I use a desktop computer daily, and live in an area where we tend to lose power occasionally. I have lost work too many times, when the power drops unexpectedly. I’d like to invest in some sort of backup battery so that even when the power goes out, my computer doesn’t immediately shut down. Can you help?
We both know the pain of intermittent power outages, and we both have generators in place for just this purpose; even with an automated transfer switch, there’s still always at least a short time where your home has no power before the generator “kicks in.” Because we both run desktop computers all day for various purposes, we’re strong proponents of having and using a battery backup on every computer. In addition, we ensure that our connections to the outside world (that is, Internet modems, network switches and wireless routers) are all plugged into backup batteries as well.
To make it clear: Not only do backup batteries provide a handy means of ensuring that your equipment can stay running (albeit for a limited time) when the power is out, all the commercially available backup batteries that we’ve seen also act as excellent surge suppressors, as well. Therefore, using a backup battery not only provides juice when the power is out, they provide the security that comes with serious protection from electrical surges.
How do you determine the best backup battery for you? Keep in mind that the more power your devices need, the larger the battery you’ll need. High-power devices, like printers, should really never be plugged into a battery backup. Modems, network switches, and other infrastructure devices use very little power; monitors use a lot more. Most desktop computers fall somewhere in-between. The size of the battery backup you purchase needs to reflect the number of devices you want to keep powered, and the length of time you need them to run when the power goes out. If your goal is to keep the power up long enough to save your current work and shut down, you won’t need more than a few minutes of power.
You can do the math, calculating how much power all your devices draw, and then match the size of the backup battery to your needs exactly, or you can use an online tool to help you, like the one provided by the popular vendor, APC: http://www.apc.com/tools/ups_selector/index.cfm. Our suggestion: Spend a little more, and get a little more power than you think you might need. That way, should you add a new device to your setup, you won’t overload the backup battery.
It’s worth noting a few more details about backup batteries. Although you technically don’t need a backup battery to supply power to a laptop (which has its own battery), plugging a laptop into a backup battery will, at least, provide excellent surge protection. You could, in the case of a power outage, continue to charge the laptop from the power stored in the backup battery. Some backup battery devices include a USB connector so that you can connect the device to your computer. Given this connection, you can install software on the computer that will cleanly and safely shut down your computer in case of an unattended power outage.
We both favor backup batteries from APC (http://www.apc.com) but CyberPower (http://www.cyberpower.com) is also an excellent vendor. For more information (probably more than you would ever want) on selecting a backup battery, check out this article: http://www.howtogeek.com/161479/how-to-select-a-battery-backup-for-your-computer/. Please don’t expect that any backup battery will keep you computing for hours, but a reasonably priced battery can keep you working until the power comes back on. It’s a tool that every home computer user should own and use.