Prevent static electricity while working inside a laptop computer case

by on January 20, 2009

Q: I am about to replace a very noisy fan in my laptop. This will be done at home, which is carpeted. To prevent static electricity problems, I intend to completely cover the table surface with aluminum foil, with a grounding wire connecting the foil to a grounded outlet. I will also wear a grounded wristband at all times while I do the work. Any tool I bring to the table will be grounded before I use it.

A: I applaud you for wanting to take so many precautions. I live in a fully carpeted house too, so I can definitely sympathize with your situation. But based on my experience, some of your extra precautions may actually increase the risk of static electricity damaging your computer.

Covering your table with aluminum foil could actually cause a static electricity discharge! Your table is probably fine as is, unless it’s felted and/or constructed of metal. An uncarpeted floor is obviously preferable to a carpeted one. If uncarpeted, either your kitchen or garage would be an excellent place to perform laptop surgery. If you don’t have access to an uncarpeted floor, you can stand on a heavy and thick piece of plywood while working.

With desktop computers, I feel that it is usually “good enough” to simply keep in contact with a metal part of the case at all times. This would obviously be a difficult task while working on a disassembled laptop. So yes, I agree that you should wear an anti-static wristband while working.

Tip: Unlike desktops, the insides of laptops are often very fragile. You may wish to consider paying a professional to install the new fan into your laptop. Make sure that this professional has a written policy regarding what happens if he/she accidentally breaks your laptop while installing the new fan.

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