What’s the best way to keep your computer safe during a thunderstorm? In my opinion, just crawl under your desk and unplug it.
Although a good surge protector may keep your computer safe during a thunderstorm, I still unplug mine. After all, if the thing isn’t plugged into the wall, it’s kind of hard for a spike or surge to get through. Also, try to keep all of your computer’s external components (monitors, scanners, printers, etc) plugged into the same surge protector as the computer. That way, when you pull the plug, all your equipment is protected and you don’t risk a spike / surge coming through an external component and damaging your computer.
In addition to unplugging your computer, modem users should also unplug their phone line. As we mentioned before, phone lines are probably the # 1 way to for surges to get to, and sizzle, your computer. Note that if you’re using a surge protector with a phone line pass through and you unplug it, you need to unplug the phone line as well (most surge protectors don’t protect if they are unplugged).
Another cable to unplug would be any high speed internet connection cable. After all, if you’re using a cable modem (or DSL) and a surge comes through that line, it may get to your computer. As with the phone line pass through, if your surge protector features an ethernet pass through, you’ll want to pull the cable going to your computer (seeing as your surge protector probably doesn’t protect when it’s unplugged).
Now, do you have to do all this each time you hear thunder in the distance? Personally, I usually do—especially if the storm is of the mean and nasty variety. I have a good surge protector and all, but the information on my computer is very valuable to me and I don’t like taking chances. A close lightning strike will blow through just about any surge protector on the planet.
Besides, it gets me away from my computer for a half an hour or so. My, how the kids have grown…
Note that simply turning off the power switch to your surge protector is not a good idea. When you turn these type suppressors off, you are also eliminating the power supply to the surge protection circuit, thereby rendering it useless. So, if a surge comes across the power line with the switch in the off position, you have NO protection; however, if the surge protector is left on at ALL times, the circuit is energized, and you will have whatever surge protection your particular circuit is rated for.
Also, keep in mind that cheaper surge protectors can wear out over time. The power strip type surge protectors can protect you against one good surge (although a direct lighting hit happily rips right through them) or lots of smaller ones, but they can wear out. Problem is, most of them have no way of telling you when they’ve become useless. When you’re looking for a surge protector, be sure it features some kind of indicator light that tells you when the surge protection circuit has croaked.
Finally, this may all be a bit paranoid on my part. So, the decision is yours. Just tellin’ you what I do.