Fog – How to Protect Your Computer from Bay Area Humidity

One of the most common ways to damage your computer is to absentmindedly reach for something and knock over a beverage. There’s the all-too-familiar, sickening feeling as you watch the drops follow a slow-motion trajectory toward your keyboard while you sit there, powerless. Another more subtle way to kill the computer is to simply disregard the fan as it gets more and more obstructed until finally the computer overheats and fails. These are dramatic malfunctions, but we know that if we’re careful, they’re usually avoidable.

The San Francisco fog- a product of Bay Area humidity- can have a deleterious effect on computers. Image from Wikimedia Commons

What we’re less familiar with is the impact that our environment has on our computers. Especially for people living in non-extreme climates, there is a disconnect between the weather and how it affects our electronics. This is particularly true for computers. However, there is enough of an impact that we need to understand the connection, take the appropriate precautions, and get the necessary computer repairs. Around here, it’s important to understand how the humidity caused by our beloved Bay Area fog can impact your computer.

It’s Not the Heat That Gets You

The Bay Area isn’t often thought of as being particularly humid. We tend to correlate humidity with hot climates, like Florida or Louisiana. A moderate climate, like the one we enjoy in San Francisco and the Bay Area, is pretty far removed from those swampy environs. But that’s a very narrow reading of humidity, which is nothing more than the amount of water vapor in the air. Now, that might trigger a mental connection to one of the things San Francisco is most famous for: fog.

Fog occurs when warmer inland temps meet the water of the Bay. This creates low-lying clouds (which is really cool because it means we walk in the clouds all the time). This is a year-round occurrence, but it’s especially prevalent in the summer. When this happens, the relative humidity (the amount of water vapor in the air relative to the total amount the air can hold) is at a staggering 100%. So while we may not think so due to the mild temperatures, San Francisco and the Bay Area at large actually have a very high relative humidity average.

The Impact of Humidity on Your Computer

As we discussed above, one of the biggest dangers to your computer is liquid. A humid climate is basically all liquid, all the time. Your computer is dependent upon millions of component parts. Microscopic transistors rely on hinges and connections to relay information. The number one enemy of these parts is humidity.

Whether you are talking about your home PC, or the computers at your office, the constant high relative humidity can seep in and cause the parts to slowly rust. What’s more, tiny water molecules getting in can evaporate when your computer starts to warm up, causing condensation. This essentially is a tiny wave of fog inside your machine. This is not good for the computer’s health.

Home, Office, and the Danger of BYOD

An important thing you can do to protect your computer is avoiding major temperature shifts. This is especially important in a humid climate like the Bay Area. Moving from hot to cold or cold to hot can cause rapid condensation inside the computer. Think of walking across the Golden Gate when the fog rolls in. You experience a huge difference in temperature. Now think of this happening inside your computer.

One of the bigger dangers comes from one of the newest trends in work: Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD. More and more companies allow this because of the seamless transition between work and home. Many are worried because of security risks, but humidity poses its own problem. A huge risk to your computer comes when you move from one climate to the other. For instance, from a sun-warmed Uber to an air-conditioned office, or sitting outside to work during lunch and then trudging back in for the meeting. You laptop or tablet was already facing tiny risks just from being outside in our climate and that risk is exacerbated by the shift.

Take These Steps To Protect Your Computer

Luckily, there are precautions you can take so you don’t have to feel chained to your desk. The best thing you can do when you transport your computer between locations is wait for the machine to acclimate itself to the climate before turning it on. You can also turn it off when you go inside or outside, which similarly allows it to adjust, thus preventing dangerous condensation. Bootup times are so rapid now that you won’t really be costing yourself much time.

For businesses, even if your computers never leave your office, the rapid climate shifts we can experience in the Bay Area and the high humidity means that you need to have a carefully-controlled environment. Many are now thinking that, appealing as it is, bringing in outside air as part of a free-cooling system can have deleterious effects on your electronics, given the moisture in our air.

We live in the tech center of the world. The natural advantages to living here are enormous. It’s interesting, then, that one of the great and hidden factors in computer degradation is the most prevalent feature of our climate. We don’t get too cold or too hot, but we are nearly always wet. But if you take precautions and take advantage of ClickAway – the Northern California computer repair experts – when something does go wrong, you can keep your machine humming for years.

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