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How Power Surges Can Smoke Your PC

Surge protectors are often the last thing most people buy when setting up a new computer system. Computer? Check! Flat panel monitor? Check! Printer? Check! Now to plug everything in. Oops, you don't have enough outlets for all the different power plugs. Not to worry, you'll just nip out to the local retail store and grab a cheap power strip.

STOP right there... By using a power strip (a fancy extension cord) in place of surge protector you are setting yourself up to accidentally damage your computer.

A surge protector has two functions. Like a power strip, it provides extension outlets for your devices but its main job is to minimize the damage caused by random power fluctuations called power surges.

What is a power surge?

A surge is any short-lived high voltage pulse that is above the normal 120 volts standard in US homes and offices. Power surges only last a few nanoseconds (1/100 of a seconds or less) but in that short time, they can easily damage the internal parts of your computer. Uncontrolled, a surge can either smoke a part outright or shorten its useful life from years to months.

One way to think of it is to imagine that electricity "flows" like water. And like water, electricity can placed under "pressure" in this case called "voltage".

So see, the higher the voltage, the higher the "electrical pressure". And like water pipes in winter, the micro circuits inside your PC can become overloaded and "burst".

What causes them?

Power companies have done lots of research in this area and they have discovered that are two main types of electrical fluctuations: internal (inside the house), external (outside the house). Let's look at the causes of those inside the home or office first.

According to research 80% of all surges occur from devices located inside your home or office. The biggest villains are air conditioner systems, and refrigerators. Both have large electrical motors that routinely shut off and then "surge" back on.

It's this "power on" that causes all those surges, spikes and blinking or flickering lights. Other "motor monsters" are hair dryers, power tools and computer printers.

External sources are caused by vehicle accidents involving utility poles, small animals falling into transformers, lightning strikes, construction boo-boos, fallen or swaying tree limbs, blackouts and wind or ice storms. As you can see picking a good surge protector is very important to the long term health of your PC.

What to look for in surge protector...

Choosing the right protector is easy with a few simple tips. People often think that power "surges", "spikes" and "blinks" or "flickers" are all the same. To the layman they close enough to be "kissing cousins" but technically the differences are important.

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