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What is ESD? How do you avoid it?

ESD stands for Electrostatic Discharge or simply static electricity.  It is caused by the buildup of electrical charge on one surface that is suddenly transferred to another surface when it is touched.  Computer components and integrated circuits such as motherboards, memory modules and hard drives, are especially susceptible to ESD damage.

Here are some ways you can avoid it:

  • Use a commercial grounding strap when handling components.  Do NOT improvise and make your own strap.  Commercial grounding straps are specially designed to include a large resistor that protects you in the event that you accidentally touch live power while grounded.

  • If you donít have a grounding strap, ground yourself before working by touching the exterior metal box of your PCís power supply before unplugging it.  This will zap out any ESD buildup in your body.

  • Work in a static-safe station.  An uncarpeted room with a controlled humidity works well.  But if you must work in a room with a carpet, do not go walking about while wearing socks as this could generate static electricity quickly.  Clear your workbench of plastic bags and other objects that are prone to ESD.

  • Always handle components by the edges.  You will considerably reduce the chance of zapping components by avoiding touching any pins, wirings or chips.

  • As much as possible, keep your component inside the antistatic packaging that came with it until you are ready to install.