Important Computer Repair Safety Tips

How to stay safe while working on your computer

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. Don't 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.

man repairing computer
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Unplug for Extra Safety

As a second precaution, it's wise to unplug the computer from the wall or power strip.

If it's plugged in to a battery backup, be sure to unplug it from there, too, even if the battery backup itself is detached from its power source. As they're designed, there's likely still power flowing through it, and thus to your computer as well.

If there was any doubt whether the computer was off before, it's settled now.

Computer parts can remain hot to the touch for a little while after the whole system is shut down.

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 it 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.

Watch for Sharp Edges

There are often sharp edges on individual computer parts and the case itself—basically, anything metal. Take care to watch out for these areas so you don't get cut. You can also cover edges with something like tape.

Avoid Capacitors

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

Computer repair goes beyond hardware. See these tips on basic computer safety to learn how to avoid data loss and security issues.

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