Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Computers on either side of the Atlantic

Since this is a pretty global forum, I'm curious -- has anyone ever moved a computer (not laptop) from North America over to Europe? Are there any problems to worry about besides plugging it into a converter? The reason I'm asking is that it's still quite a bit more expensive to buy, say a Dell, in Ireland than in the US so I wonder if it would be worth my while to buy a PC here before leaving.

jedidjab
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

I know someone who has done this in the UK and Germany. The trick he used was to replace the power supply once he got it back to Europe.

The converter might work, but I doubt that the quality of the converter wiring is good enough to handle a PC over a long period of time.

Marc
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

I don't think I've ever seen a computer in the UK that didn't have a switch next the the power socket that swaps between 240v and 110v. Is it different over there?

A.T.
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

check the power adapter; all the laptops I've had work fine both sides (Dells, IBM Thinkpads)

And remember to buy your US->UK or US->EUR plug adapter in the US; they are a real hassle to find here (although EUR->US is more straightforward etc).

constructive comment
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Virtually every PC made in recent years has a "universal" power supply - it has a switch to change the input voltage between 110/120V and 220/240V, it's a switching power supply so the 60Hz/50Hz frequency doesn't matter, and they accept a range of input voltages (when set to 240V for example it will work correctly with input voltages from 210V to 255V or something like that).

Most manufacturers ship essentially the same system worldwide these days.

If you were moving from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern, you would want to buy a CRT monitor in your destination country (the difference in the Earth's magnetic field is enough to slightly distort the display image if the CRT is not set up for the hemisphere). But moving from North America to Europe shouldn't be a problem for a CRT, although you will need to check whether the input voltage (and frequency) for the CRT is adaptable. (LCD monitors don't have the same problem with the Earth's magnetic field.)

Philip Dickerson
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

The keyboard layout in the UK is different from the US layout. For example the British Pound sign is on the numbers somewhere (I forgot) and the @ sign is not shift 2.

Matthew Lock
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

I moved a monitor from Japan to Australia and one from The UK to Australia. Crossing the equator causes some weird colour changes but it is easily fixed with the Degaussing function on the monitor.

Matthew Lock
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

>>> Crossing the equator causes some weird colour changes but it is easily fixed with the Degaussing function on the monitor.

So THAT's what the Degauss button is for. I always thought its purpose was to scare users half dead the first time they pushed it out of curiosity.

Big B
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Yeah, and if you sit exactly at ecuator, and turn on your computer, you will see nothing at all, because the colors mix with each other in exactly equal quantities.

This is, in fact, why the boreal aurora appears - at the poles, the electrical discharges in the earth's athmosphere happen to be polarized by the earth's magnetic field, which pulls the photons STRAIGHT down and this is why we tend to see different colors.

Also, LCD screens are more affected by this, but the makers of LCD screens forget to put a Degauss button mainly for cost reasons.

You can degauss ANY LCD screen using a STRONG electro-magnet - just let alternative current pass trough it, and you got yourself a magnet which changes polarities very rapidly!

Joker
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

I've done it in both directions with no problems, but...

When I was in the Army in Germany, we finally got a shipment of brand new Pentium 233s in and the guy who was setting them up forgot to switch the power supply to 220 before plugging them in.  He went through three PCs before he figured out what he was doing.

So, remember to switch the power supply first.  Also, rather than buying those little plug adapters, you can go to a computer store oversees and buy yourself a power cable.  The end that plugs into the PC (and the monitor) are the same.

Double check your monitor to make sure it switches.  Also, a lot of stereos and TVs also will accept different voltages.  If it's a US TV you won't be able to get the local stations (Europe uses PAL), but you can still use it to watch videos and DVDs.  Also, your stereo may need to be adjusted for European tuning, if memory serves, their stations are spaced differently on the dial than those in the U.S.  On my stereo, it was just simple option in the setup.

Also, a lot of lamps will work with new bulbs, but the touch sensitive type generally will not. 

If you are going anywhere near a military base, ask around about people selling transformers.  They are really expensive if you have to buy them new.

Good luck and have fun!

Steve Barbour
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

I have a US system running in UK. Just flipped the power switch. Keyboard is US, so no pound, but I don't care, about this. I imagine I could plug in a UK keyboard if I did.

S. Tanna
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

I moved a load of stereo equipment from the UK to Canada, and I just went to an electrical store and bought a x2 transformer and a couple of North American plugs. A few minutes work made a transformer capable of handling the load of any electronic equipment and used the sockets from my old UK extension cords. That was six years ago and they are still working fine.

David Clayworth
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

The physical keyboard has precious little to do with what characters you can produce, and what keys you have to hit to get them. Just set your keyboard layout to whatever country you like. 

If you need to relabel your [physical] keyboard because you don't remember what character is where, a useful hint is to stick the label on the *front* of the key instead of the top - you hit the top often enough that anything you put there will wear off in no time.

Martha
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Wow .. thanks for the all the info! :)

jedidjab
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

A buddy of mine moved from the US to Germany recently. He bought a transformer to convert 220 to 110 with the proper Hz. He told me that the problem wasn't the computers it was the printer, and the scanner, and the monitor, etc. It was just easier to buy one device and plug a US powerstrip into it.

pdq
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

I second what pdq just wrote. When I moved from Canada to France I bought one converter from which I could get power for the monitor (it didn't handle 220), the printer, the scanner, my over-aged answering machine, etc.  Depends how much your peripherals are worth...

@+
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

One of my proudest achievements is being able to say I have actually seen a computer smoking.

Back in Australia after being in America, I plugged a machine into the power without checking the switches. Smoke curled out and of course the CPU was fried.

echidna
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Sounds fun, echidna. :)

Martha
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

This is how we know that computers run on smoke.

After all, if you let the smoke out they don't work anymore. ;-)

Chris Tavares
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

> So THAT's what the Degauss button is for. I always thought its purpose was to scare users half dead the first time they pushed it out of curiosity.  <

HA HA HA! QOTW!

Oh wait, we don't do quote of the week here.


Wednesday, July 02, 2003

I've done it, well in the other direction.

Your PC and probably your monitor will be fine with dual / switchable power supplies.

The problem is with your router / KVM / speakers / printer, i.e. everything else won't. Just buy a decent transformer, plug a power strip into it and you're set.

punter
Thursday, July 03, 2003

Actually, I would suggest putting a surge protector before the transformer, and then adding a surge protected power strip out of the transformer.

Had a bad experience once, went to turn on the computer via the surge protector, and had nice sparks shoot out of the surge protector, which saved the computer, but ended up having to buy a new transformer, and they weren't cheap then (I have no idea how much they cost now a days).

That's when I realized I could run the computer and monitor off of 220.  Which saved me from having to buy a larger sized transformer.

Steve Barbour
Thursday, July 03, 2003

Regarding the surge protector, make sure it's for the appropriate voltage on either side of the transformer. A surge protector power strip designed for 110V, if plugged into 240V, will see the 240V as a major "surge" and will short out in an attempt to "protect" the equipment plugged into it and will blow the fuse or trip the breaker for the power line. A surge protector designed for 240V will provide no real protection at all on a 110V line.

Philip Dickerson
Thursday, July 03, 2003

You should be pretty safe with the power supply in the UK; it's one of the cleanest in the world.

In Saudi you get all kinds of voltages. I just get a couple of boxes for $40 which take about 500W and have a couple of outlets for each voltage.

I you're going to be shipping cargo over anyway it's worth it. Otherwise I'd say not. Most of the savings are VAT savings anyway. You might also think about shipping over the bits and then buying a case and monitor in the UK. Doubt if it would be worth it though.

Stephen Jones
Friday, July 04, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home