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 both your computer’s power cord as well as all the other cables and cords, including Internet cable, printers, external hard drives, monitors, etc. 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.
Use a Surge Protector
An easy way to unplug things efficiently is to have everything plugged in to the same surge protector or power strip. Then simply shutdown your computer and unplug the power strip as storms approach. In addition, if a surge protector has been left connected during a power surge or lightning strike, it should be replaced even if it still works as it may be damaged. You should also be careful not to overload a circuit by having too many devices plugged in to one outlet.
Surge Protector vs Power Strip
Note that a power strip is not the same as a surge protector. A power strip is just a short extension cord with a bunch of outlets. In a surge protector, when the voltage rises above the accepted level, the surge protector suppresses the excess voltage to prevent it from causing harm. Specifically, internal components called metal oxide varistors (MOVs) absorb the excess voltage and divert it safely to the ground wire, preventing it from reaching the connected equipment. In order for surge protectors to work correctly however, your electrical system needs to be grounded properly. Generally speaking, if you have a three-prong outlet, it should be grounded. You can use an inexpensive outlet tester to verify that the circuit is grounded. If it is not, call an electrician.
Surge Protectors Won’t Save You From Lightning
Surge protectors offer protection in amounts called joules. Think of this like a reservoir of protection. If a product has 1,000 joules of protection, that means it can take ten 100 joule hits, or one 1,000 joule hit. Generally, the more joules the better. Thus, surge protectors are designed to take relatively minor surges, but they don’t last forever, and a large enough strike can power through them altogether. It is important to note, that no surge protector can save your devices from a direct or near miss lightning strike. At least, not one that would fit inside your house, as the average lightning bolt contains one to ten BILLION joules.
If You Have a "Zapped" Computer
Some of the symptoms of a zapped computer are a failure to power on, failure to boot, strange buzzing or high-pitched noises and random loss of power during use. If your computer has been struck by lightning, your home or rental insurance policy may cover the cost of replacement. Some insurance companies will require an estimate and/or a statement outlining the damages. We can provide an assessment, estimate and replacement, if you should need one. 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.