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How likely is it for static discharge to 'kill' pc components?

Renegrade
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Safety precautions have always been mentioned throughout build tips and what not. Sure, it tells people to be careful when handling CPUs, GPUs, MOBOs, etc. to prevent any electrical discharge to happen on those components.

But how likely is it actually that a static discharge would fry a component?

  • Is it like, instantaneous? (eg. being careful for most of the build time, but the one moment you accidentally touch the PCB of the GPU, its dead forever).
  • or would there just be an x amount of chance that if the hardware experiences electric discharge, nothing would happen.

Knowing this happens from time to time, wouldn't manufacturers take into consideration, when designing a pc hardware, that they should put sacrificial components? (eg. the x part of this hardware will die first, before any static electricity to damage the rest of the hardware)

 

PS, I'm an aerospace engineering student, and most aircraft are filled with redundant systems (useless systems most of the time, but would be there as a back up). So I wondered if something is similar to the PC industry

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No redundancy, let alone multiple redundant components in your pc should you actually discharge some static and zap something. I think Linus did a video of him zapping and killing off parts with an egg beater or something lol. I think some mobo and other component manufacturers are trying to incorporate some sort of added anti static or static negating safety features but if you actually zap something, its probably fried.

 

Some basic precaution is always good even if a lot of experienced pc parts handlers/builders will tell you that they don't really care for anti static ankle/wrist bands, nothing ever happens anyway. Just don't build/handle stuff standing barefeet on a carpet.

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pc are usually connected to ground, thats typically considered good enough static protection......im pretty sure linus has said that leaving a power supply plugged in but the switch off is the best bet for making quick changes to a built system

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I don't know how likely it is but I will say as far as I am aware I have never killed anything with static electricity. In the 15ish years I have been playing/working with computer hardware. Obviously I am never trying to kill anything, but I would be lying if I said I ground myself any time I handle static sensitive hardware. 

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1 minute ago, Nicnac said:

Unless you are really provoking a static discharge it is likely unlikely

Sometimes it just builds up without you making an effort to do so. This is especially true (in my case anyway) while driving and when I get out and slam the door shut, I get zapped sometimes. Probably to do with the car seat fabric rubbing against cotton clothes, not sure how exactly but it does happen sometimes.

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9 minutes ago, strat guy said:

This is especially true (in my case anyway) while driving and when I get out and slam the door shut, I get zapped sometimes.

that has to do with the exterior of the car passing through wind and collecting static. for example race cars are grounded to the race track when they stop in the pits to discharge any static buildup prior to any work being performed. the amount of potential electricity is incredible.

[FS][US] Corsair H115i 280mm AIO-AMD $60+shipping

 

 

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5 minutes ago, knightslugger said:

that has to do with the exterior of the car passing through wind and collecting static

Eh, not sure I follow, but that's interesting. So you're saying it has nothing to do with the carpety seat fabric and cotton clothes and hair etc ? Its also very random, hasn't happened in a quite a while actually but you never know.. 

 

Could you expand a bit on it ?

 

8 minutes ago, knightslugger said:

for example race cars are grounded to the race track when they stop in the pits to discharge any static buildup prior to any work being performed. the amount of potential electricity is incredible.

The only contact they make with the track are the rubber tyres, so 'grounded' like that you mean ?

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Just now, strat guy said:

Eh, not sure I follow, but that's interesting. So you're saying it has nothing to do with the carpety seat fabric and cotton clothes and hair etc ? Its also very random, hasn't happened in a quite a while actually but you never know.. 

 

Could you expand a bit on it ?

 

The only contact they make with the track are the rubber tyres, so 'grounded' like that you mean ?

very little of it comes from you. Drier air in winter exacerbates static electricity production.

 

the race cars: they are electrically grounded to earth via a metallic strap in their pit box or the jack that is placed under the car during service lift, or other means. the rubber tires act as an insulator to earth, so the car is ungrounded during competition.

[FS][US] Corsair H115i 280mm AIO-AMD $60+shipping

 

 

System specs:
Asus Prime X370 Pro - Custom EKWB CPU/GPU 2x360 1x240 soft loop - Ryzen 1700X - Corsair Vengeance RGB 2x16GB - Plextor 512 NVMe + 2TB SU800 - EVGA GTX1080ti - LianLi PC11 Dynamic
 

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Static discharges are instantaneous. So yes, if there was a charge building up between the last time you touched anything in your system and that very moment then you could kill components. The question is: how likely is it that a static charge can build up to dangerous levels? Well, there are a few parameters at play:

  1. humidity – static charges can build up more easily the dryer the air is. You usually notice it during cold winter times.
  2. fabrics/materials – avoid wearing cloths made of wool or some synthetic fibres when building your system. Those fabrics are prone for creating charges (so is your skin!). Don't work on carpets to avoid static charges to build up.
  3. grounding – when you're grounded the charges dissipate and can't build up, therefore you can't kill anything. You could wear one of those grounding bracelets to be on the absolute safe side but tbh – common sense and touching a grounded piece of metal before you start working and once in a while in between (like bare metal parts of your heating system) will do the trick. I've never killed any component in over 20 years without wearing those bracelets.

That's the system building part. After everything is in your system you don't touch any of your components anymore so they are protected by two things: the metal case is at most connected to ground of your components and there's less resistance in the case itself and the ground lead of your power plug. Never tried it so no guarantee on that one but you should be able to ground yourself via the bare metal on the back when your system is plugged in. I'd still use the bare metal of the heater though.

Redundancy in areoplanes has a different reason to my knowledge. Cars for example don't have it either because if it breaks you just stop at the side of the road and that's it. If it breaks while in the air you might go down putting lifes at risk. And redundancy is not there to protect against static discharges but from general failures.

Use the quote function when answering! Mark people directly if you want an answer from them!

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3 minutes ago, knightslugger said:

very little of it comes from you. Drier air in winter exacerbates static electricity production.

 

the race cars: they are electrically grounded to earth via a metallic strap in their pit box or the jack that is placed under the car during service lift, or other means. the rubber tires act as an insulator to earth, so the car is ungrounded during competition.

right, never thought about, nor can I place the weather conditions when that has happened, "not in a while" may well mean colder winter air, cool.

 

good info.

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11 minutes ago, strat guy said:

right, never thought about, nor can I place the weather conditions when that has happened, "not in a while" may well mean colder winter air, cool.

 

good info.

I always get zapped this time of year. passing by a cubical, getting out of my truck, touching a file cabinet. POP! Pretty sure i fucked up the TV in the office by not discharging on the cubical next to it before replacing the USB drive for our inter-office motivational electronic posters. the screen will glitch out from time to time. so static damage is very very real.

 

also, the TV does not have a ground plug so it is not grounded to earth for static protection.

[FS][US] Corsair H115i 280mm AIO-AMD $60+shipping

 

 

System specs:
Asus Prime X370 Pro - Custom EKWB CPU/GPU 2x360 1x240 soft loop - Ryzen 1700X - Corsair Vengeance RGB 2x16GB - Plextor 512 NVMe + 2TB SU800 - EVGA GTX1080ti - LianLi PC11 Dynamic
 

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25 minutes ago, knightslugger said:

I always get zapped this time of year. passing by a cubical, getting out of my truck, touching a file cabinet. POP! Pretty sure i fucked up the TV in the office by not discharging on the cubical next to it before replacing the USB drive for our inter-office motivational electronic posters. the screen will glitch out from time to time. so static damage is very very real.

 

also, the TV does not have a ground plug so it is not grounded to earth for static protection.

Outside of the US maybe, but 3 pin plugged devices generally have the third one for earth/ground.

 

Very interesting about the 'thermal conditions' though, I will be keeping that in mind as it gets colder. More importantly, PC builders should keep that in mind too. People should build computers in the summertime, when the weather is fine. :cringe:

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I haven't really cared that much. Flick the PSU switch to off, touch the metal case, and get to work. And work on hardwood or something, no fuzzy slippers/carpet. 

Custom pinewood case, Corsair CX 600WRampage 3 Extreme, i7 980x (@4.2ghz) with ML240 Cooler MSI GTX 970, 24gb DDR3, 240gb OCZ Tr150 SSD + 2Tb Seagate Baracuda. 

 

Advocate for used/older hardware. Also one of the resident petrol heads. 

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Truth be told, I have taken a lot of chances when it comes to static and I didn't zap anything.

You should probably take precautions though. If you do zap it, it's probably dead.

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