Electrostatic discharge (ESD) control
It's my understanding that electrostatic discharge (ESD) can quietly zap electronic components. I'm looking for advice on best practices for controlling ESD when opening up a device. Mostly interested in ideas for the home DiYer or casual tinkerer, for operations like installing memory or hard drives.
What's a good, practical set-up for a home work area? Wrist-straps and anti-static mats are almost certainly involved, but what's the correct way to use them? Other special tools?
OK, full disclosure here. I intentionally phrased my question in a somewhat naive manner, hoping to generate some discussion. Only one answer so far, so I guess I'll answer my own question to throw in my .02. :)
In a professional capacity, I have occasionally worked at ESD-controlled work-stations and have had some ESD training. However, the training explained how to use such a work-station, but not how to actually set one up. Most hobbyists seem to be fairly casual about ESD, so I was interested to find out how applicable, or necessary, industrial practices are for the home tinkerer. In the past, I've been fairly casual about ESD myself when fiddling around in my computer. But I figured I should perhaps be more rigorous, so I was interested in how others worked. And I thought this sort of information might be quite pertinent for the casual tinkerer.
mayer, thanks for your answer. It confirmed that I should have a properly grounded work space. I also did some searching around on the internet for more information.
I discovered Radio Shack has a decent, reasonably priced kit consisting of a 2' x 2' grounded mat and ESD wrist strap, so I picked that up.
The wrist strap and ground wire for the mat both check out with proper 1 MOhm resistance. I couldn't find any specs on the vinyl mat, but I assume it's suitably dissipative (I don't really have the tools to test the resistivity).
Here's a link to the Wikipedia article on electrostatic discharge. The external links section at the end references several good sites for excruciatingly detailed information.
So, after my internet research, I think a grounded mat and wrist strap are the way to go for the home tinkerer. One comment on the referenced articles: most mention grounded floor mats and heel-straps on the shoes. My training said those were only needed if it was necessary to move around without a wrist strap.
Comments and additional discussion most welcome!
For more information, you might also look at this discussion which we had recently regarding ESD. There's quite a diversity of opinions there about the topic. :)
To summarize my opinion: I worked without any sort of ESD protection for years, and never experienced any immediate problems. ESD protections are always a good idea, and I believe the level of protection that a user takes to prevent ESD should be based off their comfort level working with the risks that ESD carries. Extra protection never hurts.