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 Podcast #2 Ė Power Protection

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1029usr078198 Posted - February 07 2008 : 00:49:09
Hello, Iím David Anderson and welcome to podcast #2. Our topic for today is power, and itís something our computers would be useless without. But too much power can destroy your hardware, and too little can cause random, intermittent glitches that are almost impossible to track down.

How do we protect our computers from power problems? A study by IBM concluded that the average computer experiences 120 power events per month. Understanding the problems we experience is the first step to protecting our computers. Power problems are classified by one of four basic types based on the direction of voltage change and the duration. They are:

  1. Spike: A sharp increase in voltage over a very short period of time. These are most often caused by nearby lightning.
  2. Surge: A rise in voltage over a long period of time. Voltage may go from the 110-120 range up to 150, for instance, and remain that way for an hour or more. During this time, your computer will run hotter, if it runs at all.
  3. Brownout: Also called sag, this represents a lowering of the line voltage for an extended period. A computer in this state may experience data corruption, program errors, or other abnormal behavior.
  4. Blackout: Power is lost completely. All work in progress is lost, and data corruption can occur depending on which files were open on the hard drive at that instant.

The first two, surges and spikes impact your hardware. The last two, brownouts and blackouts, impact your productivity. A notebook computer is less affected by these low-voltage situations however, since it has a battery built-in. The system switches over to battery when power is lost. A desktop computer is another matter. Desktop systems donít have batteries built-in to keep them running when power is off. For that youíd need a device called a UPS or Uninterruptible Power Supply. These are designed to give desktop users time to shut down their computers in case of a power failure. A premium UPS will have circuitry that allows it to boost a sagging voltage and/or trim a high one without having to transfer to battery. The standard UPS will switch to battery whenever the voltage goes outside the range it considers ďnormalĒ whether that voltage is high or low. This extra switching causes a standard UPS to be on battery more often than the premium ones, and it will wear out sooner. This device is the only one that protects you against all four types of power problem. When you buy one, youíll have to connect the battery yourself due to Department of Transportation regulations. Most of them have outlets that are surge protection only and others that are battery backed-up. Never plug a laser printer into a battery-backed power outlet as it pulls too much power. Other types of printers can be plugged into a battery-backed outlet.

OK, UPSís are a good idea. But arenít phone lines, cable wires, satellite wires, and antenna cables sources for surges also? Well, yes they are. Many surge protectors now include telephone jacks for protecting phone lines, network jacks for protecting network lines, and F-connectors for protecting cable and satellite lines.

Also, most surge protectors and UPSís donít really last more than two or three years. Their effectiveness is decreased by small surges that chip away at the protection they give.

I hope you find this information helpful. Iím David Anderson, thanks for listening.

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