Adapters

I have a European adapter that only takes a 2 prong plug but my computer plug is a 3 prong plug. The adapter fits on the plug but is it ok to use with the ground sticking out?

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9131 posts

I would suggest just buying a cheap adaptor that fits your plug. They cost about 1 euro.

Posted by Steve
Richmond, Virginia, USA
342 posts

You can use it, unless you end up needing a ground. When you discover you have no ground, bad things will already have happened. Get a grounded adaptor.

Posted by Laura
Fort Worth, TX
2 posts

Thank you! That's pretty much what I thought but just wanted to confirm.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4875 posts

I had the same problem last year when I decided to bring my netbook. I had regular plug adaptors, but I didn't like the extra prong hanging out. I bought 3 prong adaptors from my local travel store. I had to buy 2, because Italy used a different one than Germany did. Check what you need for where you are traveling.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17781 posts

Laura, As your computer has a grounded Plug, I'd suggest purchasing grounding-type Plug Adapters (the grounding pin is there for a reason)! The Plug Adapters are not expensive. One important point to note is that each of the European countries have slightly different configurations for grounded Plugs. Which countries will you be travelling in? Have a look at This Website for photos and descriptions of the various Plug Adapters. My Netbook also uses a grounded plug, so I've had to deal with this situation as well. I usually travel with a selection of both two and three-pin Plug Adapters. It's a good idea to pack along some "spares" in case one of the Adapters is misplaced or whatever. Happy travels!

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11276 posts

Don't tell anyone, but I've used an ungrounding (2 pin) adapter (with the ground sticking out for the last two trips (14 days each) to Germany. I haven't had any problems. However, I wouldn't advise using this configuration in the bathtub. If you really want to get grounding plugs for every country you're going to be in, on the website Ken mentioned, the grounding plug "D" (modified Schuko plug) should work in Germany ("D" stands for Deutschland), Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, and France. It might also work in Spain. It definitely won't work in Switzerland and Italy. For those countries you need the grounding plugs "S" and "I", respectively (guess where the initials come from).

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11276 posts

It's a good idea to pack along some "spares" in case one of the Adapters is misplaced or whatever. Although the pins on the Europlug adapter are thinner (Ø0.40 mm) vs the pins on a Schuko plug (Ø0.48 mm), the Schuko receptacles in Germany still grip the Ø0.4 mm pins pretty tightly, and you're likely to separate your 2 prong plug from the adapter and leave the adapter in the wall. After leaving one in the wall, I now tape them together.

Posted by Christophe
Copenhagen, Denmark
265 posts

I will go against the flow: There is absolutely no need to ground a laptop computer, the ground pin probably goes nowhere on a laptop anyway. Furthermore, each European country has a different grounding system, so while an ungrounded plug is universal to continental Europe, a grounded plug is not so, and you will need different adapters if you visit multiple countries. Also, many outlets in Europe are not grounded, especially in older buildings, so a grounded plug will cause you more trouble than benefit. Grounding is only needed and legally required for large appliances such as washing machines etc. As an example, grounded outlets in Denmark was not mandatory until 2001. All building built before 2001 has only ungrounded outlets, except a few grounded outlets for specific purposes. It is even legal in some countries for renovation of older buildings, not to attach the ground wire of an outlet with ground pins/holes, so you can have an outlet where the ground is not functional, and legal! Use your existing adaptor, it will work fine.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17781 posts

@ Cristophe, I agree with some of your points and disagree with others. "There is absolutely no need to ground a laptop computer, the ground pin probably goes nowhere on a laptop anyway." The grounding pin DOES have a function, or it wouldn't have been included in the design. In many cases, this is designed as part of the protection provided to minimize shock hazards to the end user. Some larger appliances have a "double insulated" design which means the grounding pin can be eliminated. "while an ungrounded plug is universal to continental Europe, a grounded plug is not so" That's true. The grounded Plug Adapters vary according to country. The Italian and Swiss designs are very close, but with the Swiss design, the grounding pin is "offset" to some extent. "Also, many outlets in Europe are not grounded, especially in older buildings" That's true in SOME older buildings. I travel with a small Multimeter, so can always check the status of grounded outlets. However, it should be pointed out that many older buildings have been retrofitted, and the ground is fully functional. However, I DON'T agree that using a grounded Plug Adapter "will cause you more trouble than benefit". In most cases, the user will notice no difference. "Use your existing adaptor, it will work fine." That's true for the most part. Most users will notice no difference. However, I believe that the ground is important if the product was designed to use one, so I always use a grounded Plug Adapter with my Netbook when charging. My Camera and Cell phone Chargers have only two pins, so not a concern with them. Cheers!

Posted by Christophe
Copenhagen, Denmark
265 posts

Hi Ken Here in Denmark, the situation is so, that the grounded plug is different from all other European countries' plug. The ground is with a pin on the plug like in the US. This is from the era of protectionism where it was best to have a design of your own. The problem is that the standard european german/french grounded plug works fine in Danish grounded and ungrounded outlets but do not transfer the ground in grounded outlets. The Danish grounded plug however cannot be ed in ungrounded outlets that we have alot of. Therefore the Danish grounded plug is quite incovenient for portable equipment. With the EU, this causes another problem, as the agency responsible for electrical issues dare not to require that all grounded appliances should be fitted with the special Danish plug as it would inconvenience both consumers and manufacturers. Hence 99.8% of all grounded appliances sold in Denmark are fitted with the standard european Combiplug (French/German), which fits well into Danish sockets, but dot not transfer the ground. If you want to transfer the grounding as well, the consumer needs to exchange the plug himself. But then, the appliance will not fit into ungrounded plugs, hence absolutely nobody does this. Because of this issue, Danish authorities have given up on grounding requirements and only require grounding of fixed installations over 18 kg weight (washing machines, dryers, dishwashers etc.). All (or 99.8% of) portable appliances (laptops, irons), are ungrounded in Denmark, even if they are designed for grounding, simply because the plug doesn't transfer the ground and nobody want to require consumers to change plugs on all electrical equipment. This is legal and official policy. To partially offset the potential dangers of this issue it has been a requirement since 1975 that all new installations have a GFCI.

Posted by Bethanne
Philadelphia, PA, USA
162 posts

Laura,
I have a Dell Mini Netbook and it has 3 prongs and when we went it Italy we used the two prongs with it and it charged absolutely fine. I didn't read the other posts but I'm sure they give you great advice. I wanted to reply b/c I noticed this just before we left and get nervous about it and it turned out fine.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17781 posts

Cristophe, Thanks for the additional information on the electrical situation in Denmark. I can appreciate that there are many old buildings with electrical systems that may have been installed many years ago, before proper standards were introduced. I can also appreciate that it would be an enormous undertaking to get agreement from all the countries in Europe (both E.U. and other) to standardize both grounded and ungrounded outlets. The situation is much different in North America, which has a very stringent electrical code, and very similar regulations between the U.S. and Canada. Any new installations or major additions to the electrical systems here (either residential or commercial) MUST be approved by the Electrical Safety Authority prior to occupancy (of course there are always some that don't get a Permit and "fly under the radar"). I don't have a Grounded Plug Adapter for Denmark yet, but the information you've provided is a good reminder. I'll be sure to buy one before visiting Denmark. I believe THIS is the correct model. Cheers!

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11276 posts

I thought I had posted this website earlier, but I can't see that I did. Anyway, here has the best explaination I have see for the different plugs and receptacles used throughout the world. Ken, you are right. Type K is used in Denmark. According to the article, the French type (E) of receptacle is also used, and legal in Denmark. In the United States, most appliance come with "polarized" plugs, which uses the fact that one of the slots on the receptacle, the wider one, is attached to the neutral conductor, which is attached to ground in the breaker box. This system is used to provide protection in that anything attached to the neutral conductor is a ground potential and cannot shock you. For instance, the threaded can of a light socket is supposed to be connected to the neutral conductor, so, as you are unthreading the bulb, when it breaks contact with the "hot" center contact, you cannot get a shock, even it you touch the threads. I mention this because 1) there might still be some Europlug adapters for sale which don't accept the wider blade of a polarize plug. When purchasing a Europlug adpater, make sure it accepts the plug with one wider blade. And, 2), and this reflects on safety, many American appliance don't have grounded plugs but rely on that neutral conductor of the polarized plug to provide safety. However, even with a grounded adapter, the German style receptacle is not polarized, so you lose whatever safety features the manufacturer relied on the polarized plug to provide.