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Getting ALL the fiddly stand-off washers into place before screwing M/B down

Hi Experts
Question is in the title.  How do YOU all do this?
Although I've never been told this with any authority, my understanding is that the red fibre washers are intended for the TOP of the motherboard to prevent the large screwhead from shorting a track close to the mounting hole.  Any recent motherboard I have seen makes this unnecessary because of the large area of solder around the hole, but I suppose that's the theory and reasoning.  I know that some people place the washers UNDER the board so that it it sits between the board and the brass stand-off, and whether they are mistaken or not depends on what is taught in A+ certification, etc, that I've never had.

I'm more concerned with the UNDERside of the board where you can't SEE how close to the tracks the brass stand-off might be sitting.  This is especially so with some cheaper cases where the standoff holes on the chassis can be slightly misplaced.  Most boards have a small amount of latitude to take account of this, but you just don't know how close to the circuitry the misplaced standoff is if the standoffs are badly placed because you can't see them.  I know boards are coated, and shorting is probably unlikely unless something scratches through the lacquer to the track, but I like to be careful just in case I short out someone else's motherboard.

I also find that, with a washer between the board and the top of the standoff, :
(a) I don't have to tighten the screws down much to keep the board secure
(b) I can unscrew them without unscrewing the standoff from the chassis hole as often happens with cheap cases and hard-surface to hard-surface interfaces
(c) I don't seem to get as much vibration being transmitted to the sides of a cheaper case.

I find plastic clip-down stand-offs extremely frustrating when it comes to removing motherboard without the help of an octopus, and I don't like flexing the board too much to nip and release them one at a time.  I also don't think they hold the board in place as firmly screws.  Buying new plastic screw-in type stand-offs is something I invariably have overlooked, but I've always got a bag of washers and screws at hand.  I've tried gluing the washers to the stand-offs first, but then the glue either doesn't stick cardboard to metal or you have to wait for a solvent-based glue to dry or the vapour could dissolve the lacquer on the motherboard..

So here's my question(s):
Do any of you actually use the fibre washers on brass stand-offs before screwing down the motherboard?
Where do you locate them?
If locating them UNDER the board, have you any good ideas for holding them in place while lining up the board holes with the stand-offs?

I'm expecting a mixed response here, and as you'll have gathered from the points, this is neither an urgent issue nor one that requires any really serious troubleshooting :-)
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5 Solutions
BillDLAuthor Commented:
Dammit, and Eureka!
In a flash I've just thought of an easy solution while I was looking to see how idiotic my question sounded.
I'm still keen to hear your opinions though, but here's my untested theory, and I believe it will be a good PAQ.

1. Short pieces of plastic, the used tube from inside a Bic (tm) pen, a split matchstick, or anything that sits inside the threaded hole of each stand-off without damaging the thread and won't scratch the motherboard surface if it maks contact while lining it up.
2. Slip a washer over each of these "pins"
3. Line up and drop the board over the pins
4. Remove them one at a time and insert a screw.

Why has that evaded me for so long?
Just need to remember and put my "locator pins" in the bag of washers and screws.
Maybe I should patent them before someone else grabs the idea and makes money from it.  :-)
Irwin SantosComputer Integration SpecialistCommented:
ok.. Bill.. this is a placemarkert.. heading on out to the office.
FWIW . . I assemble an average of three systems a week and have never used the little red washers . .
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BillDLAuthor Commented:
Thanks for that, simpswr.  Yes, I'm just being over cautious as usual.
I assemble probably on average about one every 3 weeks if I'm lucky, and I suppose it's just a methodical habit.
Thank God I'm not doing it as a means to pay the rent or I'd be living in a cardboard box.
As long as you only use a brass standoff where there is a hole in the motherboard, you should be ok without washers.  It's when you use a brass standoff and there's no hole and it contacts a circuit that you get into trouble.

I haven't needed to use them on a mobo since the early Socket7's. And that includes the mobo's I had to hack into a case (make some standoff's).

But if you like the washers for vibration dampers, just use a wee bit of something sticky (Elmers works great) to hold them in place on the screw or standoff (depends on whether you put them on top or bottom).

As for top or bottom, I have done both, but the top is easier to work with.  : )

Two more things:
1) I am Patienting your excellent idea.
2) OMG! I have Happy Fingers.   : /
Irwin SantosComputer Integration SpecialistCommented:
I'll go with whatever came in the case.

However, I keep a good stock of whatever you mentioned BillDL...
brass, plastic, wedgy, fibre washers..

And it all comes down to "depending on the motherboard & case"
Danny ChildIT ManagerCommented:
Back in the day when I built systems for a living, I just used whatever came to hand in terms of plastic or brass standoffs.  Plastic were quicker to use, and as long as you had enough spare, you could clip the top off any stubborn ones when removing a mobo if you had to.  I even used to use the plastic ones with the top *completely* removed on poorly-designed boards so you could fit them anywhere under the board so that they would at least take downward loads in highly stressed areas (under the RAM, for instance).  Anything metallic in such a location is too risky, as you've stated in terms of damaging the lacquer.

I liked the washers as I felt it was a  more professional touch, but I don't think they were ever necessary.  The entire point of the mounting holes is that they are there for structural, not electrical, reasons so I don't think there would ever be any tracks near them.  

So, as far as I can tell, the only benefit of fitting washers *below* the board would be a marginal decrease in transmitted vibration.  Bearing in mind that most pcs these days are full of horrible fans on cpus and graphics cards, then personally I wouldn't make the effort unless going for a really silent system with passive cooling.  IMHO, of course...
BillDLAuthor Commented:
Thanks for your input, guys.
Interesting to see other perspectives on this.

DanCh99, I've done just what you have done a few times, and that's snipping the top off plastic standoffs and leaving them in place for support on slightly mismatching boards/cases.  Glad to see I'm not the only one who has improvised like this.

Coral47.  Elmers?  I am sure I've heard the name, and I believe it was the white water-based wood glue that I recall being quoted by an American Luthier named Dan Erlewine, in whose books one of my questions about fret hardness was once published:

I assume "Elmer" is related to Burt Reynolds or comes from "Hazzard County", judging by the iconic jerk featured on a lot of the site's pages:
Oh, no.  Sorry, I see he's someone famous (not just for his prominent bleached teeth) named Richard Petty, who obviously has to use a lot of Elmers fibreglass body filler :-)

irwinpks, you've obviously had to improvise a good deal like I have, and I'll bet your bag of tricks has more junk in it than the average woman's handbag.
Women, irwinpks, and BillDL carry what they THINK they might need, while most men generally carry ONLY what they NEED.

Callandor, you're statement seems a little too obvious, but is nevertheless accurately stated ;-)

So, unless coral47 HAS stolen my idea and shared it on bulletin boards as his own, I'll probably adopt that approach with washers top and bottom .... until I have used them all up and don't need to bother thinking about them again.

Thanks guys.
Thank you much.    : )

>> Elmers Glue <<    Yes, it is the white wood/paper stuff they let kids play with for arts and crafts. You might want to take it apart someday.  : )
BillDLAuthor Commented:
PVA-based (PolyVinyl Acetate) glue.  The basis of what we call "emulsion" indoor wall paint here in the UK. Yeah, I know.  You guys have different names for things.  What you call "spackle" we call "plaster".  In effect we are rollering watered-down and dyed Elmers glue onto our walls.

Thinking about the PVA acronym made me think about PVC (PolyVinyl Chloride).
Here in the UK there is a type of driving licence category known as PCV (Public Conveyance Vehicle) which allows you to drive things like buses and mini-buses over a certain size for hire or reward.  Note the rearranged letters in the acronyms.  I recall spotting an advert in the jobs section of a national newspaper where a simple typo made the advert read "Seeking PVC Drivers" instead of "PCV Drivers".  To make the initial typo worse they stated in the advert that "flexibility is essential", which prompted me send a bogus application for the job on the basis of all my "plasicky" type qualities.  Here's the letter of application just for your amusement. I disappointingly received no reply.  I don't suppose they had much of a sense of humour given that the advert probably cost several hundred Pounds for a typo :-(

42 Plastic Avenue
Raincoat Estate

Mr. <name and company concealed to save embarrassment and legal action>

Dear Sir


I refer to your advert in the <newspaper_name> today  for the above position.

I am a "flexible" individual who can "stretch himself" to fit the job required.  Driving has always been a feature of our family and, in fact, I would say that I "came out of the same injection mould" as my cousin and brother-in-law who used to drive "PVC" vehicles and "Stretch Limo’s" for your company.  You may have met them at some point in the past.  Their names are "Lionel Vinyl" and "Pedal bin Liner".

My pastimes include keeping exotic birds. I have two South Guatemalan Parrots named "Polly Chloride" and "Polly Acetate".  I have a large record collection and prefer the original "Vinyl" to the newer CD’s.  I am a devout wearer of "plastic" underwear which I find very supportive when driving long distances.  I have my own disco which I call "The Cellulose Rapper".

In short, I think I have all the "P.V.C." qualities you seek.

Yours Sincerely
Carpet Underlay

For continuity of the PVC theme, I added an image of a "GI Joe" (called "Action Man" figures in the UK) to the top of the page like this:

Infantile and easily amused BillDL
Irwin SantosComputer Integration SpecialistCommented:
cool. thank you!
BillDL, you obviously have too much time on your hands, but it sure is amusing!
A trouble maker of the worst sort. Good job.   : D
BillDLAuthor Commented:
Yes, always a rebel rouser!

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