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This page is intended for informational purposes only. If you don’t know what you are doing and haven't researched it thoroughly, then computer repair is something that is best left to the professionals. Manipulating windows system files, registry files, improper installation of hardware, or installing the wrong hardware into your machine could potentially damage or even destroy your PC. While we do our best to make sure that everything we put on our site is accurate, South Coast Computer Repair is not responsible for errors, omissions, or inaccuracies on its site or the results obtained from use of the information provided herein. Web site users are always encouraged to check and confirm the information with other sources and through direct professional contact.



Two Tips to Preventing Damage When Installing Hardware


Electrical Damage the Silent Killer
Anyone who’s walked across a rug and gotten shocked from touching a metal door knob has witnessed the effect of static electricity. To humans it’s unpleasant but to computers it can cause major damage even if you don’t realize it at the time.  Humans start feel to voltage at about 4,000 volts and in the rug example above, you could be generating voltage up to 12,000 volts (without going into to many technical details remember that it’s amperage not voltage that kills people).  Computer components on the other hand, can be damage or destroyed by just 400 volts of electricity and unfortunately it’s the voltage that's lower than you can feel that is common, and deadly to your PC. You could be installing a new video card or adding RAM, not feel anything, and still be damaging your computer.  That is why the first step whenever you're dealing with any internal hardware is grounding.


The first step you always want to take is unplugging your computer from the wall. Even when your computer is off, a small amount of power is still flowing to your computer so even if you’ve done everything else right, there is still a chance you could short something out by just touching the wrong component while it’s still plugged in. 


Now that your computer is unplugged, you want to place the entire computer on a non-conductive surface (a wooden table is best).  Remove anything nearby that might cause a charge. This includes any plastic objects, rolling desk chairs and yes, even your cell phone.


Now that you have your work area clean, you want to use an anti-static wristband to ground yourself.  There are a variety of types and styles but you can generally pick one up for under $20 at a variety of retailers.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and connect the wristband and you should be good to go.


Remember while these steps can’t guarantee that you won’t damage your components, they will go a long way to minimizing the risks of permanently damaging your computer from acidental static discharge.


Don’t Use a Hammer to Crack an Egg


To explain how fragile the insides of a computer are I guess I should first tell you about my friend Frank.  Frank works for a construction company and he and I have been friends for some time now. One night he was talking about how his computer was making some loud noises every time he turned it on.  He tried calling the computer company he bought his computer from years ago, but like a lot of ‘fly by night’ computer guys, when he had a real problem they weren’t returning his call. I told him I’d take a look at his computer so the next day I went over to see what the issue was. 


It turns out his power supply was on the way out and as a result it was making lots of noise.  So I ordered him a new one and came back later to install it.  When I got there he complained that it was good I came when I did because his computer was even louder now then it was before.  I asked him if he had done anything to the computer since I was last there and he said the only thing he had done was cleaned the dust from the inside with air.  Fair enough.

So I went about installing the new power supply, turned the computer back on and sure enough, it was making a dreadfully loud noise.  I shut the computer down immediately and opened the case back up to take a look.  Upon closer inspection I found that one of the spokes on the cpu fan was broken. I knew it wasn’t broken the last time I was there so I figured it had to have happened between then and my last visit.  I wracked my brain for a little to try to figure out the cause, and that’s when it hit me.


“So how exactly did you clean the inside of your computer with air?”


“You know I unplugged it, and then I hit the inside of it with air to get the dust out.” Frank said.


“How exactly did you do that?” I said with a bit of trepidation.


“It was easy. I took it out to the garage, fired up my compressor and hit with all 150 PSI. Dude you should have seen it! I had that fan going like a million miles an hour!”


And there was the answer.  The moral of the story is not that you shouldn’t be using an industrial strength air compressor to clean the inside of your computer (although that is probably really good advice too!) but that the inside of your computer is fragile and it is important to use tools designed specifically for the working with computers. In most cases it doesn’t take industrial strength power tool to do serious damage.


Each component has a specific task and if one of them stops working it could spell trouble for the entire system.  When you’re working inside your computer make sure you’re careful what you touch and how you manipulate it. Even just plugging something in wrong could damage the part or worse, damage the computer itself. Luckily for Frank it only cost him about $30 for a new cpu fan but it was money he wouldn’t have needed to spend if had been a little more careful with his computer to begin with.


Working on your own computer can be fun and rewarding, but always make sure you take proper precautions before you start. Remember that static electricity is the silent killer for computers so try to minimize the risk by prepping your work area before you start, and do what you can to minimize static while you’re working. Similarly, be nice to your computer. It’s made up of thousands integrated components all of which need to work together to bring you your movies, games, and music. You wouldn’t use a hammer to crack an egg, so please use tools designed for computer repair when working, your computer will thank you for it.

Finally, if you don’t feel comfortable doing the work yourself and you call somebody; don’t be afraid to ask questions!  Whether it’s my company or somebody else, the technician that helps you should be able to tell you what he is doing and why he’s doing it.  If he won’t it means he either doesn’t really know what he’s doing, or he’s trying to keep you in the dark to possibly charge you more later.  Either way, it’s probably time you found a new computer guy.
Good luck and happy building!

Eric Stotts – Owner

South Coast Computer Repair


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About South Coast Computer Repair: Based in New Bedford, Massachusetts we focus exclusively on in-home computer repair to individual and business customers located in Southern Massachusetts and Eastern Rhode Island. If you have an idea for a topic you'd like us to write about, feel free to let us know. If you'd like more information about the services we provide check out our services page and as always feel free to contact us with any questions or comments.