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Looking Under the Hood

Before you remove the computer's cover, make sure that the computer is plugged into a grounded outlet (three-prong outlet, not a two-prong outlet) and that the computer's power is turned off (including the power strip if you use one). Once you have the cover removed and you begin working inside the computer, keep one hand or your bare arm in constant contact with the metal frame of the computer to keep yourself grounded. If you have access to a grounding strip, connect one end to your bare wrist and the other to the metal frame of the computer.

There is nothing magical or mystical about working on the inside of a computer. You don't have to be a certified electrician or have some special training from IBM or Intel, but you do have to be is careful! The only component inside the computer that has any significant amount of voltage is the power supply. Since the power supply is encased in a metal casing, you can't come in contact with anything that can harm you. The basic circuitry of a computer uses 5V and 12V DC, which is no more potent than the radio or dome light in your car. You, on the other hand, are the one who holds the spark.

If you have ever walked across a carpet and touched a metal object, such as a doorknob, there's a little blue spark that jumps from your finger to the metal object. Or if you wash your clothes and forget to use fabric softener, the clothes will contain a static charge that makes fabrics cling together. The amount of electrical charge in these two examples ranges from hundreds of volts to thousands of volts. So, you shouldn't be afraid of the 5V DC current running through the motherboard of the computer, the computer should be afraid of you! If you allow this static charge to get into the computer, you can cause some serious damage. So remember to keep yourself well grounded at all times while working inside the computer.


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