Unplug your computer to protect it - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Business

Unplug your computer to protect it

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Posted: Wednesday, June 15, 2011 10:04 am | Updated: 2:43 pm, Thu Oct 4, 2012.

Now that summer is rapidly approaching many people are heading for the high country or other cooler spots to avoid the heat of the Valley.

So what to do about your computer? What about all those power surges?

How to protect the electronics?

The only true way of protecting your computer against power surges is to completely unplug the surge protector or strip from the wall socket.

Merely turning the computer off will not protect it from a power surge. Even turning off the switch on the surge protector will not protect it.

A longtime Ahwatukee resident who has spent a small fortune on bigger and better power surge protection units can attest to the fact that if a power surge or lightning hits nearby your home, even the best surge protection will not save your computer. It has to be physically unplugged from the wall socket.

When do you unplug your computer to protect it? Many people turn off their computer when the weather starts to turn nasty. If your power lines are above ground and it starts to lightning, it may be advisable to turn off your computer and unplug it from the wall, but most of our power lines are buried below ground so the possibility of being the victim of a lightning strike are slim.

"But what about these power surges? I hear they are very destructive."

Power surges are very destructive and they cannot be projected or forecast.

In the time it took to read this column, your electrical system has probably experienced a number of small power surges.

Those smaller ones are not harmful because the power supply in your computer is designed to provide very even and pure power to your computer components.

"What causes power surges and how do I know when they are likely?"

A power surge can be caused by lightning striking power lines as we have discussed above, but this is the least likely scenario.

When a household or factory device is turned on, it causes a dip in the pure flow of electricity causing the regulator to call for more power to maintain an even flow.

Once the flow has been restored, the demand for more power is reduced and power continues to flow evenly. Take that same device and multiply it by 100 or 1,000 air conditioners all calling for power at the same time?

There is a tremendous drain on pure power and, thus, the call for more electricity is extreme.

It is now a desperate scream for more power. Once the demand for more power has been met, it cannot be immediately stopped. It would be like trying to immediately stop a train going full speed. This is a power surge.

When the call for more power is extreme, say in the instance above of 1,000 air conditioners being turned on at the same time, the likelihood of there being a power surge is high. You cannot know when a surge may happen so planning for one is not possible.

"So what do I do to protect my computer and electronics?"

The best thing you can do is to get a good surge protector but do not go overboard. Even the best ones cannot completely protect you.

You may also want to unplug your surge protection strip when you leave for a few days or longer.

Remember, it is just luck whether or not you are hit by a power surge so count your blessings if you are not hit and remember that unless you are that longtime Ahwatukee resident who was hit numerous times by power surges, it is unlikely you will be hit multiple times.

• Mike Smothers is president of Smothers Computer Services and lives in Ahwatukee Foothills. Send questions to mike@smotherscomputers.com or call (480) 753-7667.

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