Static Electricity vs. Computer
January 16, 2006 10:25 AM   Subscribe

I like wearing shoes during the winter with furry fabric on the inside and no socks. Add this to cold weather and I find myself extremely static-y. I shock everything; light switch plates, my car, my laptop. My question I doing any damage to my iBook when I get shocked by it?
posted by youcancallmeal to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Eventually, you might. I destroyed a quite expensive keyboard that unfortunately happened to have an metal base. Discharge yourself before touching electronics.
posted by orthogonality at 10:27 AM on January 16, 2006

This thread

Or this one

might be helpful
posted by Makebusy7 at 10:46 AM on January 16, 2006

I'm not an EE, but I've always assumed that portable electronics are designed such that average "static" electricity discharges do not make their way into the case of the product, where they can do damage.

I mean, they must be designed that way. Since modern electronics use such tiny circuits, the current in a static discharge can easily damage them. And yet, laptops are not falling dead everyday.

So I try to remember to discharge myself, but I strongly suspect only in unusual circumstances will a component be damaged, unless it is poorly designed.
posted by teece at 11:05 AM on January 16, 2006

I was just about to ask this...
posted by michaelkuznet at 11:12 AM on January 16, 2006

Yes, with each shock you are rolling the dice. Get a humidifier, or a $2 static discharge plate and touch it (or anything conductive and grounded) before you handle your laptop.
posted by paradroid at 11:14 AM on January 16, 2006

I've managed to destroy an electronic programmable thermostat with a shock from my finger tip.

I've also shocked my laptop a lot times, most times it seams to ground itself to the frame and not effect anything, but once I shocked it reaching for the USB port and it caused the system to reboot. So far no permanent damage but I'm sure the possibility is there.
posted by monsta coty scott at 11:29 AM on January 16, 2006

I've gone through about 4 keyboards due to static shock though I've never had anything else fail. IC manufacturers go through simulation and design to design diode structures and circuitry to shunt off static discharge. There are guidelines and standards but in the interest of saving money or getting a chip out the door sometimes corners are cut. They keyboards that failed me probably had some component that was common to all of them (same manufacturer, same part, same flaw) that made them more susceptible to static shock.

You're always rolling the dice with static discharge even with the protection structures (they're designed to clamp voltages and provide return paths for current but there's assumptions about what the discharge looks like) but I've never had problems. Except for with keyboards.
posted by substrate at 11:43 AM on January 16, 2006

You can definitely do damage. Discharge to a neutral metal object first. On a side note, vacuum cleaners can also create a field of static electricity around them(while they are vacuuming of course :-), and I have seen this blow up 2 different motherboards.
posted by maelanchai at 1:10 PM on January 16, 2006

I reached for the mouse one long, dry winter, and I saw the blue fire reach 3" before it hit the mouse. This wasn't a laptop, it was a desktop, but because the mouse was plugged into the momboard, it blew the mouse, the board, the chips, the keyboard, and some miscellaneaneous crap plugged into the mom board at the time. I keep a discharge pad handy. If you lead with an elbow, it doesn't hurt at all compared to the static firing off your fingertips, fewer nerves.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 6:39 PM on January 16, 2006

It's easily possible to do damage to electronics even with static discharges that you can't feel. That's why technicians wear grounding straps. A static zap is tens of thousands of volts... it's a very low amperage, but it's at a huge voltage. So it can jump through the air a short distance (air is an extremely good insulator), and then jump around in computer circuits, frying things left and right.

So if you're looking for reassurance that everything is okay, you've come to the wrong place. Everything MAY be okay. The only way to tell is by using the computer and watching for signs of damage. You obviously fried it enough to shock it into rebooting... whether or not the damage was permanent, only time will tell.
posted by Malor at 9:24 PM on February 7, 2006

Oops, ignore prior post, I put it in the wrong thread. Doh!
posted by Malor at 9:25 PM on February 7, 2006

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