Take the 2-minute tour ×
Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

My Dad suggests you are not supposed to keep anything that produces static electricity nearby your computer. Why would this be advised?

If true, which things produce static electricity? How far should I keep them away? What are the other computer resources that can be affected?

share|improve this question

3 Answers 3

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Sorry, but your Dad is probably being a bit too careful.

You're never going to kill a computer with static by touching its keyboard, mouse, or case.

Static damage does not affect well designed, modern electronics devices (including computers). Perhaps in the 80's - but not now.

Since my Degree in Electronics Engineering, I've killed probably 30 Integrated Circuit (IC) chips by unintentionally zapping them with rogue static charge on my fingers. However, once chips are mounted on a well designed board, the ground plane helps to make the entire circuit more robust, and the case helps to protect the entire product. In addition, IC manufacturers have been getting steadily better since the 70s at adding internal static protection circuits to avoid this very problem.

Bottom line:

  • You can ignore static damage if you're a home computer user. Modern electronic devices are so well designed that its not a problem any more (although it was up to the 80s).
  • You must take care to avoid static damage if you're an electronics manufacturer, home electronics hobbyist (e.g. soldering ICs to a board), are installing computer parts (especially RAM or hard drives), or you are doing something super critical like installing a pace maker.
share|improve this answer
    
Hm... I don't think you meant to make this a Community Wiki answer. –  Hello71 Aug 28 '10 at 14:57
2  
@Hello it was triggered due to 11 edits by the OP –  Sathya Aug 28 '10 at 21:09
    
This answer is accurate as long as the OP does not open the computer's case. The standards required to sell an electronic device in the EU require it to be tested against electrostatic discharge to connectors and metal pieces that are exposed when the housing is assembled. Most equipment sold in the US is tested to both the US and EU standards (among others). Once the cover is open, all bets are off. As long as there is not a 100KV Tesla coil or Van De Graf generator next to your computer it is probably fine -- until you open it to add memory or other upgrades. Then be careful. –  wrdieter Sep 14 '13 at 2:42

Generic eHow articles and How to Prevent Static Electricity Damage to Electronic Devices.

Static electricity can disable or even destroy your mouse, keyboard, printer, fax machine, even your computer's circuit boards (and all your data along with them).

Paranoia Alert: this sentence is probably an exaggeration -- check details by Gravitas.

Another thing to remember is that the usual method of cleaning and wiping surfaces is to rub with a dry cloth. The usual kind of surface (plastic, glass) and material of wipe in use can promote static charging very quickly.
You can wipe a surface clean and end up wiping the electronics under it to death -- ok, that's an exaggeration :-)

Update: I agree with Gravitas on the count of 'well designed and modern devices'.
The fear of static discharge affecting electronics should be limited to conditions when you have opened up such hardware and would get your fingers or other tools close to the components.

I almost deleted my answer in retrospect. But, I guess its good to keep it around for context.

share|improve this answer
2  
Rubbish. Perhaps in the 80's, but not now. Most modern electronics devices are so well designed they do not suffer from static sensitivity. You're never going to hurt a computer by touching its keyboard, mouse or case. I should know - I've designed electronic devices on a professional level for the past 12 years. See my full answer. –  Contango Aug 28 '10 at 11:36
1  
@Gravitas, +1, well said, I completely agree :-). –  nik Aug 28 '10 at 11:50
    
+1, thanks for the support –  Contango Aug 28 '10 at 14:06

Static can be discharge through any electronic devices (well, any conducting object).

When it does discharge it does so at a large voltage, and it's this high voltage that can potentially cause damage to sensitive components (such as most of the innards of your computer).

If you think this seems a little unlikely that it can cause damage, remember that lightening (as in the storm based variety) is the same discharge effect - just on a larger scale.

share|improve this answer
    
Rubbish. Perhaps in the 80's, but not now. Most modern electronics devices are so well designed they do not suffer from static sensitivity. You're never going to hurt a computer by touching its keyboard, mouse or case. I should know - I've designed electronic devices on a professional level for the past 12 years. See my full answer. –  Contango Aug 28 '10 at 11:34
    
@Gravitas - Fair enough, from your answer you're clearly more knowledgeable on the topic, and you get my support on your answer as it looks like it's what the OP needed to know. But, I didn't mention keyboards, mice or cases; I indicate sensitive components and the inside of a computer. –  DMA57361 Aug 28 '10 at 16:11

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.