole call setup, so in the instant before the ringer actually starts making noise, all sorts of things can happen. I keep my phone velcroed to the car's dashboard, and I can hear the subtle tick-tick-pssht in the stereo, so I reach for the phone before it starts ringing. Freaks out my passengers.

Anyway, since the interference is a radio signal, it can be carried along wires as well as radiated through empty space. Are you plugging the phone's (cheap, aftermarket) charging cable into the same USB hub as the hard drive? Try using a USB cable with the ferrite filter beads near the connectors.
posted by Myself at 10:51 PM on September 24, 2007

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