APC Back-UPS ES 700 User Review - Protect PC From Power Cuts
This is an Uninterruptible Power Supply. Beautiful isn't it? No? Well maybe not, but it's useful!
Have you ever had a powercut?
This article is about uninterruptible power supplies, how they work and why they can be beneficial. They are very easy to use, inexpensive and very useful.
Last week I was sitting at my computer writing away when it happened. Clunk, plunged into darkness. Of course as I was writing an article at the time, then I lost some work too, although thankfully the autosave got most of it.
Anyway the power came on again a minute later, I rebooted everything and got stuck in again.
Kerchunk. Another power cut. That was it, I bought myself a UPS as soon as the power came back on. This article is about the benefits of using a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) and why they could be a good idea for you, your computer, your work and your general well being!
What is an Uninterruptible Power Supply?
These things are quite simple really in design. They plug into the mains and have plug sockets on them for you to plug in multiple gadgets, like your PC, monitor etc. They also have a great big battery inside the case. If you get a powercut, then instead of your computer turning off instantly, which isn't good for the hard drive and also could mean a loss of data, then the UPS continues running all of your gear from the back up battery. Brilliant!
The way they usually work is that the battery is charged up all the time in the background, so you don't notice any difference between one of these and a normal power splitter, but then when the power goes off, then an alarm sounds and you have a few minutes to save your work and shut the computer down.
At my place I often get powercuts and surges, they usually only last for a few seconds before the power goes back on, so when that happens then I can just carry on. If they last for longer then I can shut the power down without worry.
Powercuts are usually pretty boring. Get some battery backup and live the dream instead of staring at a candle!
But what if I'm out when I get a power cut?
This is what is awesome about some of the UPS systems on the market.
They have a system in place so you can connect the UPS to one of the USB sockets on your computer. If the power goes and you're out of the house, but have left your computer on, downloading or whatever, then you can set a time for it to shut the computer down if the power doesn't come back on. So after 5-10 minutes or whatever, the UPS sends a signal to the program installed on the computer and it shuts it down. You get back and it's all off. Awesome!
This man just lost all of his holiday photos from a powercut. Somebody get him a tissue (and a UPS!).
What's the point of that then?
Well obviously computers are pretty power hungry and running them off a battery won't last forever. The amount of time you'll be able to run on battery power depends on how much stuff you're running from the UPS and also how much you spend on it in the first place. The more expensive Uninterruptible Power Supplies usually have larger batteries.
If your computer just turns off without being shutdown properly, it can ruin your hard drive. This is because the hard drive head doesn't park properly it just stops wherever it was when the power died and can physically touch the platters inside the drive, destroying the data stored on there.
This can mean that your hard drive can corrupt and then you lose all of your data and need to get a new drive. This doesn't always happen, but the more often you turn your computer off without shutting it down properly, the more likely this is to happen. If you haven't backed up your data then you have lost it. It is sensible to back up your data so you don't do stuff like lose your holiday photos etc, but another safeguard you can take is to buy a Uninterruptible Power Supply and lessen the chances of this happening.
A hard drive collapsing because of power surge / cut has happened to me more than once and I really don't want it happening again. Even if you have backed up your photos or whatever is stored on the drive, then throwing a drive in the bin and buying another always stings.
If you have any other gear that needs to be shut down in the correct way, for example home theater projectors, then a UPS could be useful too. If you just turn a projector off without shutting it down properly, then the bulb doesn't get blasted by the fan which is part of the normal procedure and can explode on the spot. This happened to a mate of mine, he bought a projector, had a power cut, the bulb then exploded and he screamed and moaned in anguish. He did track down another bulb online, but it ended up costing him twice as much as it would have done if he'd just bought a Uninterruptible Power Supply in the first place and of course as he hasn't got one yet, then it could happen again at any moment.
If the wiring in your house is this bad, you don't need a UPS, you need an electrician, fast!
If your new UPS shuts everything down for you, or lets you shut it down yourself, then you don't need to worry. Another benefit is they have surge protection built in. Power surges have killed some of my electronic gear in the past, as well as destroying hard drives, it tends to take down stuff with small power adaptors.
My router was the last thing to be killed by a power surge and I had to mess about getting a new PSU to get back online. This won't happen again now I have a UPS!
Anyway the point of this article is to inform the people out there that do suffer from power cuts and surges (most people at some point) that a UPS can help you and stop you from breaking your electronic gear. There are plenty of different manufacturers of the things, APC (American Power Conversion) are one of the main ones though and they have been making UPS units for years.
Most of the real big units are probably overkill for a home user, I have a pc, monitor, router and a home microserver plugged into mine and have bought the APC Back-UPS ES 700 UPS. It's pretty hefty, but the price is good and it's enough to power everything I have on battery power for long enough to take the worry out of power cuts. You have to charge it for 16 hours before using it to allow the battery to charge fully, then you just plug it in, plug your computer, monitor etc in as well and off you go. If you want to install the software to automatically shut your computer down in the case of a power cut you can, if you don't want to or aren't very technical just plug it in and forget about it, relaxed in the knowledge that you're protected. The instant I plugged it in I instantly relaxed, my shoulders dropped 5 or 6 inches and I got myself a beer to celebrate. Hurray!
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Thanks for reading!