Your computer will last longer if you do computer maintenance—unless you do your computer maintenance wrong. If you mess up, you could permanently damage your computer. Here are a few simple mistakes which you can easily avoid.

Static Electricity During Computer Maintenance

The easiest way to permanently damage your computer is to shock a sensitive component with a static electric charge. Household static electricity is powerful enough to make you jump back in pain, but for a tiny computer part, that same charge is enough to destroy it.

When your computer case is closed, your computer is designed to either prevent static electric buildup or to discharge excess electricity safely. But when you open your computer case for maintenance, that protection disappears and the sensitive components will only survive if you play it safe.

To transfer static electricity from your body to a sensitive part, you (or something you’re holding) have to nearly touch the part, so if you stay away from sensitive parts, you won’t damage your computer. But if you do need to touch a sensitive part, you need to establish a ground path for your body’s static electricity which does not go through the electronics.

The easiest way to establish a ground path is to touch a conductive part of the computer case. Conductive parts are any metal parts which connect to any other metal parts. As long as some part of your body (but not your clothes) are touching the conductive part of the case, static electricity from you will go there rather than into the sensitive computer parts.

The easy way to remember this is that you should always keep one hand on the metal computer case whenever working on the computer. If you need both hands, computer repair shops will sell you a technicians grounding wrist cuff for just a few dollars. You connect the cuff to your wrist and the cord from the cuff to the computer case and it does the same thing as holding the case with your hand.

Installing Strange Tools

There are hundreds of programs on the Web which claim to help you do computer maintenance, but some of them are a scam—and some of them contain viruses and other malware.

Whenever you install any software from the Web, you want to only install it from a reputable source and you want to make sure your anti-virus software scans it before you install it. Unfortunately some people are desperate to speed up their computer so they listen to any old computer maintenance tips and often install a rogue program.

Remember To Unplug The Computer

The last cause of computer maintenance gone wrong that we’ll describe may seem obvious, but it gets a lot of people in trouble every year. (Including me, once.) You absolutely should unplug the computer from the wall before you do any hardware maintenance, unless you’re an absolute pro and working on a server-grade computer.

If you’re working on a laptop or other portable device, you should also remove the battery. Do this even if you think the battery is empty.

Disconnecting the electricity will absolutely ensure that the computer is powered off, so there will be no residual power running through the parts to shock you or them. It also forces the computer to go through the boot up cycle when the computer restarts, so new or changed parts (even supposedly hotpluggable parts) will be detected.

The one time I left the computer power on while doing computer maintenance, I managed to short out my video card, destroying both the video card and my monitor. It was a very expensive mistake for me and one I vowed to never repeat again during computer maintenance.