Protecting Your PC During Colorado’s Spring Storms
In the last several weeks, our repair center has seen a spike in failed mother boards, power supplies, modems and the like.
Troubleshooting showed that in all cases, the devices were plugged into surge protectors, yet when lightening struck, the surge protector failed to prevent damage. Lightning can strike often and with great force this time of year in Colorado, and it pays to be prepared.
Computers depend on a steady stream of power to function properly. Power spikes and surges can easily overwhelm the power supply causing lost data or damage. Just as problematic are blackouts and brownouts. Fortunately, there’s help.
The cheapest form of protection is a power strip equipped with a good surge protector. While nothing except unplugging your system will protect against a direct lightning strike, a surge protector will handle normal fluctuations in current and the serious spikes that occur when power returns after a blackout. When a surge or spike occurs, the protector diverts the excess electrical current to a grounding wire.
You can purchase this form of protection for as little as $5, but we’d recommend you spend more to get a protector that carries a guarantee, has a sufficient “joule” rating (the higher the rating, the better) and includes line noise filtering and a phone jack.
Modems are particularly susceptible, as phone lines are just as sensitive, if not more, to changes in current. Plug the modem (or other device) into the surge protector phone jack, and run another cord from the protector to the wall. Finally, be sure the unit has a light to indicate whether the device is turned on and whether it’s still offering protection.
For better protection against electrical problems, use a UPS. As described by Wikipedia, a UPS is a device that maintains a continuous supply of electrical power to connected equipment by supplying power from a separate source when utility power is not available. When power is interrupted, the device will keep the computer or electronics running for a bit giving you a chance to properly shut down. A good UPS will also protect against surges, filter out line noise, and maintain the voltage at the proper level during brown outs.
For approximately $40, you’ll find units that will keep a standard home PC and monitor running for a few minutes or so during typical brown-outs. If you need power for an extended power outage, you’ll need to upgrade to a back-up generator.
Caution: A UPS should only be used for the monitor, PC and your internet connection. You should not use the device for cell phones, printers, and so on, which draw down the UPS battery more quickly making it less effective for your more critical components. Finally, be sure to test your UPS regularly, as they do wear out over time, using the built-in test mechanism.
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