A S-Video connection fried both my laptop and TV! Help needed!


Recently, I had a big power surge problem involving both my brand new laptop and my less than two years old TV. Two total looses.

My main concern is that I don't really understand what happened and, thereof, can't see a way to prevent it in the future.

Here's the story :

I bought a few weeks ago an HP notebook with an S-Video output. I used my laptop (on battery and AC power) a week and a half before trying the S-Video output and did not have a single problem.

So, someday, I decided it was time to try to connect my laptop on my TV by using the S-Video output. I bought a S-Video-to-RCA cable at Radioshack because I thought it would be more practical to have my laptop connected to the front RCA jacks of my TV.

As soon as the contact was made, both my laptop and TV went off and I could smell a light odour of burnt electronic components. The TV did not seem to be damaged because I could turn it on almost immediately. As for the laptop, I simply had to reinsert the battery to make it start.

Maybe it was very stupid, but I thought that the problem could be the cheap RadioShack cable. So I decided to buy a true S-Video cable.

For my second try, I choose to not plug the laptop into the AC outlet and just use the battery. After connecting the laptop to the TV, all I see is a black screen. By the way, I did not feel like there was a power surge problem this time.

Days later, I really wanted to make my S-Video port work. So, I downloaded the latest devices drivers for my graphic card and gave the S-Video output a new try with the laptop connected to the AC outlet. Not a good idea.

Again, as soon as the contact was made, both my laptop and TV went off and I could smell a strong odour of burnt electronic components. This time the damage was terrible. Both my laptop and TV are completely fried. There is just no way to make'em work anymore.

So my questions are :

1) What happened ? 2) How could I prevent this kind of surge ? 3) Should I never try to connect a laptop to a TV ?

I made a diagram of my living room electrical setup. You can see it at this URL :

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I don't think that the problem is from my TV since it is almost new and because it never fried my DVD player or VCR. I guess the problem comes from my laptop, but I still don't really understand.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. I really need to understand since I don't know much about electricity.

Thank you very much.

(By the way, I am very sorry for the poor English. It is not my language.)

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laptop on my TV


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You guessed what was workable without consulting either manufacturer for what you can connect and what you cannot.. then after the first disaster you assumed that a second try would work out differently than the first because you had a different cable.

Thats NOT how life works ..or hard wired items work..its either RIGHT or it isnt... on things like this you do not do trial and error without serious risk. you ignored that even after having many previous bad indications.

It wasnt a surge... you have no clue or you would not even think that or use the term. And you dont follow directions ...you guess.. thats not how to wire up anything.

that aint it son... you should never do it without a diagram and instructions telling you that its OK and how to do it.

You had neither.

see it at

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almost new


Your DVD and VCR were made to connect to a TV... your lap top may well not have been...unless it came with a diagram telling you how to connect. which it didnt apparently.


what you need to understand at your level is that you need a very explicit connection diagram from the actual equipment vendors before you connect anything to anything.


Your english is about 95% clear enough...its your understanding of the frailities of electonics and the need for diagrams that is missing.

Phil Scott

Reply to
Phil Scott

Hey, lighten up on him. It's perfectly reasonable to expect to be able to connect the laptop to the TV. That is, after all, what the s-video connector was for, right?

What did the OP do wrong????

You don't know what you're talking about. You are just making assumptions.

Reply to
Anthony Fremont

your english is fine };-)

Before answer this let me say that I have been connecting electronic stuff for over 25 years, and many friends and relitives look to me to connect up anything new they buy or want. I fixed stereo systems at the age 19.

accidents happen, mind you Anywhere., you're lucky it was your own & not a clients equipment or your lose would be double.

Case: I bought a surround sound DVD wired up everything (about 8 dif connections) and it worked fine., the DVD has AM/FM & has a place to connect your VCR to get surround sound I wired up the VCR later & used it once the Unit worked Extremely Hot I thought, after a week or three the DVD started to churp at the end of a movie until it totally burnt out, so, I took it back and got a new one..... no questions asked.

you should try & get a replacement off the warrantee .... there are No Two ways of Connecting an S Video Cable to S Video Cable you did nothing wrong, there may have been Crossed (factory untested) Internal Wiring in the S Video Connector plug and the signals from both systems collided....

Again; S Video cables are a Fool Proof Wiring method, rather new, but pretty standard & available in new all equipment.

needless to say; I connected the Audio output (Red & White) from my TV output to the 2nd DVD Corresponding R & W Input Jacks and now get surround sound TV/VCR that way instead.

Now'., The Worse Case Senario: If you have an 3 RCA Jack / S Video type Cable

You had to connect the RCA Jacks from your Laptop to the Input {NOT THE OUTPUT OF YOUR TV} Yellow-Yellow, Red-Red & White-White.

  • crossing the red n white is okay but mix up the yellow or plug them into the TV Output and Strange things could happen, even what happened to you*

stil you could get a new Computer under warranttee., The TV ? I'm not so sure but it shouldn't be too costly to repair it.

Roy ~ E.E.Technician

Reply to
Roy Q.T.

Thank you for your help. I just want to verify a few things...

"there may have been Crossed (factory untested) Internal Wiring in the S Video Connector plug and the signals from both systems collided.... "

I used in the past the S-Video connector of my TV with a DVD player without any problem. So I guess the problem comes from my laptop? I'm not sure, but, in my opinion, even if nothing was grounded in my house, a laptop shouldn't burn a TV.

What do you think of the fact that when my laptop was just on battery, I had no power surge problem but just a black screen on my TV?

Also, in another group, someone told me this :

"They did not share a common ground, and when you connected them, the ground voltage differential was large enough to send a large current through the S-Video cable's ground wire "

If this is right, the problem comes from my AC outlets ?

Reply to

I read the manual of my laptop at least twice and, between you and me, there's nothing very complex about connecting a laptop to a TV using a S-Video cable.

By the way, next time you have fight with your girlfriend, boss, or anybody else, don't search someone to insult on Usenet. Rent a movie, eat something that you like or call friend, so you won't look like a complete rude ignorant.

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In summary: it must have been a defective S Video Circuit on your Computer in that case you should get a new one from the Retailer, or the least have it fixed, that is if your warrantee is valid and you have the reciept/proof of purchase once you get it replaced, you can go to small claims court and get the Manufacturer to Replace the TV if you have the time, maybe the nice guys who sold you the laptop will give you a discount on a new TV for your troubles.

Surges like the ones that would damage sensitive Electronic Equipment as you suspect only happen during Lightening Storms & rarely in power outages.

Reply to
Roy Q.T.

Rubbish! There is nothing on an SVideo cable that will cause magic smoke if the wires are mixed up. There may be no picture but nothing will smoke. The problem obviously is the mix of grounded and ungrounded devices. Notice it did not smoke when the laptop was on batteries only, but smoked when the ungrounded TV was connected to the ground thru the laptop powersupply.

Reply to
John G

In summary: it must have been a defective S Video Circuit on your Computer >~snip

Rubbish! There is nothing on an SVideo cable that will cause magic smoke if the wires are mixed up. There may be no picture but nothing will smoke. The problem obviously is the mix of grounded and ungrounded devices. Notice it did not smoke when the laptop was on batteries ((((insufficient power to create thermal runway))) only, but smoked when the ungrounded TV was connected to (((AC Adapter))) the ground thru the laptop powersupply.

Reply to
Roy Q.T.

Even if the household wiring was crossed, internal appliance protection should have made this current flow not possible. IOW multiple failures would have conspired to damage the laptop.

I have so many problems with how you proceeded. The aged expression "Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me twice; shame on me" applies - in spades. When you stick your finger in a wall receptacle and get shocked, do you then go to another receptacle to see if same happens again? And yet that is exactly what you did. Time to step back and start using more logic - less bravado.

With information provided, than your best answer can only be speculation. Get from here important background such as 'what is a ground'. But without solid facts, a major problem remains unsolved with only speculation as a substitute.

Get a multimeter to apply what you will learn about grounding or voltage reversal. Clearly there was a voltage difference between the laptop and TV - and no voltage difference should have existed for human safety reasons. That meter is also essential for avoiding other future failures. Furthermore, no better facts than what is inside those dead bodies. Determine exactly what components are damaged. Discover a circuit that would describe the destructive and completely unacceptable current flow.

One necessary fact means measuring the AC voltage difference between the lamp receptacle and TV receptacle. Use a three wire AC extension cord and that essential meter to measure AC voltage between every combination of AC connectors - nine measurements. Recept 1 hot to Recept 2 hot. Recept 1 hot to Recept 2 neutral. Recept 1 hot to Recept 2 safety ground. Recept 1 neutral to Recept 2 hot. Etc. Another damning fact would be 240 VAC found on any AC voltage measurements. Again, get facts with numbers.

You are correct that this damage should not happen - and for multiple reasons. Question now exists - what are those (probably) multiple failures.

Reply to

You could find 240VAC between receptacle 1 hot and receptacle 2 hot if they are on separate circuits.

Reply to
operator jay


I admit that I have been really innocent in the ways I tried to make my S-Video port to work. I am considering going to the small claims court to get some money for my TV, since my laptop, TV and S-Video comes from the same store.

But's that is not the only reason why I am concerned about this incident. As you said, I have to choice to keep wasting my hardware, kill myself or learn about electricity.

That's why I made this post. I just want to learn about electricity to understand what happened.

So, if you know good websites about it, let me know please.

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As a first step, go to any hardware store and get an outlet tester. Plug it into each of the two outlets you used with the S-Video test and see what the indicator lamps show. If they're OK, at least you will know there no dangerous wiring faults in the house wiring. (Neutral-hot reversed, bad or not connected ground, etc.) An incorrectly wired outlet could be the cause of the problem.

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Up front, the first recommendation was get the meter. Something so ubiquitous as to be sold in Radio Shack, Home Depot, and Lowes. Nothing makes learning the concept easier than collecting the numbers yourself. The outlet tester costs you about 30% of the meter, provides little additional information, cannot be used to also measure the voltage difference between appliances, is necessary to measure voltage differences between those two wall receptacles, and provides useful numbers. Those numbers mean informed replies can be obtained.

Some of your responses discuss wiring problems created by reversed polarities or other problems. For example, do you know why the safety ground is important? Even though safety ground (green) and neutral wire (white) connect together inside the breaker box (far end of wire), still, they are electrically different at the wall receptacle (near end of wire).

I don't know how much basics you need learn, but, there is nothing more powerful than a meter to see for yourself what is really happening. Plus, we cannot see things that are obviously amiss. You must take AC voltage readings with that meter - get the numbers - to tell us what is really inside your abode.

Start with basic terms for AC at:

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If the defect was not burned out already, that meter may still identify the problem - provide important numbers that others can use to po> I admit that I have been really innocent in the ways I tried to make my

Reply to

i'd recomend your nerest library.

get a text titled "basic electricity" or "electronic fundamentals"

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First of all, I'D LIKE TO THANK EVERYONE WHO RESPONDED to my post. I am still very amazed to see how much help and advice I got from you guys and to see the amount of time you have dedicated to help a pure stranger like me.

So, again, thanks everyone.

As I am reading this thread, I realize that the problem is way more complex that I thought it could be. There are tons of possibilities which are far above my understanding of the subject. Just like w_tom said, I am going to have to get a few numbers from a qualifed electrician before posting any new information. To me, it seemed so simple : it was the laptop since I never had any power problems before and because my TV never fried my DVD player or VCR.

I am considering going to the small claims court with this story and that's why I needed some good explanations about what happened. Now, I really understand that I'll have to check my appartment electricity before blaming the laptop.

It seems to me that you guys are quite interested by my story. I admit that understand what happened is some kind of a challenge from a technical point of view. So, if you're still interested, I'll post the numbers when I'll have them.

By the way, I live in Montreal, Canada. I am a university student and I really don't have the money to hire a specialist just to know what happened to a 400$ TV (my laptop is on warranty). But I know someone in my family who is an electrician, so I'll ask him to checkout my appartment. The most important thing for me is to understand how I can prevent this kind of incident and if I'll be able to try again my S-Video port when my laptop will be repaired (I'm still waiting) without destructing a new TV.

So, again, thanks everyone.


Reply to

well i believe you won't need too much good luck in court.

I doubt very much it was a flaw in your households electrical system, though the possibility that your equipment was plugged into two different branch circuits off two different phases seems to support that possibility.

The fact is both the TV and specially your laptop have isolated transformers in their power supplies ., In my opinion the worst that would have happened to your laptop is a burnt AC Adapter, though Radio Shack is not in the business of selling bad cables, Both the S video cable & your laptop's S video port need to be seriously looked at.

I hope everything turns out okay for you, it's the darndest thing I've ever heard of.

Glad to be of Service, Roy Q.T. ~ E.E.Technician

Reply to
Roy Q.T.

if it was me, and I just had to try this again. I would add a active buffer to the s-video interface. it wont help any if your issue is some sort of ground problem, but with anything else it should minimize damage.

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