PC Desktop

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Do I really need a anti-static strap/mat for dismantling a desktop?

Ok. I have a unused desktop and i want to dissect it to put fresher parts in it (it currently runs Pentium 4). Do i really need an anti-static strap/mat? Why?

PS: its untouched since 2007/2008

Thanks in advance

Update

uhhh so do i still need an anti-static mat?

Answered! View the answer I have this problem too

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Since there are conflicting answers here, let me try to clarify:

It is not vitally important to either your safety, or the safety of your computer's electrical components that you use an anti-static strap / mat. That being said, it does not hurt anything at all to be using one, and it will definitely help to ensure that everything you're doing is safer.

Anecdotally (take this with a grain of salt): I have been casually doing computer repairs on and off for more than a decade, and have never used an anti-static strap / mat myself. I have never shorted out any of the components I was working on, but I've certainly been taking some risks by not using a wrist strap.

Like Tracey said, if you take other necessary precautions, you can get away without it. It's more a question of how comfortable you are with making sure you're always holding onto a grounded chassis, and how confident you are that you won't accidentally zap something. If you do zap something, you'll certainly be sorry you weren't more careful - that's just a risk I've been willing to take.

For reference, iFixit does sell a pretty low-cost and effective Anti-Static Wrist Strap.

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Anti-Static Wrist Strap

Price: $7.95

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Taylor, you probably do your repairs in an office with tiled floors. Most people will be doing repairs in their homes with lots of carpet. I removed all the carpet in my home and replaced it Saltilo tile. The incredible about of time spent trying to diagnose and components hit with ESD will change your mind.

by mayer

Agreed Mayer! This is the time of year its worse! The issue is your climate plays a big part on how much static electricity is present (what ESD is). A humid environment wont face the same risks that a very dry environment does. So in the middle of the winter in Alaska or in the middle of the sahra desert it's a must!, in the middle of the rain forest of Central America or a rainy day in the spring in Michigan not! Play it safe use proper precautions!

by Dan

If you use a wood table or cutting board that is dry, (not holding moisture), wear short sleeved cotton shirts, touch and hold the chassis, while working on the system, use the anti-static bag the part came in whenever possible, don't move around much, stay off of carpet, work when the air is not very dry, only handle the parts by their edges and not touch the circuitry, you will most likely be all right. Remember. Just because you don't see or feel a shock doesn't mean an electrical component isn't damaged to fail immediately or some time in the future.

by Allen Scott

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Getting electronics hit with ESD will drive you nuts. The RAM gets hit most often but it will cause intermittent errors and strange malfunctions that don't always show up with diagnostics. I have spent days trying to figure out what was wrong with a ESD hit machine. The mat is to prevent ESD (electrostatic discharge) which can severely damage electronic parts. Here's the Wiki on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrostat...

Here's my former answer on this issue: You can build up a static charge wearing almost anything. ESD (Electrostatic discharge) 1/10 the amount of a felt shock can destroy RAM and other electronic components. If your wall jacks are grounded you can discharge yourself when you sit down. Reach over and touch the center screw of the plate. If you're still worried you can buy a wrist grounding strap that plugs into the wall for under $5.00 at your local Radio Shack or you can use a grounded mat.

Also take a look at this: http://www.ifixit.com/Answers/View/8497/...

For those that think I'm nuts please do a little study on the subject before you respond, here's a tutorial on it: http://www.radio-electronics.com/info/el...

Here's more from the ESD Association: http://www.esda.org/

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But what are some common symptoms of ESD damage on a laptop, and some of these strange malfunctions? Not once have I seen a post here relating to this, and where the conclusion was, gee, darn it, we've lost another one to ESD damage! I guess that's where it loses me -- people talk about this issue on the level of voodoo and superstition, and not in terms of tangible symptoms that can actually be looked out for, so it's hard for me to take it seriously. It reminds me of the whole "how to properly care for your laptop battery" issue.

by rdklinc

I am torn on this question. I agree with mayer on the basic idea of static protection. Learned it and used it as a working technician both in the Navy and at a large computer repair company. That said in my personal building and repairing computers I more or less follow Taylor and rdklinc. So all things considered I give all three a +

by rj713

Rdkl, you have enough spare parts to try this. Zap a stick of RAM on purpose and see if shows up on any RAM test. This issue has given me more grief that anything else in the computer world. I have a iMac G5 that I've been working on for two weeks and it's just not right. Everything works till the last 2%. IT DOESN'T HAVE TANGIBLE SYMPTOMS. Everything works fine till it doesn't. Electric shock that stops your heart doesn't have symptoms most of the time but it's real. It will kill you or bring you back.

by mayer

Because the symptoms of damage can be greatly varied. It would take millions of dollars and a book 900 pages thick to document ever possible ESD symptom. ESD can melt the microfine circuits that course through most electronics. That connection might not matter much now. It may only be weakened, but eventually it can die a week, month or so later.

by Allen Scott

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I've never used one, and never witnessed damage that could be attributed to not using one. With these issues that are so debatable, the answer is usually that, no, it probably doesn't matter. If it did, the evidence would be far clearer. I mean, I'd advise against installing shag carpeting in the area where you repair computers, buy beyond obvious stuff like that, I'd say you're fine.

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I support Mayers' position (granted a little late in the dialog)

You should use a grounding strap and mat that is bonded to a good ground point. At times I do cheat. But, I do so by having the unit I'm working on plugged in (ground cord devices only) and turned off. Then I keep one hand holding the metal chassis so I'm at the same voltage potential as the device and my tools I am using, never moving or touching anything else.

The issue is your climate plays a big part on how much static electricity is present (ESD). A humid environment wont face the same risks than a very dry environment does. So in the middle of the winter in Alaska it's a must, in the rain forest of central America not so much a need.

OK - What proof is there is any harm not using one? The damage is not always instant, often it can take a few days or a year or two to show up. Which make it hard for many to believe it was a factor.

When I was working at IBM they gave us a very compelling demo. Using a electron microscope they show us a circuit which had test leads exiting which we applied an ESD charge. With our own eyes we could see the area vaporize and become damaged. We did this three times with different voltages two showed damage but still worked. It was clear the damage weakened the chip as it did finally fail.

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Absolutely, if your intention is to have long lasting, less trouble prone, equipment.

First, the mat and strap are to used when equipment is not energized. The mat is supposed to be impregnated with metal to help dissipate charges, if you use energized equipment on the mat, if may lead to injury to yourself or your equipment.

Second, the strap should dissipate your charge to ground slowly, and the mat should dissipate any charge on the equipment to ground, again slowly. So, when you touch your equipment, both you and the equipment should be at the same potential, thereby limiting any flow of electricity.

I worked on electronics in the Navy for ten years, and they were sticklers for using mats and straps. They spent large sums of money on the program, and provided microscopic images of the damage cause by ESD during training. Most people cannot see the damage that ESD causes, but everyone that knows electronics uses it. Your CPU comes in a shielded bag, as does your RAM, your Motherboard, GPU, etc... all manufactures recognize its importance. Sure "most" people go without using them, but a $25 mat and strap are small investments for you, why risk it.

P.S. You always hear about people having strange issues with new equipment, DOA equipment, etc... some I am sure are related to ESD damage. Corporations would use it if they didn't think it was necessary, as it adds costs to production.

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You do not need an anti static mat or wrist strap. It is best to have it plugged up, and unplug the power connector off the motherboard. Make sure you have one hand, or your forearm touching some metal part of the case while working. I am a field tech, and have never carried around a mat or strap. Just take the other necessary precautions.

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No. Just unplug all electrical outlets and all peripherals and devices from the machine, and touch something metal to discharge the rest of your static electricity build-up (especially if you have carpets!).

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Morris Levy, you are absolutely right. However this question was answered about a year ago and the answer was accepted. Hope you can give some good and helpful answers like this one to the current questions....;-)

by oldturkey03

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Really, you don't need an anti-static strap - mat.

If you don't care what could happen to your computer parts, don't use it.

The strap allows you to avoid electric discharges on circuits and sensitive electronic components that can stop working anymore if receive some static eletricity.

So it's good to use it.

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One way to look at it is like telling someone its safe to run through red lights as long as you do't get hit or hit anyone, then it's deadly! Jose your right, people need to take this seriously as ESD is a real threat to electronics. If you're working on you own stuff you take the risk. If on the other hand, your working on someone else's stuff you better be using good ESD practices!

by Dan

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Ok, I myaswell add one for the books... Antistactic Mat? Sure if you intend to Bench a computer that you are working on. Installing and Removing parts as necessary while providing a workspace for the job. Antistatic wristband? Sure if you want to handle static sensitive devices.

But you don't really have to go to all of that extreme if you just want to do it at home and quick. The computer case itself when plugged in and turned off still provides ground just make sure the power switch either on your Power Bar or the back of your Power Supply is turned off. Using one hand to touch the metal case will discharge static.

Watch out for sharp edges. If you are unsure, leave it alone. Use at your own risk. Repairs to a "ZAPPED" computer can be costly. I personally never had any trouble.

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Everybody got a different approach to prevent ESD damages (so he thinks it's necessary to do so). Since I'm lazy and I don't want to bother with wrist straps and so on my personal preference is simply to prevent ESD. My way is wireless, I just set up a small fan guided by 2 pc. Ion Quadbars above my workspace. Never worry about procedures again. Easy, effective and for someone is dealing with sensitive devices daily not that cost intensive.

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What??? A fan with an ion system in front doesn't offer any ESD protection. All it does is remove the static charge within the air stream. Spend your money on a cheap ESD wrist strap and mat.

by Dan

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It is important you unplug the cords, push the power button to drain the left over charges and still ground the system you are about to work in. This helps protect the components and the repair technician. With the system ground charges can not built up but if you don't ground yourself and the system, charges can built up that can course damage to the components and you health. It is absolutely necessary to put on a wrist strap at all time when working in the computer case.

Nelson, May 3, 2013

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While your idea of unplugging can protect you from harmful line voltages (110/220 volts). It removes what you need for EDS protection, if you don't have a a properly grounded mat and wrist strap to work from. If the device uses a removable AC cord and you have a spare you can cut off the power blades of the cord leaving only the ground pin, now you meet both needs (using a wrist strap tied to the metal case). As to discharging your system, this made more sense years ago when we had CRT's which used high voltages (800~1000 volts DC) and large storage capacitors. Today only the power supplies have large capacitors inside and mostly have shielding around them to protect exposure. In the case of CRT's you needed to use a special tool to discharge them (5 Ohm 15 watt resistor with test leads) as holding the power button won't discharge them (frankly, I haven't found holding a power switch did much of anything in discharging power system capacitors either)

by Dan

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This one is really very simple. Ive been a pro PC tech for my entire adult life, over 20 years. If you intend to tie your hand to something while you work on your PC, why not just go ahead and handcuff that hand to a rear belt loop? It'll work out about the same, is my point. Yep, there are lots of folks that would love love love to sell you thirty five cents in material and manufacturing costs for a mere $20 USD, but the truth? Always always have the habit of having your hand on the metal chassis that is the inside framework of every single PC, server, point of sale terminal, etc etc. It has to have that metal framework, because specs require it for other things to ground to, to prevent a fire. Static is because of a differing electrical potential (imagine your body is a big ole capacitor, because actually, it is. Your body and it's ability to hold electrical potential is the cornerstone of touchscreen tech, in fact.) between two objects, and it discharges, nullifying that differing electrical potential. However, your PC chassis will always discharge static safely, if it's the first part of the PC you touch. Just get into the habit of physically moving it around the bench by that chassis with an un-gloved hand, and you will be fine. Ive never worn a wrist strap, not once in 20 years. Not once in 20 years have I killed a part with static. In fact, I bet if you were standing behind a pro bench looking to churn and burn through 40 repairs in a shift and you pulled out a wrist strap? You'd prolly get laughed at a mocked behind your back as an anal retentive OCD case. A static wrist strap is a solution desperately in search of a problem, and I assure you, anyone claiming you need one does not do productive work on serious hardware, period.

Update

Its funny, even people at work occasionally buy into this nonsense- I dont mean nonsense like ESD doesnt exist, but nonsense that you need to do anything but discharge your body to the chassis. Ive even seen something labeled 'ESD damage' in the outbound rack, pulled it, and no... you just didnt look hard enough, there are known issues with any RAM with adolf revision 2.0b chips from that ODM running over this other obscure VIA chipset on freeBSD.... split the 2GB RAM into two boards and that oddball error you are having will stop entirely. From my perspective, working the back side of small computer shops- "ESD damage" is a catch-all diagnosis, and something like half the time I can find the problem and fix it. I find a lot of power supplies with blown out 12 volt rails after bad thunderstorms get labeled 'ESD damage' when it really is not. In response to the person posting all of those wonderful ESD guides? We cant know who wrote wikipedia, not really- but I notice just about everyone else on your list, conveniently, has wrist straps for sale for 1200% markup... Am I wrong to be suspicious of the claims that its absolutely needed when I have absolutely ignored that professionally for my entire career, and have yet to damage a single part? See, I can know that because if I was running around having ESD problems, my RMA numbers on brand new hardware being installed would reveal it.

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So IBM, HP & Apple to name a few companies that take this very seriously are all wet. I don't think so! You clearly are. The damage you create is not always visible at the time you zap'ed the logic. You need to do some reading of the technical papers on the IEEE web site.

by Dan

ESD exists? Agree. ESD can be exceedingly damaging to hardware? Also agree. I think you are failing to consider labor pool, training, cultural differences, and also, you are referring to corporate policy as if it has ever had any sanity to it. Does it make them right? It sure does, if you trust the wrong person to handle computer components. However... This one is third grade math level simple- Every new part I touch(and I touch tons, every day) at work is assigned to me in a database, period. Every part I send back to an ODM is also tabulated. If I had ESD issues, my numbers would skew from manufacturer failure rates by orders of magnitude, and they simply do not. That's not an opinion of mine, it's an inarguable mathematical fact. I do not use, or perceive a need for, a wrist strap. What Apple has it's overseas manufacturers do is quite beside that point.

by Robert Scott

You just claimed that I must be wrong because folks you perceive as 'experts' in this field claim this is needed- and perhaps it is, if you are managing large numbers of folks from a labor pool contained within rural China... I wouldnt have any idea about that, I claim zero experience working for an overseas manufacturer. But to try and claim something is correct because 'this, that, and the other group of experts says so' is patently hilarious- leading experts, at one time, believed that the earth was the center of the universe, that the world was flat, etc etc. That an opinion is popular and whether it has an actual need based on experience are two things that are quite unrelated- it is unfortunate for your position in this debate that I can point out literally thousands of cases where the entire world of experts turned out to be completely incorrect. So far as Im concerned? Unless you do this professionally, and I mean all day long, then you dont have the experience to back any opinion, anyway.

by Robert Scott

The hype is based on companies feeling an obligation to to comply with perceived responsibilities. A big company can't say "we don't care about ESD" because that looks irresponsible, so they scramble to buy appropriate safety products even though nobody has ever witnessed damage directly attributable to ESD. Repair is a logical and evidence-based discipline, yet ESD is a bogeyman impossible to pin down, so belief in it flies in the face those of us who have a logical approach. Stating "IBM, HP, and Apple agree it exists and therefore so do I" is an affront to that approach. We just don't have the capacity to test for ESD the same way we do, say, a bad optical drive. I do thousands of repairs a year, and I've never been able to definitively conclude that any damage been caused by ESD, or that ESD has affected my business. ESD is real if you are a scientist in a lab with the appropriate tools to test for it, but for the majority it's just overrated hype and of no real practical concern.

by rdklinc

What is ESD? Free electrons, moving around. What is a computer component? Practice of an attempt at management of free electrons moving around to accomplish work. Let's talk actual sensitivity of electrical components made from manufacturing processes like lithography for a moment- they are so sensitive, it's absurd. Look hard enough at commercial CPU specs on devices for absolutely critical data infrastructure, and you will find numbers on the errors caused by the occasional cosmic ray making it passed the chip packaging and producing a free electron. Not grounded? No, thats more 'doesnt understand what grounding is'. Grounding is using the earth like a gigantic capacitor. Having said that, ALL circuits are grounded- ground is the part that makes the electrons flow in a circle, creating the circuit. Electronics so sensitive that the amount of ionizing radiation coming off of the sole of your shoe would destroy it.

by Robert Scott

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As long as your tool grounded should be okay...plug the power chord, for us in Malaysia we have our chord grounded..

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Hi I would recommend that you do, in case u want to use the old parts in a different computer

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Not really. Just disconnect all power to the desktop atleast 5 minutes before you take it apart.

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Thx =D

by Terrifiedz

That answer is incorrect. Static electricity builds up on your ungrounded body. I always keep power cord connected to power supply and just touch any metal part inside before touching circuit boards. 22 years doing that every day - zero problems.

by Vic

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Terrifiedz will be eternally grateful.

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