Unplug Your Electronics--and Anything Connected
Electricity follows the path of least resistance, and any physical connection to your computer should be disconnected. That is, it's best to unplug your computer, as well as all cables and cords, including Internet cable, printers, external hard drives, monitors, etc. Laptops should also be unplugged. Don’t forget to unplug your modem or router as well. If your computer uses a wired Internet connection, and the modem is still plugged in, a surge can travel along that path.
An easy way to unplug things efficiently is to have everything plugged in to the same surge protector or power strip, then you can simply unplug the power strip as storms approach. Although we do recommend having a surge protector, we've seen situations where the surge protectors do not offer enough protection from lightning, and during a storm it's best to unplug altogether. Do not assume your surge protector is sufficient protection, and do not rely on it to save your system. Unplug everything every time.
Why Are Surges Dangerous?
The power supply in your computer is designed to convert the incoming AC power into the various DC voltages required by the components in the computer. Both the circuits in the power supply and on the various chips inside the computer have a range of tolerances for the amount of electricity flowing through them. When that tolerance is exceeded, the component will fail, sometimes in a spectacular fashion i.e., bursting into flames. In the case of a power surge from lightning, any or every component can fail, immediately or slowly go down over the course of the next couple weeks or months.
Why Are Power Outages Bad?
The operating system on your computer is a complex series of files that are constantly being created, modified, and deleted. When your computer shuts down unexpectedly (as in the case of a power outage), that process is interrupted. When that happens, the data being written can be corrupted or left incomplete. The result is that the next time you start your computer it may have incomplete or damaged instructions, thus causing malfunctions. You can also lose the files that you were working on at the time of the shutdown. Modern operating systems such as Windows 7 and 8 are more resilient to this kind of file damage and have more robust repair options, but even they will fail if there is widespread damage to critical files. This is another reason to have a current backup of your data!
If You Have a "Zapped" Computer
If your computer is struck, your home or rental insurance policy may cover the cost of replacement. We can provide an assessment, estimate and replacement, if you should need one, we can also recover data from your old computer. In the case of a lightning strike, it is usually recommended to replace the computer, as there is no reliable way to determine the full extent of the damage, and some problems appear in the days or weeks following the strike.
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