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How To Unknowingly Destroy A Perfectly Good PC With Static Electricity Zaps

Updated on March 10, 2009

My reputation as being a computer whiz (yes, in my nearly 30 years working on computers, I've whizzed on a lot of them) is not only restricted to HubPages, but to my circle of friends and acquaintances. Therefore, when I received a telephone call yesterday from a friend informing me that he was staring at a BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death) with the all too familiar KERNEL-DATA-INPAGE-ERROR 0x0000007A, I knew I had to grab my coat and head on out the door as he needed immediate help.

If anything can appear on a monitor that can scare a computer user more than this (other than your name on the most wanted list at fbi.gov), I certainly don't know of it. The evil 7A means that you have fried some hardware. This is not just some little problem that you can undo by reformatting your hard drive and doing fresh reinstalls from original software discs. Nope. This is the big one. You have circuitry that no longer circuits, and you can rest assured of one thing and one thing only: It's going to cost you. Big time.

The nastiest thing about 7A is that although it most often refers to RAM, it doesn't necessarily mean that just tossing your RAM sticks for new ones is going to cure all your ills. The problem could be within the memory bus on the motherboard, and the rot might have migrated all the way to your CPU. In economic times such as this, no computer user wants to shell out a huge wad of cash to replace a dying system but in the case of 7A there is often no choice. You can start replacing component by component, but by the time you're done and finally killed the 7A dragon, you likely would have been better off just to buy a whole new system.

I arrived at my friend's home to see that he seemed to have taken matters into his own hands. Literally. He was sitting crosslegged on the floor, his PC case opened and on its side, and was busy ripping its innards out. He already had his three RAM sticks on the synthetic carpet, alongside his video card and audio card. To add insult to injury, his cat was rubbing himself on his leg while he was poking around with the motherboard. I let out an audible gasp. After all, in my long experience with PCs, I have seen more valuable electronic components ravaged by static electricity than by any other single cause, and this gentleman was literally violating every single static safety rule in the book.

Static electricity is that spark that you get when you drag your socks along a carpet and then touch a metallic object. The amount of damage that shock can cause to every single component on a PC can often be terminal. Surprisingly enough, you don't even need to feel that spark to have damaged an electronic component, as the amount of current required can be so small as to be virtually imperceptible.

That is why, no one at no time should ever open up a computer case until they have secured themselves to a static electricity grounding solution. One of the best and cheapest is that little wrist strap that plugs into the ground and guarantees that you are completely static free. To do anything else is to risk an immediate trip to maxing out your credit card at NewEgg.com.

My friend admitted to having done that countless times before, which certainly explains away why he was getting the 7A. Sheesh. And yes, I have seen many systems relegated to an early grave by static zaps, and I do have to admit, I certainly have a rich repertoire of PC malfeasance anecdotes on various self-help noobs who end up destroying the systems they're trying to fix: Like the story about the time that I saw a guy take out the hard drive out of his case with a magnetized black tipped screwdriver, which managed to unscramble every bit of data on it...

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    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      9 years ago from Toronto

      My pleasure. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to assist!

    • Christa Dovel profile image

      Christa Dovel 

      9 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America

      Thank you for the link, and for taking the time to answer my question.

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      9 years ago from Toronto

      I've never seen wrist straps like that before. This is more along the lines of what I've used for decades:

      http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

      I try to keep water as far away from a PC as possible. If you have to use a damp cloth, make sure that the only liquid is isopropyl alcohol. Touching something made of metal does nothing unless that metal is grounded. The only part of a house which is guaranteed to be grounded (other than the electrical system) is a water pipe which is metal all the way down. The best way is still the wrist strap. They're cheap, readily available and work perfectly.

    • Christa Dovel profile image

      Christa Dovel 

      9 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America

      Is this what you mean by the wrist strap?  http://www.alibaba.com/product-tp/100449382/Static...

      I have never heard of them before, but usually use a damp cloth to wipe down my computer.  I also try to touch something metal before touching the computer.  Am I still at risk?  Thank you.

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