Fact or Fiction: Do magnets interfere with our electronics?

| Jun 1, 2013


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Magnets are used all the time in electronics, Many iPad and other tablet cases use magnets to keep the cover closed. With some devices the magnets can even be used to turn the tablet on and off. At sewell we use magnets in the MOS and in the new Minideck 3. But, even with how much magnets are being used, old fears die hard and many people are still concerned about using magnets next to computers. Is it true that magnets can damage your computer, or is it just a myth?

Magnet Meme

Magnets have a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to computers. Many of us have heard that magnets can wipe our hard drives, wreak havoc on our computer monitors, or that magnets distort the flow of electrons through cables. Stories like that could make people nervous about using anything magnetic around their computers. But, let’s pause for a second and look at the facts. The concern about the dangers of mixing magnets and computer components came from the days of floppy drives. Stick a cheap magnet to a floppy drive and whatever information was stored would be gone. We’ve come a long ways from floppy drives however, so how do our electronics hold up against magnets today?

Monitors

CRT monitors (those big tube monitors everyone used to use) use magnets to help project the image on the screen, so an external magnet would definitely cause some problems if the monitor wasn’t shielded. Placing a magnet next to one of those monitors made it look like a kaleidoscope. But LCD and LED monitors (the flat screen monitors we use today) function completely differently, so they are generally not affected by magnets. After all, your speakers use magnets to work and they don’t mess with your monitor, so the MOS is perfectly safe to use.

Magnet and CRT Monitor
Make a homemade kaleidoscope.
All you need is a magnet and a CRT.

Hard-Drives

The worry here is that magnets can delete the information stored on your hard drive. Because of how hard drives work, magnets won’t delete anything from your hard drive. Your hard drive has a very powerful magnet inside that controls the read-write head movement. If the magnet inside the drive itself doesn’t delete information, any magnet that isn’t insanely powerful won’t wipe it either.

While a magnet isn’t going to wipe your hard drive, if you leave a powerful magnet directly on top of your hard drive there is a slight chance that it could cause damage to the hard drive itself while it’s functioning. The easy solution: don’t put a magnet directly on top of your hard drive during use. By doing that, you can be confident that your hard drive, and the information stored on it, is completely safe.

Flash Memory

Flash memory is used in things like SD cards, thumb drives, and solid state hard drives. Because there is nothing magnetic about flash memory, it is completely immune to magnetic fields.

Cables

Cables can be affected by magnetic fields while in use if the cable isn’t shielded. Ribbon cables, for example, usually aren’t shielded, making it possible to cause interference. Even in these cases, the interference would be minimal, causing a slight change in the quality of the signal. However, most round cables are shielded against magnetic interference. Moreover, even in unshielded cables this interference happens only if a strong magnet is next to the cable while it’s being used. If the cable isn’t in use, there isn’t any danger of interference.

The bottom line

Unless you still use floppy drives, there really isn’t any danger in using magnets around your computers or electronics. Of course, if you are still using floppy drives, perhaps you have bigger issues to worry about than magnets.

Busted