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Changing the Working Environment

The risk of ESD can also be reduced by changing the working environment. For example, the flooring could be changed from carpeting to a surface less prone to static build-up such as tile or specially coated concrete. Similarly humidifiers or air ionisers could be installed to avoid the conditions which promote ESD.

Many other precautions are designed to protect components before installation. Most computer components are factory-packaged in special antistatic bags or inserted in antistatic foam. You should remove the component from the packaging immediately before installation only when taking ESD precautions. Antistatic bags and foam are specially treated to be conductive and to draw charge away from the components within.

When touching components such as video cards, memory modules, etc. avoid touching the contacts or the semiconductor chips on the components. You should handle cards by the edges as far as possible.

If you are involved in motherboard component replacement, such as removing and replacing integrated circuits, then you should ensure that any tools, such as 'solder suckers' and soldering irons, are suitable and are grounded or designed for antistatic applications. Many books and websites recommend, and cite as good practice, leaving a computer system plugged in but switched off while working on it. The idea is that the computer chassis is grounded and by touching the chassis before working on it you have eliminated any static charge. This practice is widely adopted but is not advised here.

The main reason is that it is too easy to forget to switch off the mains supply or for someone else to accidentally switch it back on. Although powered off, the computer system may still have live electricity, such as the cables going to the switch on the front of the PC - and in modern computer systems the motherboard has a permanently live feed. If you take sound ESD precautions then there is no need to take any risks, however low they appear.

Next: Fire Hazards and Precautions