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How Storms Kill Computers

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I am writing this article 22 days after Hurricane Ike passed through the Houston area. I have seen many customers over the last few weeks with hardware problems caused by the hurricane and hope to help prevent some of this kind of damage in the future.

When the storms come rolling through and your lights start blinking it is obviously because your electrical power is turning off and on again repeatedly. For your lights and refrigerator this is not devastating, but computer components are much more sensitive to electrical power issues. To have the power turn off and on abruptly is very bad for the power supply, hard drive and mother board (large circuit board).

Often times when your power is off for a while, you will get a power surge when the power comes back on. This is why I hear many customers say "It was working fine then the lights went out. When they came back on the computer was dead".

So how do you protect your computer from something you cannot control? Invest in a good Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) with voltage regulation. This will provide constant, clean power to your computer when the lights are blinking and even when the lights just dim a little. It will also protect you from power surges better than most surge protectors. A good UPS will power your computer and monitor for at least 5 minutes giving you plenty of time to gracefully shut it down if your electricity goes out. Once you see the lights blinking, dimming or shutting off entirely, the best thing to do is unplug the computer from the wall even if you do already have a UPS.

You can purchase a good UPS for $60 - $100. You should connect one to each computer, but you can also use them to protect your audio and video equipment. A $75 UPS is cheap compared to a new HD TV.

Posted by Charles Swihart on 11/1/2008

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