I asked my son Tim how his PC was doing, and he replied that he had to often cycle the on/off switch on its power supply before trying to boot his computer to get it to work. Obviously, his power supply is having some problems. I had a spare CompUSA 400 watt power supply I believed was good, so I sent that to him yesterday via the United States Postal Service, which is rapidly establishing itself as the leader when it comes to getting my parcels where they are going undamaged, if not always in a timely manner. The whole affair got me to thinking about Tim’s PCs’ histories. Seems to me he’s had a lot of squirrelly problems, more than I would expect anyone to have. Our conversation about the power supply leads me to suspect he might have pretty ratty power at the wall socket.
I asked if he was using a battery supplemented Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) and he said “no”. He commented he had put his PC’s on better surge protectors, which is what most people do. I don’t feel that’s enough. If you really want to protect your investment in your computing equipment, UPS’s are the only way to go. I happen to like the “APC” brand. They have performed excellently for me.
A good UPS will not only protect your equipment from power surges (most of the really good ones will promise to replace your systems up to a certain dollar value if they are damaged by a lightning strike while connected) but will also smooth out less obvious power fluctuations that can invisibly shorten the life of your PC. Their battery backups make them an even better value since they kick in to keep your PC running when power drops out. That protects your data and your equipment at the same time. Who hasn’t seen the lights in their homes flash off when the power company switches substations or some car hits a power pole down the street, not to mention the standard summer afternoon thunderstorm? All my Macs and PC’s except for my Powerbook---which I run off the house voltage only on occasion--have an APC UPS hooked up to them. And the PowerBook is run off an APC surge protector when its plugged in.
If you’re seeing random failures and everything else you’ve checked isn’t causing the problems, suspect the power supply. And if you’re seeing a high failure rate on multiple machines or a sinle machine after multiple repairs (including replacing the power supply), I’d start suspecting the power being supplied from the tap. The computer’s power supply and the power being supplied to it both must be up to snuff to make one’s computing life pleasant. Ignore them and you might just be throwing both money and time down the drain.