How to Avoid Harming the Inside of Your PC’s Tower With Static

Written by:  Joli Ballew • Edited by: Tricia Goss
Updated May 23, 2011
• Related Guides: Computer Case | Wrist Strap

Something as simple as adding a few sticks of RAM or blowing dust from the inside of a computer tower can render a computer unusable. What causes this? Incompatible RAM? Too much air pressure on sensitive parts? Perhaps. But more often then not, it's a simple shock to the motherboard.

Know the Causes!

ESD is the electric shock that you feel when touching a doorknob in winter. ESD is electrostatic discharge. When a computer’s tower or case is open and you touch a computer component inside it, you can transmit ESD. A small amount is enough to kill a component and render the computer unusable. Any electric shock though, even one you can’t feel yourself can damage the integrated circuits or computer components inside. Therefore, it’s extremely important to know how to avoid producing ESD while working inside the case.

Avoid Complications When Working Inside the Case

Get (and Use) an ESD Wrist Strap

The best way to avoid zapping the components inside the computer case is to wear an ESD wrist strap. One end slips on your wrist and the other connects to the case’s chassis (the metal frame) with an alligator clip. This device channels static electricity, or grounds you so to speak, so you can’t damage the computer or components. ESD wrist straps are extremely inexpensive and are available online or at any computer store.

If you're on an Assembly Line, use an Antistatic Mat

In addition to ESD wrist straps, antistatic mats are available. They work basically the same way but are more expensive and less convenient. The mat absorbs any electricity you may be carrying or the line may be carrying. On assembly lines, workers often stand on these mats, work on mats, and wear antistatic wrist straps.

Ground Yourself Manually

If you do not have access to an antistatic wrist strap or a mat, you can ground yourself properly by placing one hand on the power supply and keeping it there during the entire process. Unfortunately, this leaves only one hand for working, and you may be tempted to remove your hand, if just for a second, to do something else.

Leave the Computer Plugged In

Finally, you can ground yourself by leaving the computer plugged into the wall (turned off, of course) and by touching the metal chassis before touching any computer part inside. When you touch the computer chassis while the computer is plugged in, any static buildup you might have yourself is discharged because the electrical circuit is grounded by the outlet.I'd rather not be the one to suggest you opt for this technique though, because working with any plugged-in electrical component produces risks not associated with one that isn’t, and you could be shocked, among other issues. Only use this option if it's a last resort, and again, I don't advocate it.

Purchase a Wrist Strap

As you can see in the image below, you can purchased anti-static wrist straps from Amazon.com, and they're inexensive. Since it's always better to be safe than sorry, this is the way to go! You can also purchase these straps from hardware stores and computer stores, among other places.

Images

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References

The image here is from Amazon.com, after searching for ESD wrist strap.

Author's Own Experience: I've always used a wrist strap and I have several. They are comfortable and inexpensive, and pose no limitations to my work or my wallet!

 
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