Magnet Damage to a GPS

By Chris Newton

GPS units are also helpful when camping out in the wilderness.
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Personal global positioning systems (GPS) devices help people navigate from one location to the next. They are available as devices that you put in your car or as portable handheld devices. Many smart phones also come with GPS features, including navigation and turn by turn directions based on your location. If you are worried about magnets damaging your GPS unit, you probably don't need to be, although some strong magnets can affect the device's performance.


Magnets used to be harmful to some electronics and computers. According to PC World, placing a magnet on or near a 3.5 inch floppy disc erases or ruins the data on the disc. Thus, many people assumed that magnets would have similar effects on other devices. However, the device technology advanced in such a way that most electronics and computers or computer accessories are not harmed by magnets.


A magnet will definitely affect the performance of a compass by throwing off the compass's perception of true north. However, GPS units do not use compasses to determine a location or route; they use satellite systems to establish a location.

Hard Drives

If your GPS unit has a hard drive in it, the magnet might affect the hard drive. This might pertain to some video cameras that have both built-in GPS units and hard drives, or other electronics that have hard drives.

Large Magnets

A very powerful magnet might harm your GPS unit. For example, according to PC World, the magnet would have to be strong enough to disturb electrons to affect GPS and similar devices. However, a magnet that strong would also reduce the iron in your blood cells. Some government employees might work near magnets that powerful, but for most people, everyday magnets will not affect your GPS or electronics. However, for peace of mind, you might want to store your magnets away from your GPS.

What To Do

If your GPS device is not performing properly, and you think the cause is due to exposure to magnets, try resetting or recalibrating the unit. In many cases, once the GPS resets itself, it begins performing normally again. If that does not work, consult the manufacturer or store where you bought it. You might be eligible for a replacement device.