How Much Static Is Too Much for Computers?

I know static is a problem when you have your computer cracked open, and when you buy a stick of RAM commercially it comes with a little anti-static wrist strap so that you don’t fry the computer innards. But how much external static is safe when using, not repairing, a computer?

I have a brand new fleece blanket. It’s wonderfully warm, but so full of static that when I peeled it away from myself in the pre-dawn hours this morning, I actually saw sparks. Am I putting my MacBook at risk using it in bed with this heavily staticky blanket? How about my iPhone?

A desktop computer case is grounded so static from touching the case should be no problem. In fact it is recommended that touching a case, when plugged in, is a good way to dissipate static before touching the guts. I am not sure if this extends to the keyboard and monitor.

I don’t know about phones, since they are not grounded. I used to have a Palm PDA that would do a hard reset if it got enough of a jolt, which was a huge pain.

I also don’t know about laptops, if they are not plugged in, since they would not be grounded. I would guess–hope, anyway–that somehow designers take this into account but I don’t know how they would manage it without an external ground.

The level of static electricity that can damage electronics can be quite low. In fact, so low that it can be undetected by you, the zapper.

However, electronic systems are designed with ground planes. It doesn’t, or shouldn’t, matter if the system is plugged in or not, the case and the associated ground planes designed into the system will protect the guts. Well, at least that’s the design intent anyway.