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IT Essentials: Computer Lab Procedures and Tool Use

Chapter Description

This chapter discusses safe lab procedures and basic safety practices for the workplace, correct tool usage, and the proper disposal of computer components and supplies. The guidelines presented help keep IT workers safe while protecting the environment and workplace from contamination caused by improperly discarded materials.

From the Book

IT Essentials

IT Essentials, 5th Edition


Procedures to Protect Equipment and Data (2.1.2)

Replacing equipment and recovering data is expensive and time consuming. This section identifies potential threats to systems and describes procedures to help prevent loss and damage.

ESD and EMI (

Electrostatic discharge (ESD), harsh climates, and poor-quality sources of electricity can cause damage to computer equipment. Follow proper handling guidelines, be aware of environmental issues, and use equipment that stabilizes power to prevent equipment damage and data loss.

Static electricity is the buildup of an electric charge resting on a surface. Electrostatic discharge (ESD) occurs when this buildup jumps to a component and causes damage. ESD can be destructive to the electronics in a computer system.

At least 3000 volts of static electricity must build up before a person can feel ESD. For example, static electricity can build up on you as you walk across a carpeted floor. When you touch another person, you both receive a shock. If the discharge causes pain or makes a noise, the charge was probably above 10,000 volts. By comparison, less than 30 volts of static electricity can damage a computer component.

ESD can cause permanent damage to electrical components. Follow these recommendations to help prevent ESD damage:

  • Keep all components in antistatic bags until you are ready to install them.
  • Use grounded mats on workbenches.
  • Use grounded floor mats in work areas.
  • Use antistatic wrist straps when working on computers.

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) is the intrusion of outside electromagnetic signals in a transmission media, such as copper cabling. In a network environment, EMI distorts the signals so that the receiving devices have difficulty interpreting them.

EMI does not always come from expected sources, such as cellular phones. Other types of electric equipment can emit a silent, invisible electromagnetic field that can extend for more than a mile (1.6 km).

There are many sources of EMI:

  • Any source designed to generate electromagnetic energy
  • Man-made sources like power lines or motors
  • Natural events such as electrical storms, or solar and interstellar radiations

Wireless networks are affected by radio frequency interference (RFI). RFI is caused by radio transmitters and other devices transmitting in the same frequency. For example, a cordless telephone can cause problems with a wireless network when both devices use the same frequency. Microwaves can also cause interference when positioned in close proximity to wireless networking devices.


Climate affects computer equipment in a variety of ways:

  • If the environment temperature is too high, equipment can overheat.
  • If the humidity level is too low, the chance of ESD increases.
  • If the humidity level is too high, equipment can suffer from moisture damage.

Power Fluctuation Types (

Voltage is the force that moves electrons through a circuit. The movement of electrons is called current. Computer circuits need voltage and current to operate electronic components. When the voltage in a computer is not accurate or steady, computer components might not operate correctly. Unsteady voltages are called power fluctuations.

The following types of AC power fluctuations can cause data loss or hardware failure:

  • Blackout: Complete loss of AC power. A blown fuse, damaged transformer, or downed power line can cause a blackout.
  • Brownout: Reduced voltage level of AC power that lasts for a period of time. Brownouts occur when the power line voltage drops below 80 percent of the normal voltage level. Overloading electrical circuits can cause a brownout.
  • Noise: Interference from generators and lightning. Noise results in poor quality power, which can cause errors in a computer system.
  • Spike: Sudden increase in voltage that lasts for a short period and exceeds 100 percent of the normal voltage on a line. Spikes can be caused by lightning strikes, but can also occur when the electrical system comes back on after a blackout.
  • Power surge: Dramatic increase in voltage above the normal flow of electrical current. A power surge lasts for a few nanoseconds, or one-billionth of a second.

Power Protection Devices (

To help shield against power fluctuation problems, use power protection devices to protect the data and computer equipment:

  • Surge suppressor: Helps protect against damage from surges and spikes. A surge suppressor diverts extra electrical voltage that is on the line to the ground.
  • Uninterruptible power supply (UPS): Helps protect against potential electrical power problems by supplying a consistent level of electrical power to a computer or other device. The battery is constantly recharging while the UPS is in use. The UPS provides a consistent quality of power when brownouts and blackouts occur. Many UPS devices can communicate directly with the computer operating system. This communication allows the UPS to safely shut down the computer and save data prior to the UPS losing all electrical power.
  • Standby power supply (SPS): Helps protect against potential electrical power problems by providing a backup battery to supply power when the incoming voltage drops below the normal level. The battery is on standby during normal operation. When the voltage decreases, the battery provides DC power to a power inverter, which converts it to AC power for the computer. This device is not as reliable as a UPS because of the time it takes to switch over to the battery. If the switching device fails, the battery cannot supply power to the computer.
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