Abstract

Over the years, failures induced by an electrostatic discharge (ESD) have become a major concern for semiconductor manufacturers and electronic equipment makers. The ESD events that cause destructive failures have been studied extensively [1, 2]. However, not all ESD events cause permanent damage. Some events lead to recoverable failures that disrupt system functionality only temporarily (e.g. reboot, lockup, and loss of data). These recoverable failures are not as well understood as the ones causing permanent damage and tend to be ignored in the ESD literature [3, 4]. This paper analyzes and characterizes how these recoverable failures affect computer systems. An experimental methodology is developed to characterize the sensitivity of motherboards to ESD by simulating the systemlevel ESD events induced by computer users. The manuscript presents a case study where this methodology was used to evaluate the robustness of desktop computers to ESD. The method helped isolate several weak nets contributing to the failures and identified a design improvement. The result was that the robustness of the systems improved by a factor of 2.

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