Static demolition

If you build your own computers or are planning to build them you will probably hear or have heard that static can damage RAM memory. Often considered a myth, this is however the bare naked truth.

Static electricity is caused by a process with way too many syllables, triboelectrification. Try saying that five times in a row very fast. This process is actually very interesting. I looked it up for you, so you don’t have to ;-).
Everything around us, yes even our bodies, is made of atoms, these atoms have in their center positively charged protons and neutrons. Surrounding the atom there are negatively charged electrons.
Still with me? Cool..

Protons and neutrons in an atom do not change, however the electrons are able to move from one atom to another. In case 2 objects touch, they exchange electrons. This causes one object to become electrically positive while the other becomes electrically negative. When an object touches another object with either an opposite or neutral change the electrons will starting flowing.

Static electricity is created when electrons move back and forth between atoms. Fascinating isn’t it? All this just to say, you indeed have to be careful when assembling a computer. Because you can damage components without breaking a sweat.
A microchip can be damaged by about 10 volts, which is not really a lot. And here is a fun fact, humans are not able to perceive static electricity until it has reached about 1500 volts. And an even funnier fact, walking over a rug, can produce static electricity with a voltage up to 12000 volts.

Do I even need to go on? You can fry your components by just touching them, this is a fact.

There are easy ways to avoid this, like for example.. discharge on something. Grab a hold on something metal. You can also wear an ESD wrist strap, this is a little something that prevents the buildup of static electricity on a body. ESD stands for, electrostatic discharge, just so you know.
I even think it is shipped by default with some components, like for example hard drives for servers. You can also buy a more professional one at your local hardware store. But then again, hugging a radiator works just fine, so why bother, right?

Moral of the story, computer electronics and static electricity = a big NoNo


5 thoughts on “Static demolition

  1. I work in a computer store and I’m constantly building new PC’s. I have a strap but most of the time I’m not using it. I’m cautious of the environment I’m in, and tend to only use the strap if I’m conscious of say, the humidity in the air for example. But mostly I just run my hands along the metalwork of the PC first.

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