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How to keep your PC from being zapped

Updated on July 13, 2008
Fear the PC reaper!
Fear the PC reaper!

No, UPS is not just ugly brown trucks driven by overweight men in shorts showing off their flabby, hairy legs. Personal computer users need another type of UPS, and that is an Uninterruptible Power Supply to ensure that their expensive computer investments continue to hum merrily along and their data is safeguarded against a danger which claims countless Terabytes per year: voltage surges and drops. The UPS is essentially a battery that is situated on a circuit between your electronic equipment and the mains which evens out the current of the AC power source. Should the AC fail entirely, the battery will kick into action within milliseconds and provide power for you to shut down your applications and PC normally, safeguarding your settings and data.

In a perfect world, your mains outlet would provide consistent power which closely adheres to standard specifications for the electrical current that your computer's Power Supply requires. In reality, that is far from true. Even in major metropolitan areas electrical current is subject to interference from nearby operating electrical motors, and times of overdemand such as hot summer days can lead to serious voltage drops and brownouts. Even more dangerous are the chances that a nearby lightning strike will travel along the wires and literally make your computer explode.

A few years ago, a computer enthusiast friend's entire system went up in a big plume of blue smoke in a thunderstorm. He had been very cautious and had a perfectly suitable UPS connected to his system. He had unfortunately disregarded to place a surge protector on the RJ11 telephone cable leading to his faxmodem and although the lightning surge was stopped by his UPS from entering the PC through the electrical wires, the phone cord was a direct and unbuffered conduit right to the heart of his system. ZAP! Bye bye PC!

When installing an UPS you should be extremely careful to ensure that every single wire that leads from any part of your electronics system to the outside world is fed through the UPS or a top-quality surge protector. You should also carefully do your homework to ensure that the UPS you are considering can switch over quickly enough to keep your PC from rebooting in the middle of your work, which defeats the purpose of a UPS in the first place. The last three budget UPSes that I've purchased for under $60 all failed in this regard. When the electricity went out, they didn't switch over to battery power fast enough and the PC would go dark in the middle of whatever I was doing. Given that these systems were in rural Italy where electric supply is subject to the whims of slovenly vino quaffing Luigis who are more interested in the soccer scores than maintaining the electric grid (hey, you can't accuse me of being a racist... I'm an Italian myself), I was spending a lot of time cursing at my sudden reboots. Very frustrating, not to mention unhealthy for any unsaved data! Therefore, spend an extra few dollars to get a top quality UPS which will protect your system no matter what. You most certainly won't regret it. Especially if you're in Italy!


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