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January Clearance 2017

Protecting Your PC Hardware — Static Precautions

We’re capable of generating up to a 10,000 volts static electric charge just by walking across a carpet in nylon socks — unpleasant yes, but not life-threatening to us (very low current), however, it is to a new RAM card. It only takes a minimal amount of static electricity to damage electronic equipment, so here are some tips to minimize the possibility of problems. When you’re installing a new motherboard, processor, graphics card, PCI soundcard or extra RAM you should always follow these precautions:

If the card comes in anti-static packaging, leave it there until just before installation.
If you’re supplied with a disposable anti-static wristband, use it: Connect yourself to a grounded object (normally the chassis of your PC) so that you can’t build up a static charge. If not, touch a grounded metal object such as a kitchen faucet or your outboard rack before starting work, to safely discharge any static buildup, and do so periodically during the install, particularly if you’ve moved your feet.
Make sure your computer has not only been switched off by the front-panel power switch, but also by the rear-panel mains switch. Most motherboards remain on standby power until this second step, indicated by an illuminated LED somewhere on the board. Some experts also advise removing the PC’s mains cable as well, although this also removes the ground connection from the PC chassis, so the safest approach is to switch the mains power off at the wall socket but leave the lead plugged in.
When handling an electronic device, always keep your fingers away from its contacts (the edge connector in the case of an expansion card, for instance), and try to hold the item by any exposed metalwork, such as the backplate of an expansion card, or the case of a hard drive.
Don’t remove items of clothing during installation (and particularly don’t pull a knitted wool sweater over your head), as this could generate high electrostatic levels, and don’t roll about on your office chair, as this is also a prime culprit. Worst of all, never let your cat anywhere near your computer when working on it. Cats are walking balls of static! Besides, they need to be free to scratch your new speaker grille cloths.

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