How likely I am to destroy the board?

I'm quite new around here, I do hope that I am posting in the correct forum.

I'm currently learning C++ (before going to standart C) to get my first Arduino board.

I know that the board is not protected against evil electric abused and I want to know if you guys can give me tips or trick on what to avoid and what to do if I want to keep my Arduino perfectly healthy.

Thanks :)

avoid wearing that balloon suit while shuffling your sock covered feet on shag carpet

I dont know the real answer, I do know as a red faced moment during the winter I came inside from smoking, took off my coat, walked over sat down and proceeded to zap my arduino's atmega328 with static so strong it jumped across a nearly quarter inch air gap directly onto pins

still works,( I wont be using that chip on something that is life and death though) the most fragile part it seems is the FTDI chip (which is the USB to ttl serial converter / adapter chip) as people are always killing them somehow, I wouldn't know I have a serial port model


It's definitely not hard to break something!

Most modern computers have a resettable 500 mA fuse on USB ports that will cut off power if you exceed this (ie, touch +5V and ground together). With this, as long as you're plugged into USB, it'll be virtually impossible to smoke something.

Some things to avoid:

  • Trailing jumpers (wires that have one end plugged in, but not the other)
  • Setting the Arduino on anything but a cleared surface (avoid setting it on "stuff" and be very careful when you have resistors, etc. sitting where you're working)
  • Consider buying/making a cover for it; Rob over at Duino A Day makes beautiful acrylic covers for the arduino. They're fairly priced too. It looks like his store is down right now, but you can check out his website:
  • When in doubt, do some research; If you're not sure how to do something, do some Googling, or else just ask here. That's one of the best ways to prevent bad things from happening :P.
  • Avoid drawing too much power from the 3.3V pin; This pin comes directly from the FTDI (USB - TTL Converter) chip. It is ONLY RATED to about 30mA (or something around there). If you draw more, you can and will fry the entire FTDI chip.

If you have more questions just ask :)

Setting the Arduino on anything but a cleared surface (avoid setting it on "stuff" and be very careful when you have resistors, etc. sitting where you're working)

yes most defiantly, a base is recommended and can be as simple as what I have, which is a (nice) chunk of plywood and some of those brass computer motherboard standoffs as a base for the unit to sit on

covers for both top and bottom, that is a personal choice, I can see the need, you move the arduino, a jumper pops loose, connects something to 12v, poof

Another hint: Don't plug and unplug wires or components into the headers on the Arduino with power applied -anywhere-.

Really, this is something you should keep in mind for -all- electronics when you are working with them; power should only be applied when you are ready to turn it on, otherwise, don't fiddle with anything if you can avoid it.

You should also avoid probing with a multimeter or oscilloscope while the circuit is live, if you can. It is very easy to short adjacent components or traces together with the probes (and it is also easy to accidentally probe a voltage level or such that exceeds your meter and/or scope).

Finally - if you must probe a circuit, use a single probe, in one hand, and keep the other hand away from anything grounded (in your pocket is good). This is a good habit to get into, especially if you decide to work on higher voltage (and high voltage) circuits (one zap from a flyback on a CRT - if you live - will be enough to convince you).


Definitely agree with keeping a clear workspace, especially little metal bits. Placing unprotected boards like an Arduino on a worksurface with metal objects is a sure-fire way to destroy it. A cover is a good idea (hence the reasoning behind our Gator board ;) ) Watch out for the cover material, however, as if you rub it around a lot it can actually generate static, depending on what it's made of.

Use resistors instead of wires for connecting devices. Most of the time you won't see a difference in actual operation but the little extra resistance (100 ohms?) will protect the AVR pins in case you do short them to something.

Leave the 3.3V output alone. Really...just walk away from it. Don't even look at it. As a poster mentioned, it's a direct jack into the FT232 chip so if you short it, or mistakenly apply 5V to it, you've got a complicated chip removal/replacement task ahead of you.

Finally, treat the board like a precious object. Hold it by the edges. Don't put your fingers on anything in the middle. It is NOT a consumer device that you can just toss around like a cell phone, drop on the ground, stick in your pocket, etc. Pretend it's an object made of very thin glass. It's not, of course, but it's the attitude towards it that matters.

And ground yourself by touching something grounded (metal case of a test instrument for example) often.

Thanks for all the answers.
I will consider ordering at least 5 Arduino in my order.
I tend to enjoy experimenting (the hard way)…maybe too much.
If I die from smoke inhalation, you are not the one to blame :stuck_out_tongue:

Using resistors instead of jumpers is a clever approach I never thought of! Thanks for the tip :).

I forgot to mention grounding yourself often like you said. A good static shock can fry many Integrated Circuits (I've found AVRs to be pretty resistant to ESD, but it should still be avoided).

wow! it never occurred to me to ask these questions when i started and now i realise that i've done almost everything advised against ;) yet my arduino lives on.. One thing I know is it takes a lot of beating

Yes the Arduino board and AVR mega processor chips are pretty rugged and forgiving. In supporting a standalone application I built I plugged the chip into my Arduino board backwards once and off by one pin a couple of times with no damage! I did damage a few analog input pins on a breadboard version of a 644p chip by appling -12vdc to a analog input pin once. So damage can happen by applying voltages outside the limits or drawing too much current from a output pin, it's not the end of the world with a standard arduino board as one can buy a replacement chip for around $6. Mega boards and any board that uses soldered in SMD chips are not as easy to repair, so the Standard Arduino board is probably best for beginners to learn on.


Who cares, the ATMEGA chips are only like $6! Blast away!!

yea + chipquick + time + eyestrain

328 is socketed, the mega uses a QFP surface mount package, while yes replaceable, its not something even I would want to fool with without a half a lab dedicated to rework, which most people dont have

Even with the socketed 328, don't forget the FT232 is a 0.65mm lead pitch SMT device and no fun to rework unless you have the lab for it and some experience. Apply >5V to an AVR I/O pin, watch the current go through the ESD diode to VCC and raise that voltage up above 5V, watch the FT232 go bye-bye.

I'm with tehjrow. A whole BBB is only 16 bucks, blast away! The very best way to find out what not to do is to do it.

Of course having said that I realize that is only applicable when talking about small amounts of power. I once put my hand on a bar in a foundry that was carrying a huge amount of power. I can still remember how the bar vibrated under my hand. The only thing that kept me from being a crispy is a pair of rubber soled shoes and a hand in my pocket.

I think you should always form cautious habits.

Sure, an ATmega328P is only ~4 bucks, but if you form habits about not being careful now, who's to say that you won't carry those on if you're working with High voltage?

I can't count the number of times I've been electrocuted through carelessness when disassembling camera, etc. Not to mention the times when I've accidentally touched 120V AC..

Not to mention the times when I've accidentally touched 120V AC..

I was once working on the lead-in junction box for a house I was renting, installing a new phone line, when a call came in...

I damn near went "briiing...briiiing!"


Yea, 90vac @ 20hz will tend to get your attention that the phone is ringing. ;)

What about bricking the chip? Is it even possible? If yes, how to avoid? I have almost no knowledge about memory bricking, I just know that the software doesn't recognize itself anymore or something.

Finally (before getting things started), from which should I buy my Arduino Duemilanove and what do you propose me between the original or a clone?

I never bought anything from them, but the Experimentation Kit from Adafruit seems pretty nice.

Or maybe the starter pack...

Thanks :)

As you are in Canada you might want to check out the below vendor link. They have original Arduinos, clone Arduinos, starter kits, and components useful for Arduino products. I've bought a few items from them and had no problems with their service.


What about bricking the chip? Is it even possible? If yes, how to avoid?

yea its possible, but your going to have to be monkeying around with fuses, which the arduino does not expose to the user