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by Ray DeCosta

Q. I have been told to watch out for power surges during the monsoon season. What can I do to protect my computer equipment?

A. The monsoon season has arrived and you should be aware of what danger that may pose to your expensive computer and other electronic equipment. Lightning strikes, power surges and outages can easily damage your computer and its components such as routers, modems, printers, scanners, etc. This includes just about everything that is actually connected to your computer.

Even if the lightning or the storm are not nearby, a strike or surge can travel for miles across the power or phone lines. These surges can be very unpredictable, cause expensive damage and even ruin your backup data if it gets into your external hard drive. In addition, your power may go out without warning thereby erasing all changes to a file since your last Save. An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) will provide surge protection plus sufficient electrical power for several minutes to give you time to save your work and properly shut down your computer.

Even if you feel you don't need a UPS, at a minimum you should purchase a GOOD surge protector. This is generally defined as one costing at least $25. Anything cheaper is little more than an extension cord and will probably not provide you with the necessary protection. You should look for a surge protector with an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 1449 rating to ensure a reasonable amount of protection. An electrician can also install a whole-house surge protector for you which will offer protection to all the appliances in the house.

For the best protection, shut down all your equipment and remove EVERYTHING that plugs into the wall when there's lightning anywhere around. That way nothing can get in to cause damage to your equipment. This means ALL wires between your computer (including its related equipment) and the various outlets (electrical, cable, phone and DSL lines).

Even the smallest power surge can cost you money for repair or replacement of damaged computer parts. This damage is avoidable if you pay attention and disconnect your computer when those monsoon storms start rolling in.

Published: Courier 7/7/13 - Page 3C