Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lightning Can Fry Your Computer

Over the last few weeks some strong storms have pummeled our area. Not only have we had several inches of rainfall, we have experienced Mother Nature’s light show with some spectacular lightning. One bolt visited our neighborhood and left some serous damage to some of our computer equipment.

The lightning bolt hit very close to our house. While it did not damage the house and the lights only blinked, it fried my wifi router and my wife’s computer. The latter was not even plugged in. When storms approach, my wife is very careful to unplug her computer from the AC power.

Though I am not sure, I think the surge came into our house not on the AC power line but through my hard wired computer network cable. Our house has both wifi and a hard wired network. While my wife had unplugged her computer’s power cable, she did not unplug the network cable. Actually it was my fault because she didn’t even know she had a network cable as I had recently installed it because the wifi signal in her office was weak.

All of our computers do have surge protectors for the AC power, but I did not have surge protection on the network cables. This is something that I will add now that I have a brand new wifi router to replace the one fried by the storm.

Here are some hints to limit your exposure to lightning damage. First, make sure that you have a surge protector on all computers that are plugged into an AC outlet. This includes a lap top if you are using it on household current rather than on battery power. If you are using the battery, unless the lighting strikes very close, you are protected. If it strikes close enough to harm your lap top, the computer will be the least of your worries.

If you have wifi in your house the lightning can’t travel over the wifi network but, as happened to me, it can travel on the network cable line from your modem to your router and on to any computer connected to the wired network. So, either install an inline surge protector on the network line or unplug the network line from the router and modem during severe weather.

During a storm, if you absolutely don’t have to use your computer, unplug it from the AC outlet and any other outside connection, i.e., network cable, telephone line, etc. Lightning is unpredictable. It can travel in strange paths. A strike a mile away can travel through power lines, cable TV connections and telephone circuits. If it finds its way into your digital device it can turn it into high tech toast in a millisecond.

Surge protectors can be found at most all electronics stores. It is a good idea to use one, not only on computer equipment, but with TVs, game systems and audio systems. The protection is not expensive and can save hundreds of dollars in repair or replacement.


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