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Be Careful - How You Handle Ethernet Cables


The RJ-45 modular connectors you find on 10/100Base-T Ethernet cables are potential static electricity problems. If you have one end plugged into a computer or switch, but the other end isn’t connected, that open end is a direct path for static electricity to the sensitive electronics at the other end. The cable jacket is always insulated, so it doesn’t drain away the static charge. However, if you pick up the cable and even brush against the exposed contacts, any built-up charge goes straight down the cable. We’ve seen many switch ports fail from just this sort of accident, so pay attention when you’re connecting and disconnecting Ethernets. We’re well aware that millions of people have opened their PCs, inserted or removed components, closed them up, and had nothing untoward happen (or, latent damage being what it is, nothing happen right then). Nevertheless, we’re not making this up, and we’re not alone in what we say. Consider the following:

1.) Intel advises its customers about ESD at
(among others; search the Intel Web site for ESD).

2.) Gateway Computers warns about ESD and offers guidelines on how to prevent damage at

3.) The United States Marine Corps Aviation Training Branch training on ESD is at www.tecom.

4.) NASA provides a general description of their ESD protection requirements at

5.) is the web site of the Electrostatic Discharge Association (ESDA).