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Storm-prepare your computer

The hurricane season has begun, and is expected to be a busy one. There are several steps to take to prepare your computer for storm season: back up files, protect against power surges and consider a long-life battery for laptop use in an extended power outage.

Good storm preparedness readies us for the strong winds, but also anticipates several days without electricity. Even if your home remains undamaged, a single destructive event in your area could leave you without power, possibly without clean running water.

Tips on storm preparation can be found at the National Hurricane Center: www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/intro. shtml; at the FEMA website, www.fema.gov/ hazard/hurricane/index.shtm; and at www.florida disaster.org.

The first priority in computer preparation is to back up important files by saving them to a flashdrive, disk or online data storage. Files that change regularly should be backed up regularly. Extremely important back-ups should be stored at a separate location.

Minimal computer protection against storm damage is a surge protector. No device can stand up to the force of a lightning strike, but a surge protector can guard against damage from power surges, especially following outages. If possible, unplug electronic devices during a storm to avoid damage from lightning. Your surge protector needs to be replaced periodically. If it takes a big hit, its integrity can be compromised.

A battery backup with surge protector will provide enough power for work to be wrapped up and files to be saved. Most basic battery back up devices provide only 15 to 20 minutes of power. Before a storm approaches, consider purchasing a long-life battery for laptop use during an extended power outage. While normal laptop batteries provide one to three hours of life, extended life batteries power for four to five hours or more (depending on type of use). In the event of a long-term outage, the battery would need to be recharged by generator or through a car AC adapter.

The Internet provides easy access to hurricane tracking and preparation advice. Tracking information can be found at several sites. The National Hurricane Center web address is www.nhc.noaa.gov/. The Weather Channel tracks hurricanes: www.weather.com/newscenter/hurricanecentral/. Other sites include Stormpulse.com (tracks all U.S. severe weather) and www. wunderground.com/ tropical/. Wonderground.com posts intriguing and beautiful maps of sea surface temperatures and current satellite images. All of these sites are updated several times a day with specifics on location and strength of tropical storms.

So make good use of the Internet as you watch and prepare for a storm. Prepare your computer by backing up files, using a surge protector and having ample laptop battery power in case of a long term outage. And stay safe this hurricane season.

Patty Harshbarger, the owner of Computer Renaissance in Bradenton, can be reached at patty@cr-bradenton.com or (941) 753-8277.

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