Remember when you were a kid walking across the living room carpet toward someone and touching them only to get a shock, or even rubbing a balloon on your clothes or hair so you could stick it to the wall? Static electricity, commonly known as electrostatic discharge, has been, and still is a source of amusement for many children and even some adults. However, when it comes to your computer and other electronic devices, static is no laughing matter.
An electrostatic discharge, or ESD, occurs through a process known as triboelectrification. Triboelectric charging is a type of contact electrification caused by one type of material coming into frictional contact with a different type of material.
The human body is actually capable of storing and conducting small amounts of electric voltage, we do so all the time without even noticing. Simply walking across the dining room rug can produce a static electricity voltage of up to 12,000 volts, however this static voltage is not life threatening. The discharge of this voltage, however, could be threatening to the internal components of a computer, laptop, mobile phone and any other electronic device you may use.
The inner workings of our computers are extremely vulnerable to static electricity. The simple act of touching any circuitry, or plugging in a peripheral while you have stored voltage dangling from your fingertips, can be fatal to your computer. It is even possible to damage your computer with static electricity that you can’t even feel because it is at such a low voltage.
The damage to your computer from an electrostatic discharge can range from a simple plug and play device not working anymore, to completely shorting out your entire computer. A static shock can be instant, or it can take days to weeks to actually settle in and cause any noticeable damage.
The good news is ruining your computer with static is completely preventable!
Carpet can be a computer’s worst nightmare, right up there with an accidental liquid spill. You should always try to place the computer’s tower on a shelf or table, rather than directly on the carpet. This goes for laptops too: Setting your laptop on a carpeted floor while working on it can not only cause overheating, it can cause an ESD between the flooring and the case.
Also, if you are doing some maintenance on your computer and have the case open, it is best to do your work on an anti-static mat or any other non-conducting surface, like a wooden workbench, keeping the insides of your computer away from potential bursts of static.
Speaking of anti-static, an anti-static wrist strap would help keep that static from your body away from any sensitive components when you’re working with them. The strap will keep you grounded, and discharged. Besides, better safe than sorry, right?
Though electrostatic discharges may sound particularly intimidating, they’re completely avoidable if you take the proper precautions.
If you have any questions about static and your computer, or think that you might have accidentally zapped your computer, give the folks at Tech Force in Mt. Pleasant a call. We’re always happy top help.
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