Protect Your PC in a Storm

November 6th, 2012 by Bob Bly

This may be the most important tip I give you this year, and not one person in a hundred is aware of it:

 If you use a gasoline generator when your power goes out, do NOT hook up your PC to it.

 Gasoline generators produce “dirty” power, meaning it fluctuates in voltage to a level unacceptable to a PC’s sensitive circuitry.

 My PC guy said that after hurricane Sandy, he had 25 clients with PC problems, all of whom connected their computers to a gasoline generator – including me.

 I was lucky: he got my computer back online in a few hours, and the only damage was to my back-up driver.

 Every other client had severe damage, from destruction of the PC motherboard to complete loss of data on their hard drives.

 The reason I wasn’t wiped out is that the subpar current from our gasoline generator did not allow my PC to operate steadily, so I couldn’t even use it. Turns out this was lucky for me, because I then disconnected the generator.

 If you lose power during a storm or for any other reason, do not under any circumstance connect your computer to your back-up gasoline generator. You risk destruction of your PC and loss of all your data.

 Here in NJ, we got hit hard by hurricane Sandy. We lost power, Internet, cable TV, heat, and hot water for nearly a week. The power outage shut down my business for the week.

 Our home phones didn’t work, but fortunately my office phone is with another carrier and it did.

 There are worse things than losing power for a week, but it certainly ranks up there.

 Our gas generator produces sufficient power to run appliances other than computers, so we connected our refrigerator to it and our food didn’t spoil.

 Without TV and Internet, you feel alone in the dark, not knowing the status of the storm. Fortunately we could plug in my little boom box to the generator and keep up that way.

 (Without a generator, we wouldn’t have even had the radio. There had been a run on D batteries, and they were impossible to get.)

 Many others in NJ were not so lucky: we saw a long line of people at Lowe’s hoping there would be enough generators to go around.

 Even with a gas generator, your power is not assured, because what can you do when you can’t get gasoline? Most gas stations had either run out of gas or had no power to pump the gas they had.

 To conserve gasoline, we ran the generator intermittently. At night, we could see by candle light, and we hung out in front of a roaring fire.

 We are now getting quotes for a full-house, natural-gas-fired generator. I want to make sure my business is never affected by a power outage ever again.

 Some scientists predict these super storms will happen with increased frequency. Our experience supports that. We used to get one big storm here every 10 years. Now it seems to be an annual occurrence.

 I also learned something about me: if I can’t work and write every day, I become restless and jumpy. I am only relaxed and happy when I write every day.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 6th, 2012 at 10:56 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

29 responses about “Protect Your PC in a Storm”

  1. David Bley said:

    There are gasoline generators that produce “clean” power to run your PC on. They are called inverter generators with sine wave output. You would not necessarily want to run your refrigerator or gas furnace off of one as they are cost more per watt.

    For your home, you may want to look at a tri-fuel system that can run on gasoline, LP gas, and natural gas.

    I have run my laptop from a 12V to 120V inverter that plugs into the 12V/cigarette lighter sockets available in most vehicles. If there is a gas shortage, purchase a moderate sized solar panel to charge your car battery. This won’t give you 24/7 operation but it will allow you to use your PC occasionally.

  2. Brian Croner said:

    If you run off a generator, an inverter will usually do the trick to stabilize the power.

    In regards to incoming radio communications, those hand-crank generator All Band Shortwave radios work great. I’m a ham radio operator: KE7LOY is my call. I own one of those and I have solar panels that will provide the needed power to at least get 5 watts out on High Frequency in a pinch and also to get my 2 meter rig on the repeaters.

    Enough of that… I’m just glad you guys are okay. Maybe it’s time to move your operation out to Idaho, Bob.

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    You may have saved me a lot of mental anguish, and now my computers will stay safe. Thank you for telling me about this!

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