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Surge Protectors

Surge protectors (also commonly referred to as surge suppressors) are typically power blocks or power strips with electronics that limit the amount of voltage, current (amps), and noise that can get through to your equipment. They are designed to protect your equipment from long-lasting increases in voltage (surges) and high, short bursts of voltage (spikes). The unit does not provide any power, however. Rather, it blocks harmful electricity from reaching your equipment. The surge protector detects a surge or a spike and clamps down on the incoming voltage, reducing it to safe levels. If the surge is large enough, it can trip the built-in safety mechanism. You may then lose power and have to reset the equipment you are protecting. Common causes of surges and spikes are fluctuations in power from the electricity company, additions of equipment to the power grid by customers, and natural storms.

Level of Protection

Unfortunately, surge protectors provide only a limited amount of protection. Surge protectors are simple devices that can only protect against large spikes and surges. Small increases in voltage are allowed to pass. These small increases may not cause immediate damage, but over time, they can damage sensitive computer equipment. It is definitely better to have a surge protector than not have one, but the surge protector must be of high quality (these usually cost more than $30).

The $5.99 power strips you find at Wal-Mart and similar stores are not true surge protectors. They are simply multiple-outlet strips with a single circuit breaker and provide only the most basic protection. Don’t use them with computer equipment.

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