A friend of mine emailed me over the weekend to tell me that she’d had a power outage at her house while working on her desktop computer. The computer was plugged into a surge protector, but since surge protectors don’t provide any power except what comes out of the wall, the computer shut off immediately. I’m sure you’ve had this happen to you on occasion and it’s at least annoying. In her case, when the power came back on, she powered up her computer and found that it had gone stupid.
Windows wants to be shut down correctly. Most of the time if it’s not shut down properly it will come back up after it goes through some internal gyrations and cleans up what was left lying around when the lights went out. In my friend’s case, the mess remained and her computer display was missing things like desktop icons, the startup button, etc.
To make a long story short, she eventually got it working again by pressing various F-keys during startup (she isn’t sure which ones) and as of that evening was back up and running. I suggested that she might want to think about purchasing an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) to replace her surge protector. Had she been using a UPS, she could have avoided the whole issue.
If you’re not familiar with UPS’s, their job is to provide a battery backup so if the power stops flowing out of the wall socket, the battery takes over and gives you enough time to finish what you’re doing, or at least save your work, and then shut down the machine correctly. I’ve used UPS’ for years and I’ve lost count of the number of times they’ve saved me a huge headache, not to mention potential damage to my machine and/or data.
Back in the day, a UPS cost a couple thousand dollars and was only seen attached to business critical computers. Today, you’re looking at an investment of about 60 bucks for a UPS that will give you 15-20 minutes of run time on the battery, depending on the number of devices plugged into it. Any small business can easily afford to protect their hardware and data. In my opinion, they can’t afford not to!
The APC Back-UPS ES 8 Outlet 550VA is my favorite for a typical home or home business computer system. It’s big enough to power a desktop computer and monitor plus an external hard drive and even your modem and/or router long enough to save your work and shut down cleanly. You won’t be cursing the darkness, or even the momentary power glitch that drops power just long enough to shut your computer off. It’s got 8 outlets all of which are surge protected. 4 of them are battery-backed, as well. Obviously, you plug your computer, monitor and external drive(s) into the battery-backed outlets. The printer and other non-essentials go in the surge-only outlets.
The first time your power goes out, you’ll probably save your $60 investment just in time and aggravation alone. If it keeps you from losing data, or worst case, damage to your machine, so much the better. Abrupt power outages can have all kinds of negative effects on your computer hardware, not to mention the data contained in it, so in my mind it’s worth spending a few bucks to avoid that possibility.
If you use a laptop computer and the internal battery is in good shape, you don’t need a UPS for your computer, but you may want to consider a small UPS to keep your modem and/or router running during the blackout. If you’re using a desktop computer, it’s a must-have. Next time we’ll talk about how to back up your data properly so that if a power outage does cause you to lose data or damages your machine, you’ll be able to recover with a minimum of hassle.