Have you ever lost any work when your computer all of a sudden just lost power due to a blackout? That’s just one of the reasons why you should get an uninterruptible power supply, or UPS for short. Traditionally, a UPS is basically a backup battery system for when there is a blackout to keep your system running so that you can save your work and then shutdown safely.
However, there are more uses to a UPS and it’s not limited to only businesses or even computers. I’ve had a UPS for my home desktop system and other electronics for years and I’m glad I have them.
UPS systems not only provide backup power when the power goes out but adds quite a bit of protection circuitry to protect your equipment from brown-outs and power surges. Basically, it’s also a surge protector.
Brown-outs usually don’t cause any damage since the power dips and will not over-power anything. But, power surges can damage your computer and many other sensitive electrical equipment. When the UPS detects a power surge, it’ll automatically switch to battery power so that your equipment stays within safe voltage ranges. Once the input voltage has returned to the normal range, it’ll switch back and you won’t even notice anything.
With my APC UPS and the installed PowerChute software, you can actually set the voltage range sensitivity. If you set it to extra sensitive, you may find your APC unit switching to battery power too often. If you switch it to the less sensitive setting, it may not catch some power surges and if your computer or equipment is extra sensitive, it may get damaged without the UPS switching to battery power. I would leave it at the default normal setting.
If you’re typing up an essay or working on an excel spreadsheet, for example, and did not save your work when the power goes out, you’ll just have to start over. But, there have been cases where you may have to start over even further than that.
With most operating systems, such as the Windows operating system, many things run in RAM, or temporary memory. Basically, when you boot up your system, Windows will load certain parts of the system and applications into temporary memory for faster response and usage. When you shut down your system, it safely saves what it needs to from temporary memory to the hard drive.
When your computer loses power, it didn’t have a chance to properly stop running applications and shut down. If you’re running Windows 7 or earlier, you’ll notice a screen that says your system did not shut down properly and then it tries to safely boot back in or tells you to boot into safe mode. In many cases, this has caused the system to be corrupted and you may not even be able to get back into your system. So, you may not have only loss your work, you may have lost your system and would have to reinstall the operating system altogether.
The Windows 10 operating system has made this safer. Years ago when tablets were all the rage, Microsoft built a tablet friendly operating system, Windows RT. Well, this was a failed product for various reasons I won’t go into. Anyway, Microsoft decided that when they started working on Windows 10, that it would be both a desktop and mobile friendly OS.
For mobile devices, you will have to count on people using the devices until the battery is dead so they needed to make the OS able to handle abrupt shut downs and prevent any corruption. With Windows 10, if you’ve ever experience an unexpected power outage or dead battery, you’ll notice there’s no longer the boot error message saying the system wasn’t shut down properly. You’ll just boot back in and keep on working. Of course, this won’t prevent any loss of work if you didn’t save it.
Moving onto the main purpose of the UPS, how do you know which one to get? APC’s website has a great function called Help Me Choose where you can either input load amount, if you know it or, or device type, which would probably be easier for you. With this data, it’ll give you suggestions and even tell you how long your system will stay up for.
Remember, the personal/home battery backup systems are not meant for you to keep your system up and running until the power comes back up. They are meant to keep your system up running long enough for you to save your work and shutdown properly. The one I chose for my setup allowed it to stay up and running for roughly 10 minutes.
If you want to be able to keep your system up for hours after a power outage, get ready to spend a ton of money. These types of backup systems are heavy and cost a ton. And, they are meant more for servers than personal desktops.
With APC and PowerChute installed on your system, if you’re not around when a power outage occurs and your system is on, the application will actually initiate a proper shutdown after a preset amount of time once it switches over to battery power.
With most computers, it doesn’t matter what UPS you choose. However, if you have a decent gaming computer, then the power supply in your gaming computer may not be compatible with just any UPS. This is due to how the UPS generates AC power.
Real AC power looks like a smooth sine wave. Most low-cost or home use UPS systems generate a simulated sine-wave, sometimes also called step or square wave in the specifications. Gaming computers that have a decent power supply have a feature called PFC, Power Factor Correction. These types of power supplies do not work very well with square wave UPS systems.
If you do have a PFC type power supply in your computer connected to a UPS that generates square wave power, it can be detrimental to your computer. In some cases, your computer will shut down right away when the UPS switches to battery power. In other cases, you can actually kill the PFC power supply in your computer.
For those with gaming computers, you should look for a UPS that outputs a “true sine wave”.
Computer equipment isn’t the only use for a battery backup system. If you’re in an area that’s prone to blackouts or just want the safety of knowing you can still turn on some lights during a blackout, you can use a UPS for this. It’s not limited to computer equipment.
UPS makers such as APC and CyberPower have come out with smaller UPS versions that basically look like over-large power strip/surge protectors. They don’t have as large of a battery but if you’re just using it for lighting or other small electrical devices, it’s more than plenty.
For those of you with wifi-enabled security cameras, you can use these to keep your internet router and wifi unit up and running during a power outage. I’ve got battery powered security cameras so I would just need to keep the internet and wifi up and I’m good so if a burglar cuts-off the power to my house, I’m still recording everything that’s happening.