The ignored and forgotten computer component
I don't know if you looked at the title of the thread and took some time to consider what component I could possibly be talking about and if you tried to guess in advance before opening the thread.
The component I am talking about is of course the UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). I searched on the forum and there was a grand total of ZERO either threads or mentions of "UPS" when I went into the "Advanced Search".
The UPS is NOT there to keep your computer running during a blackout so that you can continue to play your favourite game. It is there to safely shut your computer down and prevent data loss. However a UPS can do so very much more.
A good UPS will provide real surge protection for the attached devices, not the "let's pretend" surge protection of your normal "surge protected" power strip. You might think that I am maligning the manufacturers of those power strips but let me speak from my own experience.
I lived in Germany and in the 14 years or so I had a computer there I had exactly one PSU (Power Supply Unit) die on me, and that was about nine years old, so I think it was more a case of it giving up the will to live than actually being killed by a power surge.
I came to the UK in 1998 and in that time until 2009 I had six PSUs blow on me and also two motherboards. This although the computers were attached to expensive "surge protected" power strips. I then finally decided to be sensible and get an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) unit. When I built my new computer I also decided to go with a high end PSU (a Corsair AX850) and that has also paid dividends (as I shall document below). Since 2009 I have had no incidents of hardware being destroyed.
With regard to the AX850, a few weeks ago the building in which I live suffered a large power surge. Now before that we had a power cut and I had transferred my UPS to my communications equipment to power that so I could access the Internet with my battery powered netbook and I had not transferred my UPS back again (I have now bought a second UPS).
The power surge caused my computer to shut down, and it would not restart. I thought that I had another dead PSU, but no, after about 10 minutes I could power up my system again. Two of my neighbours were not so lucky, one had only lost his PSU, but the other neighbour lost not only his PSU but also his motherboard. Luckily for them I never throw anything away and I had a couple of spare PSUs and also - by sheer blind chance - an old socket 775 motherboard (which even more miraculously still worked even though it had been pretty much cavalierly thrown about the house for a few years). Needless to say they had their computers plugged into a "surge protected" power strip.
As I mentioned above, another use for a UPS is to power vital equipment (such as your Router), which don't need much in the way of electricity, to get you through a few hours of a blackout.
I now have two "APC Power-Saving Back-UPS ES 8 Outlet 700VA 230V" UPSs and they are available from DABS here:
Is Â£88 an expensive price to pay? Let's put this into perspective. A so-called "high quality surge protected" power strip - which I have found to be useless in protecting my computers - will set you back about Â£30. Also Â£88 is around what you will spend in three visits to the pub.
All right, so the UPS I mentioned above can let you safely save your files and shut down your system and also allow you to keep your communications equipment running for a few hours. But what if that is not good enough? I won't lie to you, replacement batteries for a UPS are freaking expensive and if you really NEED to have your computer running for more than a few minutes in the event of a power cut what can you do?
Now part of what I am going to say, if you do this wrong or try to cut corners, will qualify you for a Darwin Award - and deservedly so.
First of all plan ahead for Murphy's Law. If you have an SSD as your boot drive then install everything else you would NEED to keep going onto it. This would of course be your Operating System, Browser, E-Mail Client, your Office Package. What you DON'T need to have installed on it is the likes of games. Also this is the point where having SSD drives configured in RAID 0 is going to come back to bite you in the backside. Anything in your system that draws power will shorten the time you can keep your system up and running on battery power.
In the event of a blackout and you need to run your computer for about half an hour, and don't care much about anything else afterwards until the power comes back on again, then do the following. After turning everything off, open up your computer and disconnect power from everything that you don't need - like hard drives and DVD drives - except of course your SSD. If you have a CPU with an internal GPU then disconnect and pull your graphic card. When booting up, go into the BIOS and set the CPU multiplier down if you can (test out how low you can set the multiplier and still have the computer run the stuff you would need with a reasonable performance before you have to deal with any kind of disaster) and get rid of any overclocking of your RAM, in fact pull any RAM above 2 GB out of your system. Don't forget to pull the plug on any and all fans except for the one cooling your CPU. Now with all that done then the UPS I mentioned above will give you a good 30 minutes of power to your Computer, Monitor and Router before it is exhausted.
All right, so that is not enough time, and you don't want to spend yourself to death on UPS batteries to keep in reserve and you would want to be prepared for a dire emergency (remember Murphy's Law).
This is where it gets tricky; and if anyone suggests a car battery to you then you should take them outside with a well sized LART (Loser Attitude Readjustment Tool) and at least shatter their kneecaps. A car battery consisting of wet cells is one of the surest ways of winning a Darwin Award if you planned to use it to power your UPS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
The following will void the warranty on any UPS, however it will not damage it - if done properly - and of course it is only if you feel you would really need to be able to keep working on your computer for hours in the event of a power outage.
What you can use is what is known as an "Ultra Deep Cycle 12V Gel Battery". A good one with a capacity of 90 to 110AH will set you back around Â£80-Â£100. The heavy gauge wires you would need and the adapters for attaching the battery to the UPS can be made either by yourself (not at all recommended) or by someone who is a trained electrician (highly recommended) and he won't charge you much to do it. You should also have a 16 Amp fuse integrated into the cable. Once you have fully charged the battery all you need to do is top it up every four weeks. There is plenty of information available online to anyone wishing to do this.
So you have the power outage, and know it is going to take quite some time to get it sorted, then you first of all safely shut down your computer and castrate the computer to the bare essentials I mentioned above. Detach everything you don't need from the UPS, then open it up, take out the existing battery and plug in it's honking big brother that you have been saving for just this occasion.
Of course during this time you have to be VERY power conscious and this means that any time you are away from your computer or sitting back to think about something etc. then put the computer to sleep - DON'T TURN IT OFF (turning the computer off and turning it back on again will burn up more juice than putting the computer to sleep for half an hour to an hour). This will give you at least 10-12 hours of effective working time at your computer.
It is ESSENTIAL that you have the computer drawing as little power as possible from the UPS because it is not built to carry heavy loads for an extended period of time.
Last edited by Nec_V20; 10-05-13 at 18:32.
I didn't know there was a demand for those, but if you insist I will try to make it longer next time
Now I'm over 40, a couple of sentences is pretty much all my attention span can, err, what was I saying?
I'm over 50 and it takes me all night to do what I used to do all night - want to swap?
I did the experiment with one of my UPSs and it worked. I had the system running for about an hour and a half on the battery and at the end of it the battery charge level was at 93%.
My equipment (prices include postage):
Battery: 110 AH Xplorer Pure Gel Battery Â£99.99
Charger: CTEK MXS 5.0 12V Â£52.99
Leads: Positive and Negative (both leads) Â£10.59
I now put everything in my UPS back the way it was and it is none the worse for the trial run.
I disconnected everything that was not necessary from the PSU and I was only running standard applications such as my browser and the office package on my computer. I also had my Router and modem plugged into the UPS.
If you want to continue to run your gaming rig at full whack then you will burn out the UPS in a very short time.
And don't try to post things like, "I did what you said and XYZ bad thing happened", because I know for a fact that you did not do as I said - you tried to be "smart" and cut corners - and you want to blame everyone but yourself.