Why I use an anti static wrist strap for computer repairs

anti static wrist strap for computer repair
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    Why Lee Harvey uses an anti static wrist strap when repairing your computer

    If you have ever experienced the sensation of an electric shock, then you will understand why you wouldn’t want your computer repair technician to be emitting ESD (electrostatic discharge) when fixing or building your computer. This powerful surge may give only a tingling feeling in your fingers, but can be strong enough to cause serious damage to your device.

    What is an anti static wrist strap?

    An anti static wrist strap or an electrostatic discharge wrist strap as it is otherwise known, is a key piece of protective gear that helps to prevent the buildup of static electricity near sensitive electronics.

    An anti static wrist band is normally worn on the hand and makes sure that the voltage difference between your body and your computer is evenly balanced out. By grounding yourself with an anti static wrist strap, ensures that any excess static charge in your body will be dissipated right away.

    Do anti static wrist straps work?

    From personal experience I know that anti static straps work. In fact in my early years before I did my degree and enjoyed tinkering around with devices for fun, I had to send several computer motherboards back as they seemed to be dead on arrival. It was only later, at University, that I learned about static discharge and realised that it was probably me that destroyed the boards due to not using a grounding strap.

    How does an ESD strap work?

    ESD wrist straps come in a variety of materials, but the general concept for each is the same; they are worn in order to provide a path for electrostatic ground.

    The anti static wrist strap is worn by the computer operator working on an item of electronics, and provides a high resistance path to ground. This, in turn, prevents static electricity build up which could harm the electronic circuit.

    What is the main use of anti static wrist straps?

    Simply by moving around we start to generate static charge. As this charge needs to be given a safe route to ground, these antistatic straps enable this to be achieved safely, without causing damage to our devices.

    use an anti static wrist strap for computer repair

    How to wear a static wrist strap?

    In order for the ESD to work effectively the strap should be placed with the metal part touching your skin. For this reason, most people choose to put the band on their hands, although they can be worn anywhere on the body, with some specifically designed to be worn around your ankle!

    While ESD wrist straps are useful pieces of equipment, it’s always best to support safety initiatives with the addition of ESD mats and other essential supplies (see below).

    What do I connect my anti static wrist strap to?

    How you connect your anti wrist strap depends on the type of band you are using. The two main straps used are wired or wireless straps. Wireless straps simply have the metal clasp that sits on your wrist in order to ground you, but a wired strap requires an alligator clip which connects to the computer grounding pin (or another earth point on your device).

    A lot of people (including myself) are on the fence as to whether wireless anti static wrist bands are as effective as those that have a cord to teether them for grounding. Of course it is much more comfortable to be able to work without the restrictions of a wire, but a lot of research and reviews for these wireless versions show that they do not prevent charge build-up or decay charge at a rate that is acceptable for handling electronic devices.

    In addition to wearing an ESD, some people also like to use an antistatic mat, especially if they are using a wooden table to work on or if the computer itself sits on plastic shelving. An antistatic mat (or ground mat) allows electrostatic discharge to flow across the surface in a slow yet controlled manner, preventing the rapid discharge of electricity which can damage sensitive components.

    When should you not wear an anti static wrist strap?

    Ideally if you are fixing or replacing items on a computing device then it is always advisable to wear an anti static wrist strap.

    You can get away with not wearing one when replacing a network adapter, installing a hard drive, adding memory or fitting power supplies, but only if you take the upmost care not to come into contact with the main circuit board.

    Failure to wear a wristband whilst working on a static sensitive device could result in the transfer of static discharge onto the item and cause significant damage. This can be very costly to replace and incredibly time-consuming.

    Types of ESD grounding wrist straps

    You don’t have to spend a lot of time researching the best brands or investing large amounts of money on the best ESD on the market – an anti static wrist strap should simply do the job of being electrically resistant and feel comfortable to wear.

    Most anti static wrist straps come as a one-size-fits-all adjustable band that are woven with either carbon or carbon-filled rubber conductive fibres. For those with sensitive skin, if you shop around there are some great hypoallergenic straps available which are made from either nylon or stainless steel.

    Although most wrist bands come in a variety of colours such as blue, black and yellow, the colour itself does not signify anything – it is simply there to look nice, so try not to be lured in by the marketing and pretty packaging!

    As mentioned above, most straps which are designed for customer use, often have a crocodile clip for the ground connection or are completely wireless with some designed to be connected to an ESD safe mat.

    There is no specific rule on when you should replace an anti static wrist strap.  Most will state the product lifespan on the packaging but we would recommend that you look at your overall use, possible wear and tear of the band and the cleanliness of your individual wrist strap to determine how effective it is likely to continue to be over time.

    A final thought from me

    Although putting on my anti static wrist band is now just a part of my daily routine, there are occasions where I deem it safe to take off. For example, if I am working on a device fitting a hard drive and memory where the laptop has quick access panels, then I can replace these without the need to ground myself.

    If, however, the laptop is to be dismantled then I would always ground myself. Likewise for desktops, if I am likely to come into contact with any of the major components (especially the motherboard) then it is vital that I ground myself to prevent any damage occurring.

    In general, a desktop computer is more robust than its laptop counterpart, so its power supply, memory, hard drive, graphics cards etc can usually be fitted without the worry for wearing an ESD.

    If you are ever in any doubt then do not take the risk – always wear an anti static wrist strap.

    Why choose Lee Harvey Computer Repairs?

    Lee Harvey Computing has decades of experience, so when it comes to providing an affordable computer repair service, we are the best in the business.

    Working with both PC and laptops, we can build, install, and maintain systems on your behalf.

    We are able to assist sole traders, start-ups and established small businesses based in Cornwall, and can offer affordable fixed price repairs, as well as competitive one-time rates.

    Whether you need help carrying out complex computer jobs such as component replacements and data recovery or need us to perform standard services such as screen replacements, virus removals and cloud migrations, why not give us a call on 07884 412739 or email support@leeharveycomputing.co.uk today.

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    Lee Harvey

    Lee is an experienced computer repair engineer and operates across Cornwall from his base in St Austell.

    Computer Repair Cornwall

    About Lee Harvey Computing

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