Opening up a computer for the first time: how do I not damage anything?!

Discussion in 'Computers' started by StevenA, Aug 15, 2003.

  1. StevenA

    StevenA Second Unit

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    I just received my new Dell 4600 which has one 80 gig hard drive, and I'm about to install a second 80 gig drive which was shipped separately (Dell Home/Home Office won't ship the 4600 with a second hard drive already installed, unlike Dell Small Business).

    Anyway, I have never opened up a computer in my life, and after reading the Dell manual along with various articles at the PCWorld site, I am now terrified that I am going to zap something with static electricity and damage my system.

    What precautions do I need to take in order to perform this simple installation of one hard drive, or should I forget about doing it myself?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

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    KEEP THE COMPUTER PLUGGED IN! Unless you have a grounded wrist-strap that connects to the grounding plug in your outlet, you must keep the computer plugged in! I get so unbelievably angry at these morons who write manuals that tell you to unplug your hardware. The second that you unplug your computer, you lose grounding.

    Keep the computer plugged in (and turned off, obviously), take the side off, and touch any part of the exposed metal to discharge any static electricity.

    Alternatively, you can wrap a thin wire to, say, your pinkie finger with the other side connected to your outlet's grounding screw or to the exposed metal of the plugged-in case. That will keep you free of static.

    A good dose of Static Guard on the carpet will be a big plus as well.

    Installing a hard drive is a piece of cake. It's one of the easiest things to do, besides adding memory.
     
  3. Mike LS

    Mike LS Supporting Actor

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    Dells are about the easiest machines to work on anyway. Instead of having a side panel that slides off or a cover, the side pivots open on hinges and all components are in right there.....much more accessible than a "normal" case. And usually there are tabs that you press or pull to release drives other than screws.

    Not a whole lot to screw up. Just dive in and get familiar with the guts of your new computer.
     
  4. StephenL

    StephenL Second Unit

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    Unfortunately, the Dell Dimension 4600 case has a cover on the side that slides off instead of the clamshell design, and the drives are mounted directly to the bay with screws instead of rail tabs.
     
  5. Lee L

    Lee L Supporting Actor

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    So they figured, hey, the 4500/4550 has to be the best case we ever designed and the easiest to work on, so we must stop using that design right away? LOL
     
  6. Jonathan_E

    Jonathan_E Agent

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    No offense John, but you seem to be way too over cautious. I have been throwing computers together for my friends for the last 6 years, and I have never zapped a single component. First of all, I would not recommend working with a computer plugged in (sure, you lose your grounding, but the other consequences could be much worse if you accidently hit your power button). Just be smart, if the environment is very dry (which I doubt seeing that it's still summer in the U.S.) then you may want to go out and get one of those wrist grounding straps. Personally, I have never used one of the wrist straps and I have never damaged anything from static electricity. Heck, I have even changed components while the computer was on without ever causing any damage (I still wouldn't recommend it even though nothing has ever happened to me).

    Main point: Be carefull and pay attention to what you are doing. If you do those two things and are as smart, or smarter than a 6th grader, then you can install a hard drive.
     
  7. Tekara

    Tekara Supporting Actor

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    I also don't leve the computer plugged in, it's too easy to forget to flip the switch on the back of the PSU, provided it has one, and bump the power switch turning the comp back on. it's even worse in my case as I use the power on from keystroke feature on my computers. so just tapping the keyboard will turn the comp on.

    grounding isn't too tough to do, just touch the case and discharge yourself before working on the inside. in addition try not to work on carpet etc. just taking your time will save you from a lot of problems.

    here's a tip with that hardrive, make sure you set one to master and the other to slave. even the most experienced of us tend to forget about this and problems ensue.
     
  8. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

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  9. Francois Caron

    Francois Caron Cinematographer

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    To avoid static discharges, I open up the computer, touch a metal part of the chassis preferably near the power supply (never touch any of the electrical components), THEN I unplug the computer. Afterwards, as long as I keep touching part of the chassis while switching components, everything is safe.

    Steven, you might want to double-check the jumper setting on the drive that might already be connected to the ribbon cable you plan to use (it doesn't matter if it's a hard disk or a CD/DVD drive). If the original drive is set to "Master", make sure your new drive is set to "Slave". If the existing drive is set to "Cable Select", you could either set the new drive to "Cable Select" or reset the original drive's jumper to "Master" and your new drive to "Slave" just to play it safe (I have no idea if "Cable Select" actually works -- never used it).

    The jumpers will be located near the PCI connector on the drive. The possible jumper settings should be printed on one of the labels.
     
  10. JamesHl

    JamesHl Supporting Actor

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    I don't know if I'm lucky, but back in the olden days I didn't know any better and I just unplugged the computer, opened the case, and touched a metal bit and proceeded to work. I've yet to damage/destroy anything, as far as I can tell. I leave the computer plugged in but switched off at the ps now.
     
  11. Paul_Nyman

    Paul_Nyman Second Unit

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    Can anyone here recommend a way to get rid of any dust build up inside my DELL 8200 case? The dialknob on the front of my CD tray is really built up with dust, I took a peek inside the case and it appears to have quite a dust build up!

    What to do that's safe and won't harm the boards and cards inside??
     
  12. JamesHl

    JamesHl Supporting Actor

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    Canned air is a popular choice.
     
  13. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

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    There are a number of different compressed air companies out there that sell -- you guess it -- compressed air in a can. You'll find them in any store that sells computer accessories. Now, granted, it just scatters the dust, but if you have a vacuum hose running while you spray at the dust, you should do okay getting most of the crap into the vacuum instead of the rest of the room.
     
  14. Cary_H

    Cary_H Second Unit

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    Whether to unplug, or not unplug is up to you, but maintaining a chassis ground is pretty much moot for static charges.
    What you are trying to achieve is to keep the potential of your body equal to that of your computer's components. Maintaining a ground just makes the chassis' one with that of your home's ground. Since we're talking about charges of so little significance and so easily dispersed to the chassis alone, a ground is unnecessary.

    As for wrist straps. If you fish around in a powered up PC and are partial to using them, make sure to use one that'll "take you out of the circuit" in the event you come in contact with something you shouldn't have.
     
  15. Glenn Overholt

    Glenn Overholt Producer

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    My take. I have been building PC's since '85, and have never lost anything. You should flip the black switch on the back, yank the cord and open it up. You are going to be touching the case first anyway, and as long as you don't rub your feet on the carpet it'll never happen.

    When you put it back together, hit the black switch in the back LAST, as most of today's machines note the change and will turn on immediately.

    The canned air is ok, but you should have a mini-vac handy too, and a small paint brush to help the dust along. If it is really bad (shame on you!) you could get a damp paper towel and wipe the dust off of the fan fins.

    Glenn
     
  16. StevenA

    StevenA Second Unit

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    Thanks everybody for the great advice! [​IMG]

    I decided to buy a wrist strap (only $5 from Fry's) so that (I presume) it will be OK to unplug the computer from the AC (I've heard that there is still a small current running through the motherboard when the computer is connected, even if it is switched off, so I want to avoid any danger in that area).

    The wrist strap has a clip attached to a pin. Do I take off the clip and just plug the pin directly into the ground socket of a regular AC outlet?

    I downloaded a diagram from Dell's support site which indicates how to configure the hard drive pins so that it runs as the slave.

    With regard to Dell's redesign of the case for the 4600, yes, I was quite disappointed that they seem to have taken a step backward in this area. Apart from that, however, the system is great so far!
     
  17. StephenL

    StephenL Second Unit

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  18. StevenA

    StevenA Second Unit

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  19. JamesHl

    JamesHl Supporting Actor

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  20. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

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