TechPublishing Now MS Certified

TechPublishing Now MS Certified
Professor Robert McMillen, MBA Microsoft Certified Trainer and Solutions Expert

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Backup Battery Keeps Your PC From “Bricking”

A Backup Battery Keeps Your PC From “Bricking”

By Robert McMillen
“Earth Friendly” has been the theme this year for technology. This week we are proud to be hosting a “Go Green” event to show companies how to save money on electricity and be friendly to our favorite planet. One of the more controversial topics that come up is the use of a battery backup device called a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) to protect your computer equipment.
This brings up a very interesting question from one of our readers.
Question- “Should I get a UPS for a laptop computer? Is it true a lightning strike could damage my computer?” Julia F. from Portland, OR.
On the negative side the battery inside the UPS device is fairly toxic. As long as its recycled then there’s no problem, but how many of us actually do this? It’s hard to say.
They are also very heavy, and expensive. The worst thing about them is that as they get older they cause more harm than good. Eventually the batteries begin to fail and shut off for a few seconds and then restart causing your computer to reboot as well. This can cause damage to your computer and other devices plugged into them.
Battery failure is unpredictable but the average in my experience is around two years. This would mean that you should replace the battery in the UPS at around 18 months to avoid this issue.
Another problem is getting them replaced. The shipping is expensive and although they can be small they are very heavy for their size. Maneuvering them into place takes a lot of effort.
On the positive side they definitely protect your equipment, especially if you live in an area of high lightening (not that much of a problem for the Portland area but it does come up).  They are much better at protection than a simple spike protecting power strip, because if your power does go out you can have the UPS tell the computer it’s running on battery power and gracefully bring down your PC.
What do they cost you ask? Well I didn’t get that question in the email but everyone wants to know “How much?”. It’s the only thing on my mind when a salesman comes to my office. All I hear is “blah blah blah” until they tell me the price. The average cost is around $100 or less. Make sure you plug in your computer, and not you’re other peripherals. This will keep your computer up as long as possible.
If you have a laptop you can get the smallest and cheapest one out there, because your laptop battery should keep things running for hours after the power goes off. A UPS is still a good idea even if you do have a laptop because a small UPS is a lot cheaper than a power supply for a laptop computer, and the way the UPS cleans the power (called conditioning) is superior to a power strip).
A typical desktop UPS can run your PC for about 10 minutes before it has to shut down. This could buy you just enough time to save that email or document. Heck, you could even email PGE that your electricity is out before you shut down!
Now if you have a business that includes a server and other equipment there is no question you need a UPS. If your company runs off of that server, like most do nowadays, you don’t want to be worrying about your entire company going down due to a power spike, do you? That’s where the term “bricking” comes in. If you’ve ever seen a piece of technology fried by a power spike then that’s all its good for, a brick. You might as well buy some mortar and make it part of the wall décor.
You may have remembered a drunk driver in Aloha took out a power pole (and a drunk driving sign ironically) a few weeks ago. Well she also caused my whole neighborhood to be without power for about 45 minutes. I was very happy my UPS kept my equipment safe and running until I had a chance to save my work and shut it all down.
So the final word is this. If you have important information on your computer then you should protect your computer with a UPS, but if you are not into the hassle of recycling, or replacing the battery every two years you should just get a good power strip with spike protection from your local computer store. These run between $20-30. The $5 one from the hardware store is not going to cut it. The strips designed for technology equipment are a lot more sensitive.
For more great tips check back here each week and listen to me on the All Tech Radio show at 9:00 Sunday mornings on AM 1360 KUIK, or listen online at
If you would like your technical question answered here just email Even if it doesn’t get answered in the column I will always answer by email.

Published Thursday, October 16, 2008 8:27 AM by Katatkoin