How to deal with static electricity when working on computers

a man demonstrates static cling using his hair and a balloon.
Image by Dirigentens. Some rights reserved.

When working on a computer's internal components, you always want to make sure there's no electricity going through it. This means disconnecting the AC adapter and removing the battery before you start. You also don't want to zap anything with static electricity.

Static electricity can harm your computer without you even realizing it. While it takes 1,500 volts for a human to feel it, some internal components can be damaged by just 5-10 volts. Here are some tips for safer, static-free computer work.

Reducing static electricity buildup in your environment

There are a lot of things that can cause problems with static electricity: carpeting, pets running around, a cluttered work space, and low humidity are a few items to be mindful of. Try to minimize those factors as much as possible in your work environment. If you can't set up in an ideal location, you might have some luck with anti-static sprays, floormats and similar products. You can also prevent damage by keeping components in the anti-static bags they came in until it comes time to install them, and even then taking care to only touch the components around the edges and away from connectors and pins.

Getting rid of static electricity in your body

Of course, some static buildup is inevitable, so you'll want to know how to deal with it. Usually, simply touching a grounded object before you start will be sufficient. Another handy trick is to keep anti-static dryer sheets around, handling them occasionally to dissapate any static you're carrying in your body. Some people say you should leave your computer plugged in while you work, but we do not advise this when working on Toughbooks.