Static Electricity: The Computer Killer

Static electricity seems pretty harmless in everyday life. Perhaps you walk across a carpeted floor, touch a metal light switch, and get a minor shock, but this is generally nothing more than a minor annoyance. When it comes to computers, however, static electricity can be extremely harmful to the sensitive components that make up a desktop or laptop. Let us take a look at why static electricity is harmful, and what you can do to prevent damage.

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Static electricity, like any electricity, is an exchange of electrons. When you rub your feet against a carpet or other material, one object is positively charged and the other is negatively charged. When you touch another object with the opposite charge of your body, or an object that is neutrally charged, the electrons flow into the new object. The voltage of static electricity can actually be extremely high, up to 12,000 volts, which sounds very dangerous. In reality, voltage is less threatening to humans than amperage, and the amperage is very low.

Computer components, however, are much more sensitive to these voltages. In fact, a component can be damaged by static electricity with a voltage as low as 400 volts, while a human won’t likely feel static electricity until it is around 3500 volts. In other words, you could damage a component with static electricity and not even know it. In some cases, the component may not fail immediately, but the static electricity weakens it and causes it to fail much sooner than it would have otherwise, and consequently leading to a repair in most cases.

The most thorough solution to static electricity damage is to use an anti-static wrist strap. These straps plug into the AC ground of a wall socket or connect to the chassis of the computer to dissipate any static that builds up. You can also use additional measures such as grounded pads to add even more protection. With a little preparation, you can avoid damaging computer components with static electricity and save yourself a lot of time and money.