Protecting Computers from Power Outages

With planned power outages apparently the new normal in Silicon Valley and throughout California, it is important to protect your personal computers. Delicate computer hardware undergoes excessive stress during abrupt power outages, which can significantly shorten the lifespan of your device. When the power comes back on, sensitive voltage components can be destroyed, and surges can also result in data corruption of files.

There are precautions you can take to ensure the safety of your files as well as your PC or Apple devices.

1. Back Up Your Files

This should be something you’re doing on a regular basis for each computer or laptop you own. If not, its time to subscribe to cloud-based platform or purchase a drive that you can auto-schedule regular back-ups.

2. Plug into a Surge Protector

Surge protectors, or surge suppressors, create a line of defense against high voltage electrical spikes, or power surges. Increased voltage is extremely harmful to electrical components and these devices are designed to guard your computer and other delicate devices against sudden blackouts. At a minimum, plugging electrical devices and all computer accessories into a surge protector is a good defense against unexpected outages. If your desktop is plugged into a surge protector, it is recommended that you power down the unit prior to any expected outages.

3. Invest in a UPS

An uninterruptible power supply offers surge protector coupled with an additional five to sixty minutes of power, allowing you to save your work and safely turn off your computer. Essentially, a UPS turns your desktop into a laptop by providing it with battery backup. (Since laptops have built-in batteries, they typically don’t need a UPS but if plugged into a power source, laptops should be connected via a surge protector.) Depending on the battery life available, a UPS could also allow a desktop to remain functional for up to an hour. Some units include software that detect when the UPS switches to battery power, signally it to shut off properly and automatically.

When choosing the proper UPS for your desktop, it is important to purchase one with wattage appropriate to run your specific machine. A typical desktop would require a UPS with 300-400 watts while a gaming machine would need 600 or more. Choosing a device with less wattage will reduce the life of the unit.

Plug the UPS unit directly into the wall and then plug your desktop and monitor into the outlets in the UPS. Plug all other devices (those not requiring safe shut off) into the surge protector. Do not plug the UPS into the surge protector as that can reduce the life and effectiveness of the UPS. UPS batteries should be replaced every three years.

Starting at about $80, USPs are relatively inexpensive and come with an insurance policy that covers each device connected to it. For more details on UPS units and how to choose the proper one for your needs, click here.

Though many of us use power strips, they are not the same as surge protectors or uninterruptible power supply. A power strip adds extra outlet space but does not provide a barrier to minimize unexpected power surges. If you aren’t using a surge protector and/or a USP, be sure to unplug your sensitive devices from all outlets.

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