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I have just attempted to replace an LCD screen on a laptop. Before reassembling everything I plugged the new LCD in and switched things on to check the screen worked. All was good.

I then put everything back together and in the process I seem to have destroyed the Inverter chip. At least thats my best diagnosis.

The only thing I can think of that caused this to happen is perhaps static - I wasn't wearing any static wristband, nor did I think to touch anything metal.

Is this possible?

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Not really an answer, I don't think "fry" is the right word, but it can (rarely) damage chips. Typically, it is more likely that you accidentally plugged it in wrong, one pin over slightly or similar. –  William Hilsum Sep 19 '10 at 1:18
    
ESD from a USB port fried my south bridge in an ASUS P4P800 board, smoke and everything. Slightly different, since this happened when it was powered on, not during assembly with no power. Looked almost like this abxzone.com/forums/f143/… –  Bratch Sep 19 '10 at 2:38
    
Does it work again if you dis-assemble it? Maybe the original fault is to do with the assembly (e.g. pressure on a component board) –  BrianA Sep 19 '10 at 6:58
    
@Wil I dont think I unplugged and replugged any of the connections between having it working and reassembling the casing to find it not working again. –  Mongus Pong Sep 19 '10 at 8:49
    
@BrianA, No. I have tried many different configurations since all without success. –  Mongus Pong Sep 19 '10 at 8:51

3 Answers 3

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Yes, it is absolutely possible. Although we do not know the specific cause of the problem that you experienced, it is very common for IT enthusiasts (and even professionals) to underestimate the risk of ESD damage to components. ESD damage probably will not occur every time you handle a component without proper grounding, but it certainly will occur a percentage of the time. The risk is especially high in dry environments, but ESD can happen anywhere and at any time.

One thing is certain: if you follow proper procedures every time you handle electronic components of any kind, when something stops working, you will not need to second-guess whether it might have been your fault for frying thousands of microscopic transistors with the touch of your finger.

Intel provides detailed guidance about the risks and how they can be avoided:

Electrostatic generation arising from friction between two materials is called triboelectric charging. It occurs when two materials are separated or rubbed together.

Examples include:

  • Opening a common plastic bag.
  • Removing adhesive tape from a roll or container.
  • Walking across a floor.
  • Transporting computer boards or components around in their trays on carts.
  • Sliding circuit boards on a workbench.

When handling parts or their containers, ungrounded personnel can transfer high static charges. Unless these static charges are slowly dissipated, ESD events can inflict damage to the devices.

Electrical fields can penetrate electrical devices. An ungrounded person handling a component or computer board in a non-static shielding container can inadvertently transfer an electrical charge through the container into the sensitive electronic device.

The Wikipedia article on electrostatic sensitive devices provides additional details and references that may be of interest.

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You're not likely to see anything burst in to flames because of static and I've personally never experienced an apparent fault because of static but it's technically possible.

If you connect something incorrectly though as Wil has said, you can cause things to melt. I've stripped power cables before when I tried to setup SLI on an insufficient power supply.

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Possible? yes. Likely? - well that depends. People I work with have handled lots of electronic equipment without proper ESD precautions and haven't damaged anything (yet). However, we live in an environment where the humidity level varies from a "low" of 50% in winter to the high 90%s in summer. I have mostly wood floors and never feel a zap when touching doorknobs in my office or house. If you're in a similar environment then it probably wasn't static that killed your system.

On the other hand, if you even occasionally feel you're getting zapped by ESD around your computer workplace then I'd start wearing that grounded wristband during future repair work. While you can technically damage parts with ESD even when you can't feel it - a little common sense goes a long way.

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