This week in the mailbag we tackle a question that comes from my brother-in-law. I recently got him started building his own PCs and he had some questions as he started building on his own. The first major question that he raised was: “Should I be worried about static electricity when I’m building a PC?” This question gets raised a lot and there are a number of opinions on the matter. Let’s tackle the basics and I’ll weigh in with my opinion.
Is Static Electricity a Concern?
Technically speaking, yes. You should be worried about what static electricity can do to your PC as you build it. A static charge can irreparably damage components if it comes in contact with them. Any part of your computer that has electrical components or memory is at risk of being harmed if a shock were to pass through them. You could fry your motherboard or screw up your video card if you discharge a charge you built up at it. You wouldn’t even have to touch it, as the charge could jump from your fingertip. While the consequences are dire if this were to happen, you can prevent it by doing a few simple things.
Prevent Static Electricity
One of the simplest ways to prevent a static charge from building up is to work in an environment that is not conducive to static electricity. I recommend building your machine in an area without carpet if possible. For example, I work on my PCs at my kitchen table which is on a linoleum floor. I’ve never developed a static charge working here. You could keep your rubber soled shoes on as well, as the rubber will help to prevent a charge from building up. Static electricity works best in cold dry environments, so if you keep the temperature up and the humidity at a normal level, this will help. Finally, always touch the outside of the case before you start working inside of it. This will dissipate the charge before you touch any of the components. There is one other solution that many recommend, but I consider a bit of overkill.
Anti-Static Wrist Straps
Many people will ground themselves to their machine by attaching an anti-static wrist strap to the machine and their wrist. This will ensure that static will not build up. However, it can inhibit your movement as you try to reach inside the machine. Personally, I choose not to use one. I know I’m taking my chances, but at least I can move freely.