Anti-Static and Safety Precautions
Have you ever walked across a carpeted floor and gotten a shock when you touched a doorknob, table, counter, or even another person?
That little shock you got was a result of static electricity. It was also many times what is needed to destroy some computer components.
You see, humans can't feel a static shock until it is several thousand volts strong, but it takes less than 30 volts to damage a sensitive computer component, such as a stick of RAM or a processor.
That's why computer technicians and home computer builders have to guard their computers against the deadly ravages of static electricity, as well as take steps to avoid injury to yourself. A shock that you can't even feel can seriously damage your homebuilt computer before you're even finished building it.
When possible, try to avoid working in carpeted areas. Carpeting greatly increases static buildup within your body.
Always use an anti-static wrist strap when working on a computer except when working on monitors: more about that below. One end is an elastic band that fits around your wrist and which is connected to an alligator clip by a wire. The clip connects to a metal part of the computer chassis, which equalizes the voltage between you and the computer, thus avoiding static sparks.
Better anti-static kits also include a rubberized anti static mat that is placed below the computer while you are working on it. This not only provides better anti-static protection, but also protects your table from scratches.
Another option is to use anti-static gloves when handling delicate electronic components. (Thanks, Jeremy.)
Always grasp a metal part of the computer chassis with your bare hand before you touch anything inside. Do this even if you are wearing an anti-static wristband.
Always handle electronic components by a non-conducting (non-metallic) edge. Don't touch the pins or other connectors.
Never plug an ATX power supply into AC power unless it is connected either to a computer's motherboard or to a dummy test load.
Always use a UL-approved surge protector or an Uninterruptible Power Supply that incorporates surge and spike protection.
Never eat, drink, or smoke while working on a computer.
Even though this site is not about repairing computers, our site stats indicate that a lot of people find this page by searching for the phrase "anti-static precautions." So it's important that I mention the one exception to the rule about always using an anti-static wrist strap.
Never use an anti-static wrist strap while working on a CRT monitor, even if it is unplugged. CRT monitors operate on very high voltages -- sometimes as high as 40,000 volts -- and can hold these voltages for a long time even when they are unplugged. An LED monitor doesn't require as much voltage, but as a rule you should probably leave monitor repairs in general to a pro. They're more likely to have the parts on hand and to be able to quickly diagnose any problems.
So what does all that mean? Here it is in simple terms: If you happen to touch a CRT monitor's flyback transformer or its anode while you are grounded to the monitor's chassis by a wrist strap, you will probably die.
Professional computer technicians rarely work on computer monitors, and you shouldn't, either. Call your neighborhood TV repair shop instead. Most TV repair shops are happy to repair computer monitors, and they are more likely to have any needed parts on hand.
(Go back up to Safety and Anti-Static Rules)