Is it Safe to Power Up a Motherboard Outside of Its Case?


Sometimes you need to work on hardware components, like a motherboard, outside of the computer case, but is it safe to do so with the hardware in question powered up? Today’s SuperUser Q&A posts looks at precautions one should take with an endeavor like this.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

Photo courtesy of machu (Flickr).

The Question

SuperUser reader misha256 wants to know if it is safe to power up a motherboard outside of its case:

I have a new motherboard which needs a BIOS update to support a new CPU. Thankfully, I have an old (compatible) CPU handy. My plan is to install the old CPU, update the BIOS, then install the new CPU. I would prefer not having to mount the motherboard in a case just to do the BIOS update bit.

Is it safe to power up the motherboard outside of its case? My understanding is that the case provides grounding for the motherboard. Could the lack of grounding be an issue?

Is it safe to power up a motherboard outside of its case? If so, what precautions should misha256 take?

The Answer

SuperUser contributors mvp and Ricky have the answer for us. First up, mvp:

Yes, it should be safe. Just be sure to put your motherboard on something non-conductive, like a cardboard box, and it should not touch anything that conducts electricity, including your main computer case. I have done this a few times. If you stop by almost any computer shop, technicians do this sort of thing routinely.

Followed by the answer from Ricky:

Yes, you can power up the motherboard outside of its case. Just take some precautions, like laying a piece of cardboard underneath the board, and you are good to go.

Also, the human body contains a static charge, so ground the static by touching a grounded appliance or wiring a ground circuit. Static charge in the human body might damage the sensitive electronic components on the motherboard.

You can check out the lively discussion thread for even more feedback to today’s question via the link below!

Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

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