Byte Me Article 159 – Protecting your PC in the home

Protecting Your PC in the Home

508mm of rain overnight – that is how much one area in the ranges behind Mackay received Thursday night.  The sort of weather that cyclone Dylan has brought with it is tough on people and on computers as well.  There are several things to look out for with both the placement and maintenance of a computer which will determine its resistance to these climatic challenges.

Computers principally like to operate in a cooler and dry (low humidity) environment, free from dust and with a good even supply of power.  Under these conditions (for instance in a dedicated server room) I have seen computers typically run constantly for 5 to 8 years without a single problem – apart from needing replacement due to obsolescence.  This ideal environment of course is not possible in a home environment, however there are things we can do to achieve results close to the above.

All computers have internal fans to create an airflow for cooling.  This leads to many computers being seen as ‘dust collectors’ and we often create a mini dust storm here at our service centre when cleaning out a computer with compressed air.  Some environments are always dusty due to dirt roads or other problems however the ‘dirtiest’ air in a room is always closest to the floor – especially if you have carpet.  Getting the computer up off the floor to around desk level is one of the best ways to avoid this more extreme dust.

2014-02-01 Byte Me Article 159 - Bad Weather

If a computer does accumulate a lot of dust then during periods of high humidity (such as at present) this dust can become electrically conductive and cause power supply shorts as well as problems with the hundreds of copper contacts on ram modules and other motherboard connectors.  If you can’t avoid the dust then you may need your computer serviced as often as every 6 months.  We have also seen over the years many flooded computers where they were positioned on the floor and the owners were away on holiday when flood waters hit – it can even be as simple as a washing machine hose letting go and flooding the room where the PC is.

The other big PC killer is power fluctuations.  Because of Dylan, as of lunchtime on Thursday Ergon had already responded to more than 7000 homes without power.  It is obviously not the power being off that creates the threat to PC’s but rather the voltage spikes / surges that happen when the power is both cut and turned back on.  However, we not only get power surges from lightning / storms but also when a power pole is hit or when a transformer blows up.  These under voltage and over voltage conditions easily cause permanent or terminal damage to motherboards, video cards, power supplies and ram in most circumstances.

You can lessen the chances of power damage by turning off and unplugging a computer before any storms hit but unless you have a crystal ball you will never predict the other sources of power problems.  The only solution is a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply).  We have been supplying UPS’s with every computer we have sold for 11 years now and we class them as essential.  A UPS is a ‘black box’ about the size of a shoebox that sits beside the computer and filters all of the power going to both the PC and the screen.

A UPS will cost around $250 (for a good one) and with a simple $60 battery change every 3 to 4 years it will keep your current PC & future PC’s safe from electrical surges, brownouts and blackouts.  It will also keep your PC going for around 15 minutes after the power has gone off so we normally power the ADSL Internet router from the UPS as well so that you can complete an Internet banking session if that’s what you happen to be doing at the time of a blackout. 

Future Byte Me topics can be emailed to [email protected] and Bruce is contactable at Kerr Solutions, 205 Musgrave Street or on 49 222 400.

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