Important Computer Repair Safety Tips

How to stay safe while working on your computer

Man repairing macbook computer

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In addition to being an afternoon of great fun (seriously!), computer repair can save you loads of time and money. No amount of fun, money or time is enough, though, to compromise your safety.

Flip the Switch

Turn the power off before servicing anything. This should always be your first step, any time you work with electronics. Do not even open the computer case unless the power is turned off. If you see any lights glowing or flashing in the case, verify that you've turned it off — not just placed your computer in a hibernation state.

Many power supply units incorporate a mechanical switch on the back, killing power to the device and ultimately the rest of your PC. If your PSU has one, turn it to the off position.

If you're working on a laptop, netbook, or tablet, remove the battery in addition to disconnecting the AC power, before removing or disassembling anything.

Unplug for Extra Safety

As a second precaution, it is wise to unplug the computer from the wall or power strip. If there was any doubt as to whether the computer was off before, it's settled now.

Avoid Smoke and Smells

See smoke coming from the power supply or inside the case or smell a burning or solder scent? If so:

  1. Stop what you're doing.

  2. Unplug the computer from the wall. Don't wait for the computer to shut down.

  3. Allow the PC to cool or discharge unplugged for at least 5 minutes.

Finally, if you know which device generated the smoke or smell, remove and replace it before you continue to use your computer. Don't try to repair a device that's been damaged to this extent, especially if it's a power supply.

Remove Hand Jewelry

An easy way to get electrocuted is to work around a high-voltage device like a power supply while wearing metal rings, watches, or bracelets.

Remove anything conductive from your hands before working inside your computer, especially if you're doing something like testing your power supply.

Avoid Capacitors

Capacitors are miniature electronic components contained in many of the parts inside a PC.

Capacitors store electric charge for a short while after the power is turned off so it's wise to wait a few minutes after pulling the plug before working on your PC.

Never Service the Non-Serviceable

When you come across labels that say "No serviceable components inside" don't take it as a challenge or even a suggestion. This is a serious statement.

Some parts of a computer are just not meant to be repaired, even by most professional computer repair persons. You will usually see this warning on power supply units but you may also see them on monitors, hard drives, optical drives, and other dangerous or highly sensitive components.