Computers vs. Lightning


lightning3There have been a number of storms in the Westlock area this summer, and I’ve seen the results of them on my workbench in the form of PCs that won’t power on anymore or have incurred strange performance issues.

Surge Protection Devices (SPD) such as surge power bars are good for combatting lightning, but are no guarantee. Firstly, they won’t always block the charge from a lightning strike. A portion of the surge can sneak through before it clamps down overvoltage, and a larger surge can exceed the bar’s capacity. Also, lightning doesn’t just travel through to your power outlets; it can also travel through the telephone lines, potential damaging your Internet equipment all the way up to your PC’s network adapter (if you’re connected wirelessly, you’re fine here).


What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

               Windows Starts Acting Weird or Not at All

windows-8-blue-screen-of-deathYour hardware can survive unscathed after a storm, but your software may still have been a victim. Windows loads back up after a power outage, but where did that file you were in the middle of copying go? New error messages such as the Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) start making regular appearances and irregular/poor system performance can all point to software corruption caused by the sudden shutdown. If this corruption happens to system files critical to the operating system, Windows may no longer startup.

               Power Supply Takes a Bullet for the Team

Where you plug the power cable into the back of the computer is your power supply. On the inside, it’s connecting power to the various internal components within a PC: the motherboard, hard drives, graphics cards, etc.

If a lightning surge reaches your computer with lethal intent, many times the power supply will go ZAP, but prevent the surge from going any further. Your computer will no longer power on, but everything else inside your machine is left untouched. Power supplies, at least in desktops/towers, are an inexpensive part to replace, and once replaced your PC is back up and running as if nothing happened.

               Additional Hardware Failure

Unfortunately, like SPDs, sometimes the power supply is overwhelmed and the surge spreads beyond it to everything else inside the PC. This can range from motherboard/CPU failure (an expensive replacement whose cost could exceed that of a new PC) to the hard drive holding all of your information being destroyed beyond data recovery.


What Should I Do?

               Don’t Spend $10 on a Bar to Protect $1,000 of Equipment

8BBE8D51-5056-9170-D3190E66D539D8C8_prNot all SPDs are create equally, and at the end of the day you will get what you pay for. The cheap Dollar Store With More power bar may be good enough for your coffee maker or alarm clock, but you’ll want something more for your home entertaining system and home office computer system.

               Uninterruptable Power Supplies

Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPSs) are like power bars on steroids with batteries. They do a better job of stopping surges in their tracks, and their battery allows critical devices to stay on in the event of a power outage. The purpose isn’t so that you can finish your Netflix movie, but to save documents and shutdown your computer safely.

Again (as with SPDs) not all UPSs are created equally either, providing varying levels of battery-capacity. And, although all of their available plugs will have surge suppression, not all of them are meant to provide continued power in the event of an outage (so you’ll want to make sure what you’re plugging into where).

               Unplug Your Devices

The ultimate and only 100% solution to protecting your PC from a lightning surge is to completely unplug it from your power outlets. Is it inconvenient? Sure. But, sometimes you’ve got to just get off Facebook and look out a window at the awesome storm clouds until they pass.

               Backup! Backup! Backup!

As if you didn’t need another reason for backing up your data. Should the worst happen and your hard drive becomes nothing more than a paperweight, you’ll appreciate having an external device with all of your valuable personal data on it.


How Can BRETT-TEK Help?

Whether your computer is no longer powering on or does but is acting up, BRETT-TEK can diagnose and repair both hardware and software issues plaguing your PC.

Client subscribers to BRETT-TEK’s “Back Up” PC Service Plan already have a data protection solution, ensuring their data is backed up onto an external drive. The same drives that BRETT-TEK uses for these clients is also available for purchase on their own.

Call BRETT-TEK to schedule an on-site or in-office appointment or to subscribe to one of our PC Service Plans.

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