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Keep surge protection updated

For nearly everyone, the security of their computer and personal information is essential. High priority is given to software for anti-virus, anti-spyware and data encryption, as well as external hard drives and remote data backup. However, one aspect of computer security that is often overlooked is surge protection.

We live in the lightning capitol of the world, but lightning isn’t the most common source of power surges. Although lightning causes massive surges when close to power lines, it is one of the least common sources of power surges. Many smaller surges that happen daily can harm your computer.

A power surge is a temporary increase in voltage, the amount of power flowing out of an outlet at one time. This is similar to a high amount of pressure forcing more water out of the end of a faucet. Lightning increases the electrical pressure on power lines by incredible amounts, which forces much more energy out at the end of the line. Computer parts are very sensitive to surges, and must maintain a steady flow of energy to function properly. If too much energy is sent through these parts, the extra energy is released as heat and light, much like a light bulb.

Surge protectors employ various methods to keep unwanted surges from reaching your equipment. Nearly all of these rely on voltage sensitive parts that become super conductive when the voltage is higher than the wanted amount and release the extra energy into the ground wire. To refer to the hose analogy, this is like a pressure release valve that only releases enough water to return the flow to the desired amount. Even though the conductors are very effective at preventing surges from damaging your electronics, they can wear out, and are susceptible to the same damage mentioned earlier if the surges are strong enough.

The best way to ensure you are protected is to use a surge protector with an indicator light that tells you if you are protected. Be sure to check this often as it can be easily forgotten if tucked away behind a desk or other furniture.

Once the indicator light is on, you are no more protected from surges than if you were to plug your computer directly into the wall. If your surge protector doesn’t have an indicator light, you may want to look into one that does if it is more than a year old.

Surge protectors have different ratings to show their effectiveness. The equipment protection value is a good indicator of the overall ratings of the device. A higher value means a higher resistance to surges and a longer lifespan.

A quality surge protector is a worthwhile investment that should never be overlooked, especially here in Florida. It can extend the life of your computer if used correctly, and keep you from the hassle of getting it repaired at inopportune times.

Ben Harshbarger, a technician at Computer Renaissance in Bradenton, can be reached at or (941) 753-8277.