Dead Computer

Cbrine

Well-known Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2003
Messages
3,196
I was using my computer the other night during a big thunder storm...when the power got zapped for about 3 seconds. It shut my PC down, and I didn't think anythnig of it, since it was time to go to bed anyway. I tried booting the next day, and the system wouldn't get past the memory check(Which showed OK). I was running it connected to a high priced powerbar from best, with a surge protector, but still something got zapped. I'm now in the process replacing things component by component trying to determine where my problem is. I always thought that the power bar's surge protector should have protected me from a spike....

I'm just wondering if anyone else has encountered anything like this? And if so, should I move to a low end UPS system to protect my computer?

Cal
 

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MorganO

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Nov 21, 2006
Messages
483
I've worked with many types of power strips, surge suppresors, and UPS's throughout my career, and can say there is a great difference between them all, and varied reasons why you would use one over the other. Your experience is unfortunate because a surge suppessor is only partially effective at controlling power fluxuations to your computer equipment. Certain UPS's will filter the power more effectively giving your equipment a cleaner power source to work from.

I found the following discussion that does a respectable job of describing the difference between your power options:

<TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width="100%" border=0><TBODY><TR><TD style="BORDER-RIGHT: 0px; PADDING-RIGHT: 10px; PADDING-LEFT: 10px; PADDING-BOTTOM: 4px; BORDER-LEFT: #bbd6ef 1px solid; PADDING-TOP: 4px" vAlign=center height=25>smca's Full Review: APC Back-UPS Pro USB 500VA (BP500CLR) UPS System</TD></TR><TR><TD class=nav-new-1-pixel style="BORDER-RIGHT: 0px; PADDING-TOP: 10px">Buying a surge protector is second nature, but deciding to plunk down the cost of a UPS (Uninterruptible Power System) takes a second thought. Here are some elements to consider and a few things that are important to know about both.

It is important to understand that any surge protector does not remove power spikes entirely, they only "collar" or cut down spikes to within an acceptable "fluctuation range" and act as a body guard to equipment in the event of a huge spike (lightning) -- i.e. the surge strip blows up rather than your equipment. A UPS such as the low end APC Back UPS Pros also substitutes battery power for a short time in the event of a power outage or brownout to enable you to do an orderly shut down of your system if the power loss is sustained, or to enable you to keep working without your system re-booting in the event of a momentary loss. How long the batteries can keep your system up and running depends on 3 things -- the condition of the batteries (normally not a concern), the capacity of the UPS system and the actual load being drawn from the UPS by your PC system. So, assuming the batteries are new and in good condition, a UPS that is rated for 8 minutes of backup power MAY keep your system up for 30-45 minutes if you're system isn't pulling a full load (fans and disk drives not constantly running, etc). However, it is important to know that just like any rechargeable batteries, the more time they are used and recharged (due to prolonged outtages) the less likely they are to hold a full charge. Batteries degrade with use and age (and environment -- i.e. hot temperatures) so it is important to have reasonable expectations about replacing the batteries once the system is 3-5 years old, or if you have experienced a lot of power outages.

Having said all that, why use an APC Back UPS? First, any microcomponent will operate more reliably and have a longer life span when the power it is supplied is clean and consistent. That means that even if you use a surge suppressor, if the "collar" range for surges is too broad, components in your system can degrade. The APC surge "collar" is narrower (closer to a perfectly consistent wave) than most others -- if you must have a consistently perfect power wave, you will need to dig deeper into you pocket for an APC SMART UPS which recreates a perfect power wave by converting AC to DC then back to perfect AC just like their commercial and industrial UPS systems (Silcon and Symettra lines) do.

Second, aside from the aggravation of losing data from a momentary power outage (an obvious reason to have a UPS), your system components tend to last longer if they are not turned on - off - on - off rapidly -- which what a brief power outage tends to force your system to do. It's not that dissimilar to flicking a light on and off rapidly (especially once it's hot) -- it'll blow a two year bulb in a matter of minutes.

A couple of other thoughts: got a lot invested in your stereo? HDTV? Tivo? WebTV? Tired of coming home and seeing your VCR flashing 12:00? Consider putting a UPS there (if you're an audiophile you may notice a significant reduction in static and "pops"). Last -- most lighting damage comes through your PHONE lines so PLEASE make sure to protect your modem -- atleast through a surge protector if not through a UPS (a UPS can't keep the phone line up but can keep your modem from frying).

</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>

Take Care.

Owen
 
Last edited:

Joe4

MrExcel MVP, Junior Admin
Joined
Aug 1, 2002
Messages
57,034
Office Version
  1. 365
Platform
  1. Windows
My parents had a similar thing happen to them, when lightning struck a tree next to the house and fried there computer. I think those surge supressors control "normal" fluctuations/surges, but lightning might be too much for them.

I always shut down my computer during lightning storms. Better safe than sorry!
 

TinaP

Well-known Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2005
Messages
525
The last time I spoke with anyone about surge suppression, I was informed that even the best surge suppressor couldn't fully control the current from a direct lightning strike. That said, I would still use a surge suppressor for the electrical fluctuations that occur everyday without our knowledge.

When I moved into my house, I hooked up everything in my entertainment center (TV, stereo, VCR, etc.) to a really cheap surge strip. One evening, while watching TV, I heard a loud bang and the power went out. After checking the breaker box, I tried unsuccessfully to turn the TV on again. About that time, I smelled smoke. In a flash, I pulled the TV out of its slot in the entertainment center. The cheapo surge strip had starburst char design on it. When I plugged the equipment directly into the wall outlet, all pieces worked fine. The surge suppressor gave its life to protect my equipment. After that experience, I put all of my appliances on surge suppressors and I don't buy the cheap ones anymore.

I really feel for you, Cal. Most of your data may still be recoverable. If you have access to another computer, you may want to try moving your hard drive to the other computer to see if the hard drive was damaged. I've had some experience with pcs and lightning strikes--your problem sounds like the motherboard is shot, although more than one component may be damaged.

Good luck.
 

Cbrine

Well-known Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2003
Messages
3,196

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Tina,
Yeah, I've pretty well eliminated most of the possible easy causes. I've replaced the memory, I've tried reflashing the BIOS, I've reset the CMOS, I've actually removed the hard drive entirely and booted just to see if I would get a different error, and that didn't change anything. I've got a sata drive, but all my old PC's are IDE, so I can't test it, but I'm pretty sure it's OK. I'm going to next try replacing my motherboard, and see it that resolves the problem...then it's on to the processor, and since by that point I will have pretty well all the components for a new PC...If that doesn't work I will have to buy a new case:).
 

Cbrine

Well-known Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2003
Messages
3,196
Woohoo...good news today...I came home and thought I would try again...and presto my system is back up and working. It looks like the CMOS reset takes a while to occur. So I'm back in business, with an extra gig of RAM. Looks like the power spike must have corrupted my CMOS or BIOS. I did some flash updates, but I'm not sure if they took. Oh well, I'm just glad I'm not buying a new mother board.
 

MorganO

Active Member
Joined
Nov 21, 2006
Messages
483
Now quick as you can, back up your files to an external device! I've experiences such resurrections only to have it fail shortly afterwards. I certainly do no wish this on you, just want you to not lose everything while you have a chance!

Take care.

Owen
 

TinaP

Well-known Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2005
Messages
525
What Owen said.

I've often found that the real lightning/surge damage doesn't show until weeks later when you are working on crucial data.

I'm thrilled everything started up for you, though.
 

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