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    I suspect someone with an EE background would have immediately realized what was going on.

    Make that a certainty.

    Another one you can have lots of fun with, is USB 3.0/3.1 interference during data transfer at maximum speed, with just about anything on 2,4 GHz, like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee stuff.

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      We’ve had an EMC storage array that hard-rebooted when we’ve upgraded the firmware on 100Mbps Cisco switches connected to its management ports. Later on we’ve found that it was enough to reboot either of the switches.

      Solved by installing ferrite beads on the cables. I hate unintentional physics.

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        …I stumbled across a post from the manufacturers of a usb docking station about customers with similar symptoms that only manifest on this particular laptop

        I don’t think this description of the Plugable post is correct. They state that they received reports from some customers with a variety of different Dell laptop models (“XPS 13 9350, XPS 15 9550, and Precision 5510”) but that it only seemed to affect a small minority of the systems (“Why did the docks work great for the vast majority of customers’ XPS 9350 and 9550 systems (and Plugable’s identical in-house test systems) while a handful of other customers with the same systems were having problems”).

        It turns out that the usb, hdmi and wifi are all sitting on top of each other and are not sufficiently well shielded.

        While the post never mentions the specific laptop model by name (instead calling it “this laptop” or “the laptop”), I suspect the fact that this isn’t an issue in the majority of systems points towards a malfunctioning wireless card. A scan of comments on the Plugable post finds multiple people who contacted Dell and received a replacement card that fixed their issue.

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          I remain skeptical? If you’re using wired Ethernet, then there’s no wifi to cause the webcam to detach to cause the system to reboot to cause whatever else has gone wrong? This seems like a mashup of various errors with no clear causality.

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            Who says that plugging in an ethernet cable will cause your wifi driver (or even firmware) to go out to lunch and shut off completely? (hint: by default, no one will.)

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              It’s entirely plausible. However I’d be shocked if it is on any of the 1st or 2nd tier make products: those tend to have engineers with a clue and test EM compliance at the independent labs that can’t be bought off.