When you decide to put your own computer together yourself, you have to remember one important thing: static electricity can damage or even destroy important parts of your brand new build, even if you do everything else correctly. Luckily, itâ€™s easy to avoid this potentially damaging energy by taking a few simple steps before you begin. Read on!
What is Static Electricity?
Static Electricity is defined as an electrical charge caused by the build up of excess electrons on the surface of a material. To most people, static electricity and Electro-Static Discharge (ESD) are nothing more than annoyances. For example, after walking over a carpet you build up electrons on your body, and you may get a shock (the discharge event) when you touch a doorknob. This shock discharges the built up ESD. Similarly, ESD causes damage to electronic components that are not discharged. Unfortunately, ESD exists. There is no way of eliminating it entirely, however there are many ways to reduce the risk of static damage when you handle the equipment.
What Type of Electronics Are At Risk?
Any electronic equipment containing an external entry point for plugging in anything from cables to docking stations is susceptible to entry of ESD. Even a small amount of ESD can harm circuitry, which in this electronic age operates at very low voltages.
1.Â Ground Yourself
This is an obvious but often overlooked step. If there is ESD built up in your body, you must discharge it before you begin working on sensitive equipment. Similarly, if you remain grounded, your body will not build up a charge while you are working. It is also a good idea to ground the case you are working on if you can. If the case has the power supply already inside, plug it into the wall. Make sure that the power switch for the wall socket is â€œoffâ€. This technique only works if youâ€™ve got a socket where you can turn the power flow on and off. The grounding plug (the third, round hole at the bottom of an electrical outlet, beneath the hole for the prongs.) will function as a ground for the whole case, which reduces the chances of electrostatic damage.
2.Â Avoid Carpet
Bag the shag, when working on computers. If you are constantly moving about on an excellent insulator like carpeting, you will naturally build up a static charge. This buildup is even more pronounced if you live in especially dry, arid climates or are working on your PC during the winter months. Work in the kitchen, at the dining room table, or wherever else you can find a safe workstation where there is minimal static-inducing fuzz around. Similarly, avoid wearing wool clothing and other static-friendly materials while building your new PC.
3.Â Equip Yourself With Anti-Static Wraps
This is much less involved than it seems. Anti-static wrist wraps are available on the TigerDirect web site, as well as almost any other computer parts retailer or superstore worth walking into. They attach to your wrist at one end, and then generally clip to the computer case itself or some other grounded surface. They vary in size, quality, and applicability, depending on your undertakingâ€™s relative level of difficulty. If you plan to build several PCs in your lifetime, it pays to buy a more expensive Anti-Static kit than the bargain basement variety. There are other anti-static devices available as well: gloves, portable pads that function as a ground for whatever you are working on, even vacuums that prevent static producing dust particles from building up. All these precautions may not be necessary if you are just building a single PC for personal use. However the Anti-Static Wrist Wrap is highly recommended.
4.Â Make Sure You’ve Released Your Charge
It is important to release whatever charge youâ€™ve built up before you pick up sensitive equipment. Even with an Anti-Static Wrist Wrap, you may build up a charge in your body. When handling equipment, never place sensitive parts down on bare surfaces like tables or the floor. Whenever possible, lie computer parts on the anti-static bag they came in. This is the fancy Mylar-looking plastic bag that GPUs, processors, and other high-end components are protected by during shipping and storage. It wonâ€™t shock your circuitry; the table just might. Another aspect to this rule is that if you are working with any type of tool, youâ€™ll build static fast. Before you insert a screwdriver, soldering gun, etc. into the computer, touch the metal tip to any safely grounded surface. For good measure, do this every time you take the tool out of the case, and are planning to put it right back in again, even if it was only for a split second. If you are the type that climbs in after your work, find a grounded surface inside the case to gently touch the tool against. This way youâ€™ll never inadvertently fry something important while putting in screws, flipping levers, attaching heatsinks, etc.
If you follow these simple steps while installing your new components or when building your new PC from scratch, youâ€™ll avoid damaging fragile circuitry with electrostatic discharge. These precautions are easy to take, and are a good idea when weighed against the potential costs of replacing fried equipment.