Your Jewelry Could Be Causing Your Laptop to Sleep


Your Jewelry Could Be Causing Your Laptop to Sleep


Whatcha got on your wrist today? Is it an activity tracker? A watch? Your grandmother’s bracelet that she left you? Does it have a magnetic closure? If it does, then it just might be the reason why your laptop has been going to sleep while you’re using it.

Last week, a user approached me with the issue that her new company issued laptop was falling asleep unexpectedly as she actively used it. The laptop only entered sleep mode while it was in use and only while it was undocked. That is, while it was not attached to the “dock” which is a device that allows her laptop to function similarly to a desktop PC with an attached keyboard, mouse and monitor. Of course I updated her BIOS and her drivers and checked her power settings, etc. But I couldn’t find anything clearly wrong that would explain the seemingly random sleeps. This user was about to travel internationally for work and I didn’t want her leaving with an unreliable laptop. So I got busy googling and found that many other users with Dell Latitude laptops manufactured in the last few years had experienced the same thing. On one forum, after much discussion, a group of users realized they all wore activity trackers or bracelets or watches with magnetic closures and they reached the conclusion that these were putting their PCs to sleep. Their theory was not at all implausible. I asked the user to stop wearing her activity tracker when she used her laptop and let me know if her PC experienced the issue again. So far so good! She has not experienced the issue again and will be traveling this upcoming week.

An executive at this particular company experienced the same problem as the user I just mentioned. He wore long sleeves and I asked him what he wore on his wrists. On his right wrist, he wore an activity tracker but it had a conventional Tang buckle closure. On his left wrist, he wore a bracelet with… a magnetic closure!

Keen to determine once and for all whether magnetic closures were the issue, I secured the executive’s cooperation in running his wrist around the areas where his wrist might be as he used his laptop. Sure enough, we found the “sweet spot” and his laptop went to sleep. We repeated the experiment once more to make sure.

What can you do to resolve this issue and how, exactly, could a magnetic closure be putting a laptop to sleep? The answers to both of those questions are short and simple. Alas, only the answer to the second question is particularly interesting so we’ll save that for last.

If you’re experiencing this issue, you pretty much have three reasonable choices:

(1) Take off the item with the magnetic closure.

(2) Get a different laptop.

(3) Change your power settings so your laptop doesn’t go to sleep when you close the lid. I don’t recommend this because most people will, at some point, forget to put their laptop to sleep or shut it down before closing the lid. So it’s a good idea to let it sleep automatically when you close the lid.

As to the second question — how is it that a magnetic closure can put a laptop to sleep: it’s easy to understand but next to impossible to guess. Many modern laptops know that they have been closed because there is a magnet above your laptop’s display (inside the bezel) and a magnetic sensor in your computer’s base. When the sensor is activated (ideally by the magnet in your display bezel), the laptop knows it has been closed and it responds as it has been programmed to respond. Generally, Windows laptops go to sleep (or hibernate) if they are closed. So if the laptop manufacturer puts the magnetic sensor in a place where a user’s wrists might be, and that user wears a magnet upon their wrist, the magnetic sensor may be erroneously triggered and cause the laptop to sleep.

The PC models that I have personally tested for this issue are the Dell Latitude E7270 and the Dell Latitude E7280. According to users in online forums, some other Dell Latitude models may be affected. I don’t mean to pick on Dell. This is certainly a difficult issue to foresee and I would be surprised if Dell were the only manufacturer to have produced laptops susceptible to this issue.

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