Q: How do I protect my equipment from power surges?

A: A brief, sudden increase or decrease in voltage (spike) can at the very least cause a loss of data on computers, and on a few occasions, damage sensitive electronic equipment such as microwaves, VCRs and televisions. Prolonged increases (surges) or decreases (sags) in voltage can cause significant damage to the equipment if not properly protected.

Computers are very sensitive to variations in the power supply. While these glitches are rare, they can damage your computer's hardware, crash programs or scramble data. To guard against power glitches, you should:

1. Copy and file data periodically (save your work at least every hour).

2. Make sure your home or business is properly grounded to send stray voltages into the ground, not into the computer.

3. Buy quality voltage surge protectors to help protect against spikes in voltage. Ensure that the product is UL-tested and labeled as a surge-protection device. Also, be sure to buy a unit with an indicator light that shows the surge protection is still working. Surge protectors can fail after even one large voltage increase.

4. During storms, unplug sensitive equipment, if possible.

5. Install a filter to keep out noise and static interference caused by lightning, large electrical motors or other equipment.

6. Install an uninterruptible power supply system (UPS) for the best way to protect computers or similar electronic devices against power failure, spikes, sags, surges, or data loss.

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