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Thread: Computer Case Windows and EMI/RFI

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    Default Computer Case Windows and EMI/RFI

    I am looking for a new computer case. However, I was wondering whether or not I needed to worry about EMI/RFI. Do computer cases with windows have any sort of treatment to block EMI/RFI, or do they let EMI/RFI in and out of the windows without any blockage? I would like to eliminate or mitigate EMI/RFI as a possible cause of crashes, and would like to play nice with any present or future neighbors who might decide to run a ham radio. (I do not know anything about what is needed to run a ham radio, but when I searched on computer case windows and EMI/RFI, I got a bunch of posts by ham radio operators who are annoyed by computer case windows.)

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    Usually those windows are made of acrylic or tempered glass, meaning they are dielectric and thus break the already flawed Faraday cage that is the computer case. If you're truly environmentally conscious and want to minimize EMI, you'd do well to steer clear of windowed cases.

    As for EMI/RFI causing crashes, that would be rather strange and rare; requiring signals on the order of tens of watts per square meter of incident power at the receiving end to induce enough unwanted EMF to break normal operation.

    If your computer is crashing due to external EMI, you have bigger problems that a blue screen error.
    Careful what you wish for... You just might get it.

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    jnv11 (08-31-2015)

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    At any rate, you may apply some EMI suppression sheets inside the case (though they are not cheap: I've seen from 3M from 50 to 80 bucks for a single sheet of about the A4 size).
    Best, Luca

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    Quote Originally Posted by McSteel View Post
    Usually those windows are made of acrylic or tempered glass, meaning they are dielectric and thus break the already flawed Faraday cage that is the computer case. If you're truly environmentally conscious and want to minimize EMI, you'd do well to steer clear of windowed cases.

    As for EMI/RFI causing crashes, that would be rather strange and rare; requiring signals on the order of tens of watts per square meter of incident power at the receiving end to induce enough unwanted EMF to break normal operation.

    If your computer is crashing due to external EMI, you have bigger problems that a blue screen error.
    My main motive with being concerned with EMI is because there have been some ham radio operators in my neighborhood in the past, and I want to be a good neighbor. I also want reliability, and do not know how much EMI can flip bits on modern computer hardware.

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    Just make sure the PSU is properly grounded. The motherboard is grounded to the case and PSU via stand-offs and the ground wires on the power connectors. The PSU is then grounded to the case via the mounting screws. This is all then grounded to the ground wire inside the PSU which should go to Earth ground on your AC input cable. You shouldn't need more than that.

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    If seriously paranoid a fine screen grounded to case mounted to window (internal or external) should work?
    Mesh is used on many cases for air flow, seems reasonable?
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    Default It is not paranoia in some cases. It is TEMPEST.

    Quote Originally Posted by walterm View Post
    If seriously paranoid a fine screen grounded to case mounted to window (internal or external) should work?
    Mesh is used on many cases for air flow, seems reasonable?
    It is not paranoia in some cases, especially in signals intelligence (a.k.a. SIGINT). See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempest_(codename) . I was not thinking about this when I was trying to design my build, but thanks for reminding me about TEMPEST by using the word "paranoia" in the above post.

    I am not targeting security against TEMPEST in my build (my goal is to be a good neighbor and avoid disturbing the neighbors' equipment), but it is a good reason to avoid case windows if you have to process sensitive data. Who knows what hackers can cook up in the future to spy on people with case windows who occasionally need to do online banking, file their taxes, or use an adultery site like Ashley Madison (the last of which would be a really stupid thing to do if you are married to a hacker)?
    Last edited by jnv11; 09-02-2015 at 10:49 PM. Reason: Replace pronoun that had no explanation of what it is replacing

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    I was trying to be amusing and possibly helpful. I have no idea of the strength of EMI from current designs.
    Metal mesh similar to that used for ventilation should work, or window screen. I remember old stereo gear using pierced mesh for ventilation.

    I knew a couple hams that used open chassis computers but it is doubtful the computers were ever in use while they were on the radio.

    Security concerns, I do not know.
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