Electrical Protection Access

Obviously, computers must be supplied A/C ("Alternating Current") in order to run. The problem is a/c obtained from your typical wall socket constantly changes voltage . Standard USA sockets are typically rated at 110-115V, however, in reality, this voltage probably varies from about 105V to 120V. These variations in voltage, in addition to "brownouts" and "blackouts" can cause severe damage to your PC.

Besides all the voltage variation in wall current, we have to cope with brownouts and blackouts. Brownouts occur when the voltage drops near or below the minimum range appliances can handle. Typically, this will cause a PC to shut down and quickly restart(...and losing all your unsaved data, hehehe). A blackout...well...duh, is a blackout.

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What Can Happen?

The problem with either of these phenomena is the  power spike associated with them. When a blackout ends, the power comes surging back with an attitude. ALWAYS unplug your PC during a blackout, even if you are using the methods I will describe below...unless you don't want to be 100% safe (...yes, some people take the risk. They are the ones at the computer shops..heheheh.). There is not much you can do about a brownout, but if you suspect something fishy is going on, then shut 'er down till things smooth out. Flickering lights and sounding smoke alarms can be a sign of a brownout.

What happens to your PC when you get nailed with a nasty voltage spike? It can potentially fry every component in there. If you're lucky, it will just toast the power supply. Assuming you read and followed BT's Buyer's Guide, then you can pick-up a new one for about $20-$50 and plop it in yourself. I recommend a good quality 235W to 300W power supply...I lean toward the 300W. If you have a Compcrap or other proprietary PC, you can look forward to forking out about $100 or more for a new one. Next on the toast chain is the dreaded motherboard (mainboard). Fry it and you'll  really have to come off some green.

Surge Suppressors (The must have $5 accessory.)
These do just the job they say. They "block" voltage spikes (surges) from entering your PC's power supply. Basically suppressors are rated for "clamping voltage" and "reaction time".   AND NO...they will not suppress the surge caused by a lightening strike anywhere near your power lines !!! All they do is stop normal voltage spikes from toasting your PC. Make sure your PC is plugged into a suppressor. This is the minimum protection you can provide to your PC. If you can't swing $5 to protect your expensive PC, then turn it off right now and wait until you can. It's just not worth it, especially if you can't do your own repairs.

"The mo' the mo' better". I use 3 suppressors on my system. Hey...why not? They are so inexpensive, it certainly can't hurt. I have an APS "Diamond" wall SS, into that is plugged a "Curtis" strip type SS, into that is plugged a desk top switching station.

Some SS's come equipped with a "phone line" jack. It's true, phone line voltages vary too! To save your modem, it's a good idea to use the phone protection.

Line Conditioners
These devices are like fancy surge suppressors, except that they have  improved circutry that smooths the current so it stays constant. If there is a dip in the current, they have small capacitors that will keep the current even. There are fairly expensive for what they do. You are better off getting an uninteruptable power supply.
Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS)
The ultimate in protection is the UPS. With careful shopping, you can pick one of these gems up for about $79-$89. They not only provide surge protection, but most claim protection against a direct lightening hit (Most of these UPS manufacturers also provide a warranty for up to $10,000). They are called "uninterruptable" because they hold a battery within their bowels. When the electric screws up, the battery kicks in and gives you a few minutes to shut everything down. The cheap UPS's give you about 4-7 minutes of computer time, more expensive units that provide hours of PC quality juice.

If you want to kiss power related problems and worries goodbye forever, buy yourself a UPS.

 

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