Objectives: The boom in computer use and concurrent high rates in musculoskeletal complaints and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) among users have led to a controversy about a possible link. Most studies have used cross-sectional designs and shown no association. The present study used longitudinal data from two large complementary cohorts to evaluate a possible relationship between CTS and the performance of computer work. Settings and participants: The Cosali cohort is a representative sample of a French working population that evaluated CTS using standardised clinical examinations and assessed self-reported computer use. The PrediCTS cohort study enrolled newly hired clerical, service and construction workers in several industries in the USA, evaluated CTS using symptoms and nerve conduction studies (NCS), and estimated exposures to computer work using a job exposure matrix. Primary and secondary outcome measures: During a follow-up of 3-5 years, the association between new cases of CTS and computer work was calculated using logistic regression models adjusting for sex, age, obesity and relevant associated disorders. Results: In the Cosali study, 1551 workers (41.8%) completed follow-up physical examinations; 36 (2.3%) participants were diagnosed with CTS. In the PrediCTS study, 711 workers (64.2%) completed follow-up evaluations, whereas 31 (4.3%) had new cases of CTS. The adjusted OR for the group with the highest exposure to computer use was 0.39 (0.17; 0.89) in the Cosali cohort and 0.16 (0.05; 0.59) in the PrediCTS cohort. Conclusions: Data from two large cohorts in two different countries showed no association between computer work and new cases of CTS among workers in diverse jobs with varying job exposures. CTS is far more common among workers in non-computer related jobs; prevention efforts and work-related compensation programmes should focus on workers performing forceful hand exertion.