You need to know how to properly store a motherboard to ensure it will still work when needed for testing or in another build. The best way to do it is by using an antistatic bag to protect your motherboard, but what if you don’t have one?
- 1. Disconnect the Power Supply
- 2. Ground Yourself Before Touching the Motherboard
- 3. Use a Pair of Gloves Before Handling the Motherboard
- 4. Build an Improvised Antistatic Bag
- 5. Use a Cardboard Box Big Enough To Store Your Motherboard
- 6. Store It in a Place Away From Dust, Heat, and Moisture
- Other Tips When Handling or Storing a Motherboard
You can safely store a motherboard without an antistatic bag by using non-conductive materials to cover it. You can put it inside a cardboard box or your motherboard’s original box. Any material that can prevent damage from ESD and moisture will be a perfect container for a motherboard.
Aside from using a proper container, there are a few things that you need to consider when handling a motherboard to ensure that it doesn’t get damaged.
If you want to learn more about the proper steps for storing a motherboard without an antistatic bag, keep reading.
We have discussed in depth how to store thermal paste, so it only seems fitting that we do the same for motherboards.
Caution: When using foil or other conductive material to insulate your motherboard for storage, you must remove the onboard BIOS battery to prevent short circuits.
1. Disconnect the Power Supply
Before you disassemble your system unit to remove the motherboard you want to store, ensure you’ve disconnected all the power cables and other peripherals connected to any component.
This includes the connectors for the CPU, GPU, motherboard, disk drives, and fans.
This will make it easier for you to remove every component from the motherboard.
It’ll also be safer because you can work on it without worrying about damaging the computer parts or shocking you when you touch the computer case.
Remember, motherboards can easily handle a bit of physical damage, but they’re highly susceptible to damage caused by ESD (electrostatic discharge).
So if you want to store your motherboard safely, the first step is to ensure that no power is going through it before removing it from the case.
2. Ground Yourself Before Touching the Motherboard
Electronic devices have different levels of susceptibility to damage from ESD (Electrostatic Discharge).
Computer parts, especially a motherboard, have very high levels of vulnerability to ESD damage, which can even result in permanent damage.
An unsuspecting person can deliver enough static discharge to destroy the motherboard just by touching it.
That’s why it’s important to ground yourself to release electrical charges from your body before you touch a system unit.
You need to do it whether you’re only replacing one part or removing every component for storage to avoid damaging them.
Here are a few things that you can do to ground yourself before touching any part of your computer:
- Touch a metal surface before you touch any part of your computer. This is one of the easiest and best ways to ground yourself. However, you need to touch a metal object every time you finish touching a computer part. Another way to do this is to keep one hand on the computer case while working to keep yourself grounded.
- Use a conductive wire to connect your wrist to a metallic object. Suppose you don’t like touching a metal object regularly to ground yourself. In that case, you can still keep yourself grounded by wrapping a copper wire around your wrist while connected to a metal object.
- Wear clothes made of cotton to minimize static. Wool and synthetic clothes create more static than cotton. So before you even touch your motherboard and put it in storage, ensure that you wear the right clothing to avoid delivering static to the motherboard.
- Wear an antistatic bracelet to keep your motherboard safe. This is the easiest way to avoid damage caused by ESD on your motherboard. When you’re wearing one, you can be assured that you’re always grounded, and you won’t have to worry about static discharge, making it easier to handle and store a motherboard.
3. Use a Pair of Gloves Before Handling the Motherboard
If you’ve already grounded yourself, you won’t have to worry about handling electronic devices or computer components with your bare hands.
However, if you want to be sure that it’s safe to touch all the components in your computer, wearing gloves can provide you with additional protection.
Although it helps, many people oppose wearing gloves when disassembling a computer.
The space you need to work on, and the tools you need to remove the motherboard are small, making it much harder when wearing gloves.
Nonetheless, it will provide additional protection, allowing you to handle the motherboard and store it properly without worrying about damages caused by ESD.
4. Build an Improvised Antistatic Bag
Before building an improvised antistatic bag, it’s important to understand what it is and how it works. An antistatic bag has two layers:
- A conductive outer layer that protects the motherboard from static discharge.
- A non-conductive inner layer that serves as a barrier for the motherboard.
The outer layer of an antistatic bag is usually made of aluminum, which creates a Faraday cage effect for the motherboard.
The inner layer protects the board from the conductive outer layer and other elements that can damage it.
If you want to build an improvised antistatic bag, you can use common household materials, like the following:
- Aluminum foil.
- Zip lock or plastic bag.
- Newspaper or paper towel.
Here’s how you can create an antistatic bag for your motherboard:
- Wrap the motherboard in a non-conductive material. I prefer using zip lock bags over newspaper or paper towels because aside from protecting the motherboard from the conductive material we’re going to use, it also protects the motherboard from moisture and dust buildup. If you use it properly, you can have a container that works even better than an antistatic bag.
- Wrap the motherboard in aluminum foil. This will create a conductive covering for your motherboard that will protect it from ESD. You only need to be sure that none of the parts of the motherboard will come into contact with the foil, which makes the barrier an important part of this improvised antistatic bag.
- Put the motherboard inside a cardboard box. If you already have your DIY antistatic bag, this step is optional. However, if you want to give your motherboard the best storage to keep it safe for years, a cardboard box will help you get it.
You don’t have to spend money on an antistatic bag when storing your motherboard. Aside from the varying sizes you can get, it’s doubtful that you can buy them individually.
So if you’re only storing one motherboard, you can create your own, and it will still work fine.
You only need to understand how it works and the layers you need to recreate the same protection for your motherboard.
5. Use a Cardboard Box Big Enough To Store Your Motherboard
If you don’t like to build an improvised antistatic bag, you can put the motherboard inside a cardboard box and store it properly.
You can use the original motherboard box that came with it or even an empty cereal box that is big enough for your motherboard.
Cardboard boxes are non-conductive and will help protect your motherboard from other elements that can damage it, such as dust and moisture.
It doesn’t have to be a fancy box; as long as it’s big enough for your motherboard, you can use it as storage.
Even without static protection, your motherboard will be safe if it’s in a proper location and away from materials that may generate static.
In many cases, it’ll be fine to have the motherboard inside a cardboard box, even for years, without damaging it.
6. Store It in a Place Away From Dust, Heat, and Moisture
An even bigger issue when storing a motherboard is exposure to elements that can damage it, such as dust buildup, too much heat, or moisture.
These pose a greater risk to your motherboard than ESD, making proper storage location more important than antistatic covering.
I also prefer using zip lock bags when building a DIY antistatic bag.
Newspaper and paper towels work well in creating a barrier between the motherboard and the aluminum foil, but it does very little to protect the motherboard from dust and moisture.
When storing a motherboard, ensure that it’s in a place that maintains room temperature and away from moisture, like basement storage.
So the best way to store a motherboard, especially if you want to keep it for years, is to have it in a plastic bag and put it inside a cabinet with the other computer parts you have.
Other Tips When Handling or Storing a Motherboard
Aside from getting a proper container and putting it in the right place, there are other things that you can do to ensure that your motherboard will still work even after years in storage.
Here are some tips you can follow to ensure your motherboard is safe.
Hold the Motherboard on the Edges
When handling a motherboard, only hold it on the edges. There are hundreds of different parts that make up the motherboard, and some of them are vulnerable to improper handling.
Sweaty palms can also damage some parts, making proper handling just as important as proper storage.
The best way to handle a motherboard is through its heatsink and the underside.
These are durable parts, and there are no fragile parts around them that can get damaged while holding the motherboard.
Don’t Touch Anything Shiny on the Motherboard
If you’re new to handling and storing the motherboard, avoiding touching any shiny part is the easiest rule to follow.
These metallic materials are susceptible to static damage, and most are crucial parts that allow the motherboard to work properly.
These parts are easy to spot; in many cases, they’re away from the edges and the heatsink.
Holding a motherboard in these places is advisable because it’s away from fragile parts that may get damaged due to improper handling.
Use an Antistatic Bubble Wrap
An alternative to an antistatic bag is an antistatic (pink) bubble wrap. You’d have to spend money on it, but it’s still less expensive than antistatic bags.
Aside from this, it’s also more convenient when protecting electronic devices of varying sizes than antistatic bags.
It’s an even better option if you want to ship out your motherboard because it provides better protection than a plain bag inside a box.
So if you want to really be sure that your motherboard is protected from ESD, using this bubble wrap can help you get the same benefits with even better protection from shipping damages.
Remove the CMOS Battery
There’s a possibility that the CMOS battery explodes while in storage, and when this happens, it can destroy parts of the motherboard.
Although the risk of the BIOS battery exploding is very small, it still creates an unnecessary risk for you.
The CMOS battery provides the power that your motherboard needs to retain the BIOS settings for your computer whenever there’s no power supply.
It will keep powering your motherboard for years, so you don’t have to worry about draining it.
However, since you’re already putting the motherboard in storage, you likely won’t have to retain any settings for it.
The parts you’ll use with it in the future might be different from the ones it has in the settings, so there’s no reason to keep powering the motherboard.
There’s no downside to removing the motherboard’s battery, especially if you’re not going to use it.
Taking it out from the motherboard eliminates any risk of damaging it while in storage. Prevention is also why some motherboards come with the CMOS battery uninstalled.
If you need help understanding what CMOS is and how you can remove it, here’s a short video tutorial that can help you with it:
Storing a motherboard is easy because you only need to protect it from elements that can cause damage to it, such as dust, heat, moisture, and ESD.
You can safely store a motherboard, even without an antistatic bag, as long as you understand why people use it.
Even more important is how you remove the motherboard from the case and how you handle it without causing damage.
Remember, there are far more cases where a motherboard gets damaged or becomes faulty because of improper handling than failure to use an antistatic bag when storing.