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Question Is simply wearing the wrist strap and connecting the alligator clip to the chassis all you need to protect your pc from ESD? If so, how does the wrist strap keep you at the same potential as the motherboard and peripheral cards and memory? I understand how it keeps you even with the chassis, but the chassis is not connected to the motherboard (b/c the board sits on plastic contacts). Therefore, how does the wrist strap keep you and the board at the same potential if you are never really connected to it?
Answer

Typically people who open a computer and replace or repair circuit boards, electrically connect the computer chassis with the operator using a Wrist Strap along with ground cord to a Field Service Kit mat. Although there may be an ElectroStatic charge, it will be the same potential on each item. At equipotential, no ESD event can occur.

You bring up deficiencies in this approach. Only conductors can be grounded. Insulators or non-conductors cannot be grounded by definition. In addition, the motherboard or most any circuit board may have isolated conductors not able to be connected to ground.

Per ANSI/ESD S20.20 Section 6.2.3.1. Protected Areas Requirement "Ionization or other charge mitigating techniques shall be used at the workstation to neutralize electrostatic fields on all process essential insulators if the electrostatic field is considered a threat."

Per ESD Handbook TR20.20 Ionization, Paragraph 5.3.6.1 Introduction and Purpose / General Information "The primary method of static charge control is direct connection to ground for conductors, static dissipative materials, and personnel. A complete static control program must also deal with isolated conductors that cannot be grounded, insulating materials (e.g., most common plastics), and moving personnel who cannot use wrist or heel straps or ESD control flooring and footwear.

Air ionization is not a replacement for grounding methods. It is one component of a complete static control program. Ionizers are used when it is not possible to properly ground everything and as backup to other static control methods."

 
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