ARCHIVED: What is electrostatic discharge and how does it affect my computer?

Electrostatic discharge (ESD) is the transfer of electrons from one object to another. You probably know ESD better as static electricity, or static shock. When you walk across carpet and then shock yourself touching something metal, this is ESD.

You experience ESD far more than you might think. Indeed, the transfer of a static charge to or from a human being cannot even be detected unless it is greater than 3,500 volts. In essence, ESD occurs continually when any two or more objects come into contact.

The problem with ESD as it relates to computers is that humans don't feel ESD transfers less than 3,500 volts, but most electronic computer devices are sensitive to charges at less than half of this level. So, when you work on the internal components of your computer, you may damage the components in the computer via ESD, and not even feel it.

When working on the inside of a computer, you should always take the most conservative precautions available to help prevent damage from ESD. Many computer shops sell special wristbands which aid in grounding you while working on computers. Furthermore, most devices you purchase (e.g., a modem) will come with information on additional steps that you can take to avoid damage from ESD.

This is document aeoh in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2008-11-01 00:00:00.

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