The Season of Storms

lightning

The Season of Storms

For all of us that live along the Gulf Coast, we know what summer time brings. Summer means that we can do all of the wonderful activities that this part of the country offers, but it also means storms. We are used to a particular pattern of weather during the summer. Hot humid days then an afternoon rain storm then more sunshine that steams the rain off of the pavement like a sauna. But sometimes those afternoon showers turn out to be real window shaking thunderstorms. With thunderstorms comes lightning and with lightning comes destroyed electrical and electronic devices. Computers are especially vulnerable to lightning caused electrical damage. As a computer repair and IT consulting firm, The Computer Doctors sees dozens of computers, servers, switches and routers that are destroyed due to inclement weather.

There is a little sunshine in these clouds of doom. Newer computers are equipped with power supplies that offer a last ditch effort of protection to your computer. This protection can often fool us into thinking that our system has been damaged. After we have a nearby lightning strike and the power goes out, it is common for your computer to not come on at all after power is restored. I have been on many service calls where this is the case. The customer lost power after a nearby lightning strike only to find the computer unresponsive after power was restored.

The cause of this is a smart circuit that stops the flow of electricity going to the power supply from passing into the computer. It effectively detaches the computer from the wall power from inside the computer case. After power is restored the computer will not respond because the protection is still in place to protect from later surges as the power comes on and goes off again as is the case in many storms. To reset the protection, all you have to do is unplug the computer’s power cord from the computer and wait from 30 to 60 seconds. This gives the protection circuit time to “reset” itself and allow power to flow to you computer’s motherboard and hard drives again.

So if you find that after a power outage your computer will not start at all, pull the power cord and wait a minute or two then plug it back in. Now try booting as you normally would. You might have just saved yourself a $100.00 service fee from a computer technician. You’re welcome!

To prevent damage to your computer and its peripherals, you should use a battery backup. Most people equate this to a surge protector strip. They are not the same things at all. A power strip with a surge protector is usually a multi-plug strip with a fuse in it. Fuses protect equipment by stopping the overloaded current. They stop the current by burning or melting a segment of metal that is designed to melt at a certain power level. So when the power gets too high, the metal melts and destroys the pathway for the electricity to flow to your equipment. The inherent problem for fuses as protection during very high energy events like lightning, is that the energy has to flow through the fuse, even if it is only for a second, in order to melt the metal. That second that the energy is flowing before the fuse is burnt out is enough to destroy expensive equipment.

In comes the battery backup. The battery backup or UPS ( uninterrupted power supply ) protects your equipment in a different way. A battery backup will us the onboard charged battery and other circuits to protect your equipment. It will allow a short time of power for you to shut down your computers and peripherals as well as using smart circuits to dampen spikes and raise low voltage levels to operating requirements. Each battery backup usually has two rows of plugs. One row only offers spike and surge protection while the other row will draw power from the battery if the house power goes out. This is important because only a few of your devices need to be powered by the battery to give you time to shut them down. Mainly your computer and monitor should be on the battery/protected side and everything else on the protected only side. The more devices that you have on the battery / protected side, the shorter time the battery will keep your devices running. The power times are very short to start with. A typical home battery backup will keep a computer and monitor powered for just at minute or two. Just enough time to properly shut them down and unplug them.

I hope this has shed some light on power supplies and the protection they afford. Also I hope people can benefit from reseting their own power supplies on their computer and save themselves from a visit from the IT man. As always, The Computer Doctors are happy to provide answers to any of your computer or IT questions. Just give us a call at 251-665-0551.

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