Static Electricity


According to the Julian calendar it is technically still the season of fall. However my five senses are telling me otherwise. It looks like winter, sounds like winter, feels like winter, heck it even smells like winter where I live. Its 23 degrees and snowing. The onset of winter brings about the need to take some extra care when working with computers.

Static Electricity

Winter brings about atmospheric changes that facilitate an increase in the production of static electricity. As we walk around the office (shoes scuffing the carpet), move around in a cubical, or any other normal office activity we generate static electricity (S.E.). What happens next is the cause for many office laughs and shouts…static discharge.

Most of us have experienced this in one way or another. On your return trip from retrieving some supplies, or refilling your coffee, you place your hand on something and bam! There’s our old friend static electricity with a loud “crack” and sometimes a visible burst of light.  “I got a shock!” is a common response. We laugh…well because it’s funny, when it isn’t you getting blasted.

Here’s the problem, most of us do work with computers, and they don’t respond well to random bursts of electricity. Another issue with S.E. is the fact than many computers have a case that is constructed out of metal, so there is the possibility of discharging the S.E. you have created by touching your computer.

Another danger is that anytime you happen to be working inside of your computer (to clean the fans, clear the dust, install RAM) you can discharge S.E. Not cool. It actually hurts and I fried a Mother Board during my first winter working here at CSI Onsite. I watched in horror as I went to remove the old RAM and a bluish flash appeared at my fingertips. Then I saw it…the vein in Mark Wheatley’s temple begin to pulse ever so slightly. He said, hold on a second, I think we have a problem. Sure enough that computer was fried. Lesson learned.

Here are a few tips you can use to keep this from happening to you.

The easiest solution is to discharge the S.E. before you touch the computer. You do that while touching something metal/grounded. Once you have done this and you aren’t moving about generating more S.E. you should be good to go.

Another helpful tip, keep your office humidified (30-50% relative humidity).

Avoid clothing that is notorious for generating S.E., at least on the days you know you will be doing any kind of computer maintenance.

We hope this helps you avoid those painful blasts of Static Electricity, but if you do happen to cook your computer, give us a call, and we will come to help you out…with grounded shoes of course (tech humor).