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Aside from malware and viruses, nothing has the potential to be more dangerous to your computer’s health than power outages. Here is how to ensure your computer keeps it boot on when a power failure turns the lights off.
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With the approach of the turbulent summer season, it is important to know what kills the electrical lifeline, how to safeguard your digital gear from fatal reboot disease, and how to reach the desktop when the computer refuses to restart. This knowledge is vital whether you use computers to do your job in a business office or your own home office environment.
To minimize the potential damage from electrical power fluctuations, you should have your computers and modems plugged directly into power surge protective strips. Surge protectors are effective protection against glitches due to normally fluctuating energy levels.
However, a direct lightning strike is likely to fry the surge protector and then burn out the electronic gadgets plugged into it. A good strategy is to unplug the surge protector from the electric wall socket when a storm arrives.
Another essential piece of protective equipment is an uninterruptible power supply, or UPS. A UPS is a sophisticated battery-containing device that supplies backup power to desktop PCs during electrical grid outages and brownouts. One of the most important services a UPS can deliver is continuation of the electrical power — usually about 15 minutes — giving you enough time to safely save your data and power down your equipment. The UPS will kick in when its sensors detect an interruption of electricity from the main service line to your home or office.
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The latest UPS models can reset to an off position automatically as their rechargeable batteries run out of energy. When the normal power supply returns, your computer can restart without its power supply being blocked if it is so configured. The BIOS settings in many computers let you adjust the power settings so the computer senses when normal electrical supply returns. You can pick up a UPS at office supply retailers and box stores, as well as your favorite online shopping center.
The software that comes with it safeguards the computer when it is unattended. This is useful if you use remote access services and file-syncing cloud storage services. Getting your PC to restart automatically after a power outage involves getting the computer to “see” the power returning by making some changes to the PC’s BIOS settings and installing the UPS-included software. Read on to learn how to do this.
What Breaks the Power
Causes of power outages involve some obvious and a few subtle situations. Mother Nature, device fatigue and dumb luck all figure into the power breakdown equation. Other than being prepared before trouble strikes, there is little you can do when the power grid fails. Here is a quick list of power failure causes:
Weather — Lightning, high winds and ice are weather hazards that often impact the power supply. Interruptions can last several days, depending on how rapidly ground conditions improve to let work crews find and repair the damage. Lightning can strike equipment or trees, causing them to fall into electrical lines and equipment.Severe distress — Earthquakes of all sizes and hurricanes can damage electrical facilities and power lines. This sometimes catastrophic damage can cause long-term power outages.Equipment failure — Even when the weather is not a primary cause of a power outage, faulty equipment in the electrical system can be a primary cause of outages. Hardware breakdowns result from failure due to age, performance and other factors. Sometimes, adverse weather, such as lightning strikes, can weaken equipment. High demands on the electrical grid also can cause overloads and faults that make equipment more susceptible to failure over time.Wildlife — Small creatures have an uncanny knack for squeezing into places they do not belong in search of food or warmth. When squirrels, snakes and birds come into contact with equipment such as transformers and fuses, they can cause equipment to fail momentarily or shut down completely.Trees — Weather can be a secondary contributor, causing circumstances that can lead to power outages when trees interfere with power lines. During high winds and ice storms, tree limbs or entire trees can come into contact with poles and power lines.Public damage — Accidents happen. Vehicle accidents or construction equipment can cause broken utility poles, downed power lines and equipment damage. Excavation digging is another cause of power loss when underground cables are disturbed.Tracking — When dust accumulates on the insulators of utility poles and then combines with light moisture from fog or drizzle, it turns dust into a conductor. This causes equipment to fail.Momentary circuit interruptions — Blinks, or short-duration interruptions, are annoying. However, they serve a valuable purpose by shutting off the flow of electricity briefly to prevent a longer power outage when an object comes in contact with electric lines, causing a fault. If power surge strips (not multi-socket power strips) are not attached to your computer gear, the sudden loss of electricity and then a surge of power can cause data loss or component failure.
Dealing With It
You can not prevent the power grid from going down, but you can takes steps to ensure that it does not take your computer down with it. You also can learn what to do if your computer refuses to boot up to the desktop once the power returns.
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First, before trouble strikes, make sure you set the BIOS switches to enable your computer to restart after a power interruption. The BIOS circuits are hardwired to the computer’s motherboard. You must establish the restart settings when there is no loss of electricity. You must be able to start the computer to reach the BIOS controls.