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Plug not grounded in Rome.

Arrived in Rome yesterday, staying at a small convent. When I plugged my laptop in (with adapter) it gave me small shocks. I realized the plug wasn't grounded so attempted to buy a 3 prong plug (with the ground) but couldn't find one. I did not continue to charge any electronics for fear of causing damage. Today I'm staying at a different location and not having any problems. In the future I will be cautious as there are times when I plug things in & don't pay any attention. One more thing, I should have suspected when I plugged my phone in & it said it was using "fast charging". Safe travels to all!

Posted by
8889 posts

Phone chargers are 2-pin (2-prong), so not an issue. Laptop chargers are 3-pin (they have an earth).
If you are using a 2-pin adapter with the 3-pin plug on the laptop charger, I am surprised you didn't notice that the earth pin was not connected.

Yes, you need a 3-pin US-->IT adapter (not a plug). And an Italian 3-pin plug is different to other European countries. It will be an Italy-specific adapter.

Posted by
26 posts

I have a Mac & it only has a TWO pin plug so there is no earth pin (we call that a ground pin in the US). I have used this in Italy previously as well as Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. I am now in new lodging and am not having any problems. Evidently the electrical system is newer & safer in my new lodging. Newer laptops in the US only have two pin, not three pin plugs. My US - Italy plug and adapter both have 2 pins.

Posted by
4684 posts

We're missing a lot of data. But because all laptops run on a safe, low voltage from a "brick" or "wall wart", your shock has to have come from (speculating, I wasn't there) when you touched the wall plate or something like that. Most factory-issued power cords have rubber-covered parts, so I have to ask what you were doing when you got the shock. Otherwise we're stabbing in the dark.

I can tell you that I would never touch the plug (even, rubber) of a hair dryer WHILE I was touching a bathroom faucet, or something like that. Because Italy has 240V power, it seems unlikely that you got small shocks from actual wall current. But your body's contact with ground may have (luckily) been poor.

At the very least, please find a bright light and post the molded nameplate information about the OUTPUT of your laptop's power brick.

Posted by
8889 posts

The end of the cable that plugs into the charger (the block) is then presumably also 2-pin.
I did a bit of googling and small shocks seems to be a common issue with macs. Sorry.

Posted by
3226 posts

All Mac products have 2 prong, non polarized, plugs on them. They work fine with a standard (non grounded) plug adapter. I have never had any shocks from my Apple products. Without being there and knowing the specifics, it was probably simply an issue with the wiring where you were staying. A grounded plug adaptor would not help since the plug from the computer only has 2 prongs.

The "fast charging" message simply means the phone power supply has enough power coming in to it that is can charge rapidly. I notice my phone charges very quickly on 240V power compared to home at 110V.

Posted by
5487 posts

First, if your North American Apple product with a two-prong non-polarized plug is leaking and giving you small shocks it could be defective. A grounded input plug will not fix the leakage problem. If you are feeling electricity the leak would be comming from the input side of the power block because the output voltave is very low (5.1 vdc).

Second, I beleive that charge time is more a function of the charger's power (watts) output than it's input voltage. For example, if you use an Apple iPad 10 watt charger to charge your phone, it will charge faster (about 2X) than your Apple iPhone 5 watt charger. The output voltage is the same (5/.1 vdc) regardless of the input voltage.

Posted by
5637 posts

We have traveled all over Europe, Asia and South America and only had a problem in Mexico.

Posted by
26 posts

Thanks for the help and ideas but it was "site specific" as mentioned by Chris. I've traveled thousands of miles with this Mac with no problem. But, the Mac was not the problem, there was no water involved (fortunately I learned at a young age that water & electricity don't mix), and no additional fixes were needed. The problem was that the electricity in the location was evidently not properly grounded and it was sending some current through the laptop. Thanks again for all of the help and suggestions.

Posted by
13930 posts

Here in Israel we use the same 2-prong outlets as Europe but we also have a 3-prong (grounded) that is only in Israel (God only knows why - maybe it was the British screwing with us during their Mandate). When I travel to Europe, I just use the 2-prong adapter that also works for US flat prongs to European round ones. Done this for years and never had a problem . . . fingers crossed.

Posted by
23402 posts

The three pin Israeli plug (also used in Palestine) only dates from 1968. How does that date back to the British Mandate which ended a generation before that?

Posted by
17647 posts

It would help if you could tell us (remember) what you were touching when you got the "small shocks". Was it the computer itself, the cord, the brick? You should not get a shock if you are touching non-condutive material, like the plastic of the case or the rubber cord. Maybe the case, or adaptor body, is cracked, or the cord has a split? Grounding only offers protection from shocks resulting from another problem.

I am surprised you didn't notice that the earth pin was not connected.

I see it all of the time - adaptors are sold that accept American 3 prong, grounding plugs, but have no grounding means on the plug side. Or they sell adaptors that accept American polarizing plugs (one blade wider than the other), but have no means to protect them from being plugged into non-polarized power supplies or from being oppositely polarized.

Posted by
141 posts

Correct me if I am wrong, but I do not believe polarity matters in 220v European outlets, i.e. both sides are "hot" and there is no "neutral".

Ground, is of course the third wire, if supplied.

Posted by
1095 posts

Correct me if I am wrong, but I do not believe polarity matters in
220v European outlets, i.e. both sides are "hot" and there is no
"neutral".

You are sort of correct. One wire is live and one is neutral, but in most cased there is no way to know which is which by looking at the socket as there is no standard in most countries.

Posted by
255 posts

My family owns a few American bought Macs and we live in Italy. Everytime you plug the computer, you see little sparks and crackling sounds. This has happened in multiple apartments, offices... I have become used to it

Posted by
17647 posts

I do not believe polarity matters in 220v European outlets, i.e. both sides are "hot" and there is no "neutral".

I wondered about that for a long time. That is true for most American 220V; you get 220V from two 110V lines phased 180° apart so unless you grab one line in each hand, you don't get a 220V shock. Touching one line and ground only gives you a 110V shock. (Note: here 110V is a "nominal" voltage. US voltage is in the range of 110V to 125V. My home is 122V. A lot depends on your distance from the substation.)

After much research, I finally determined that European power is 230V line to neutral. Actually, the continent *was 220V and UK was 240V. The EU was trying to standardize everyone to 230V so products could be designed for a single voltage. I don't know how Brexit will change that standardization. The Brits were very much in a snit about going to 230V because their electric kettles would not heat as fast.

The standard German (Type F) Schuko plug, which is used in a lot of continental countries, can be inserted either of two ways, so it cannot be polarized. The French (Type E) Schuko plug has an off-center grounded pin, so it can only be inserted one way and could be polarized, but I understand that the there are duplex receptacles sold in France with the two sockets oppositely "polarized", so their polarization could not be counted on. Italian grounding plugs can be inserted two ways, so polarization wouldn't work. Lastly, grounded Swiss receptacle also have the grounding pin off-center, and line and neutral are identified, so Swiss power is the only reliably polarized power source in Europe. However, I am not confident that Swiss-to-US grounding adapters are made to retain this polarization (all that I have checked visually seem to, but it's not guaranteed. The universal Europlug has only two pins and can be inserted two ways in any receptacle; it cannot retain polarization. It should not be used with an American appliance with a polarizing plug.

Posted by
8889 posts

Lee, I can confirm Swiss 3pin plugs (and only 3-pin) are polarised. Both the plugs and the socket are labelled live and neutral. I have re-wired a few.
UK plugs are also polarised. The plug has a fuse on the "live" pin.

All appliances sold in Europe don't care about the polarisation, as you say there is none in countries using Schuko plugs.
Many years ago there were products for the UK market that needed polarisation, nobody designs just for one country now, it is all euro products.

The official voltage is 230V +/- 10%, i.e. 207V to 253V, which conveniently means all existing systems comply, and only new builds are actually 230V.