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Safely handling your PC components

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huddy
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Safely handling your PC components

Post #1 by huddy » Wed Jul 03, 2013 10:30 am

When maintaining, repairing or upgrading your PC, there are major considerations you should think about.

 Your Safety
 Electrostatic Discharge (ESD)
 Storage

Your Safety

First and foremost, you should always take care when working with any electrical equipment. Before you open and work inside your PC make sure the PC and any device you are working with is unplugged from the mains. Never be tempted to work with the PC plugged in.

If you are dealing with high voltage equipment such as PSUs and CRT monitors then make sure you are NOT wearing anti-static straps. These devices aren’t affected by ESD and anti-static straps could actually attract voltage from high voltage devices.

Similarly, ESD precautions DO NOT offer voltage protection. ESD protects your components, not you.
Always make sure your read and follow manufacturers advice taking note of cautions and warnings.

Handling older CRT monitors
Although quite rare nowadays, never attempt to mess inside of a CRT. CRTs capacitors retain enough high voltage to kill even after unplugged. CRTs require specialist training and equipment so that electricity can be fully discharged first.

Handling PSUs
Like CRTs, PSUs use a capacitor to store an electrical charge, even after they are unplugged. Do not take any chances. PSUs are field replacement models and are best off just replaced, even if it’s just the PSU fan. Don’t be tempted to replace.

Electrostatic Discharge (ESD)

Electrostatic discharge, or ESD, is caused when two objects collide with a sudden burst of electricity resulting in an electrical short. ESD can also be caused where there's a build-up of electrical charges on a person which is caused by an imbalance of electrons on the surface of a material. For example, if you walk over a wooden floor with rubber soled trainers, you will pick up a voltage gradient each time you handle some charged object. You may pick up several hundred volts each time this occurs until the static is discharged on contacting a conductive surface, like a lift. This discharge gives a short but nasty shock to the individual but in terms of PCs, it can causes instant or long term damage to static sensitive device.

One thing to bear in mind is that if a device receives an ESD charge, it might not fail immediately. This is the fact that the effects of ESD are not felt right away but over time get worse. This is known as hidden ESD.
There are some simple ESD precautions that you take to help discharge the static before handling any equipment and there are a number of gadgets and devices that can help eliminate the effects of ESD whilst maintaining your PC:

ESD wrist straps
Anti-static wrist straps are designed to filter out static and discharge static safely. A 1 mega-ohm cable is connected from you to the an earth ground, usually the earth pin on a normal wall socket. Make sure that only the earth plug is connected. The other two pins should be plastic.

Anti-Static Mat
Mats work the same way as the wrist straps. Components are placed on the mat and static safely discharged. The mat is also attached to earth ground as above.

Anti-Static Spray
Supposedly removes static effectively from clothing but not as effective as above.

Anti-Static bags
Used for long term storage for anti-static precautions. The bags use the same principle as the Faraday cage which blocks static and non-static electrical signals.
So for this reason when working with components, leave in bag for as long as possible until needed. Never place your components on the outside of the bag, as this is where any static is likely to build.

Other Precautions
Dust and debris inside the case can also cause the hidden ESD effect. The dust holds a small electric charge which eventually begins to degrade the performance of internal components. Make sure the inside of your case is cleaned periodically using a vacuum (use plastic attachments only) and a compressed air can to remove the dust.

You may think that taking Anti-Static Precautions sound like being a little paranoid and over precautious but have you ever had a shock when touching something metal when static is discharged? Now imagine what that will do to your nice new Q6600. Are you really going to take it to chance?

Storage and transporting components

Correct storage and packaging when transporting your components, helps to ensure that your components remain in perfect working order. Water, damp, heat, ESD etc can contribute to faulty components so it’s best to avoid the disappointment altogether by taking necessary precautions in the first place.
Personally, I always keep boxes for all the components I buy. Firstly, it’s ideal for long term storage.

Secondly, if you decide to sell. Selling items in their original packaging not only makes a good impression on the buyer but also saves you the time and trouble finding alternatives which may be unsuitable. Sending items in the packaging they were designed for is ideal for transportation.

Thirdly, returning faulty items to the retailer or manufacturer, some of which are quite strict about their packaging polices.

If you’re upgrading frequently, then storing your boxes for future use is a great way of eliminating damage when they are need and gives you some piece of mind too.

It’s also appreciated that this may not be convenient, so maybe ask someone who can store them for you. If you don't have the original storage boxes, then use whatever suitable packaging you can get.

Use anti-static bags wherever possible. You can get these cheap as chips from any high street electrical stores. It might even be worth asking if they have any spare. Do place your components directly in to bubble wrap or any other similar material. Despite what people think, bubble wrap offers no ESD precaution.
Hard disks or any other magnetic sensitive material etc should be kept away from magnetic sources, and high voltage devices. If you are posting your components, make sure the package is clearly labelled “Static Sensitive” or words to that effect.

Make sure your packaging is secure and watertight.


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Re: Safely handling your PC components

Post #2 by Gregster » Fri Apr 25, 2014 5:21 pm

Great guide and I always used to wear the ESD strap but haven't bothered in years. Do others still wear them or is it just me being lazy?
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Re: Safely handling your PC components

Post #3 by SuffolkBoy » Fri Apr 25, 2014 5:39 pm

Never in the last 15 years have i worn one! Been lucky i guess but can happen so easy i suppose
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Re: Safely handling your PC components

Post #4 by Gregster » Fri Apr 25, 2014 5:50 pm

Same for me on the lucky bit. I have built a few systems in the last couple of years as well and touch wood, never had a problem but that's not to say I won't.
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Re: Safely handling your PC components

Post #5 by huddy » Sat Apr 26, 2014 4:40 pm

SuffolkBoy wrote:Never in the last 15 years have i worn one! Been lucky i guess but can happen so easy i suppose



we are talking esd precaution here are't we? :lol:

Oddly i do.. but i have an ESD mat which makes things easier. As per article, it's the long term effect..


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