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What precautions should you take for your computer in winter?

Answered November 4, 2012

As it gets colder outside, it tends to get drier inside your home.

Temperatures drop, and furnaces pull cold, dry air from outdoors and turn it into warm, dry air indoors.

That warm air is more comfortable, but if it's too dry, it turns into bad news for your skin -- and also potentially a damaging situation for your computer and other electronics.

Your computer becomes a static magnet as the temperatures drop, and that's a problem, because many electronic devices store data that can be erased if it gets hit with a big shock of electricity. So take some precautions to make sure you don't break anything you value.

First, run your humidifiers -- whether they're connected to your furnace, or whether you have a stand-alone unit, a good one can keep the air inside your living space at a comfortable level -- usually somewhere between about 35% and 45%, though it can vary with your personal comfort level.

If you don't have a humidifier, or if yours has a hard time keeping up in colder temperatures, don't forget that you can game the system in other ways. A $10 clothes-drying rack can let you hang out a couple of pairs of jeans to dry after a round in the washer...and that can give your indoor humidity a quick boost (while saving you a little bit of energy, too).

After you've taken steps to maintain a good humidity level, be sure to discharge static before you touch your electronics. Try to touch something metallic to discharge static electricity just before you touch a computer. This is especially important if your humidity levels are low and you've been shuffling around the house in a pair of socks, but you can easily build up a charge just by walking around the house in a pair of shoes even with a comfortable humidity level in the wintertime.

Discharge that static first before you touch the computer...and be sure you've taken steps to protect the electronics first, by using a grounded outlet and a surge suppressor or protective power strip. The more layers of prevention you employ, the safer you'll be.