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PC911 > How-To > Safe Computing > Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS)

- Alex -

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Unless you're Fred Flintstone, your computer runs on electrical power that you get by plugging the power cord into an outlet in the wall. You depend on that outlet delivering consistent power for your PC. However, most people don't realize that, depending what area of the U.S. or the world you live in, this power source can be very unreliable. Brownouts, blackouts, or power surges occur more frequently than you think. The results range from data loss to a damaged PC. To protect your PC against such events, you should seriously consider getting an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS).

Possible Power Problems

The power from the outlet is never 100% consistent, it constantly fluctuates. Usually, that fluctuation is very minor and does not cause any problems. But sometimes the power level dips quite a bit below normal. This can be caused by a sudden surge in power demand, e.g. on a hot day when everybody turns on their air conditioners. This dip is called a brown-out.

A blackout occurs when the power stops completely. This could be caused by an equipment failure at the power company, damage to the power line by a thunderstorm, or even a planned outage when repairs need to made or the power company rotates power outages to compensate for a high power demand as in the summer with air conditioners sucking up too much energy.

A power surge can occur if a lightning strikes a power transformer in your area. It introduces a sudden surge of energy into the transformer and if this surge is strong enough, it will travel through power lines or phone lines, into your house and into your PC.

Possible Damage

A brownout or a blackout results in a loss of power, which causes your PC to reboot or shut down in the middle of whatever you're doing. You'll lose data because you didn't save your work, or because of the power loss your hard drive crashes and all files on it are gone.

A power surge results in too much power suddenly going into your PC, which causes motherboards, processors, modems and/or other parts of the PC to be literally fried. You need to replace the part to get your system working again, because there is no way to repair a fried electrical component. And don't think that those cheap $10 surge-protected power strips can protect against this type of damage, they are considered useless.

The only way to protect your PC against this is an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS)

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