The other day I was putzing around on my PC, not realizing that outside, just a few feet away, a storm was brewing. Myself, I was only aware it was raining…at least, until my system was hit with a power spike (at least, that’s what I believe it was).
Without warning, my screens began flashing rapidly. Less than a second later, my system went into full shutdown mode. Almost immediately after, my entire apartment building shook with the force of the thunder.
I got lucky. The surge protector I had the PC plugged into probably saved it from being damaged. After determining that this was the case, I immediately set to work protecting it from further surges. I’d just recently purchased this system, after all. No way I was going to risk causing permanent damage to it because I couldn’t bear to be off the Internet for just a few hours.
I unplugged everything, and went to read a book.
What I’m trying to get across with this story is that if you’re tempted to use your PC in a thunderstorm…don’t. Unless you’ve got a laptop which can survive on battery life alone (or a system you don’t really care anything about, I suppose), stay away from the electronics for a while. It simply isn’t worth the risk.
That said, there are a few steps you should take before doing so:
Invest in a Surge Protector
Even in the absence of an electrical storm, I’d highly recommend investing in a decent-quality surge protector for your system.
See, lightning is actually one of the least common causes of a power surge. Many more common sources exist, all of which you’re going to want to guard against. Maybe your building’s a little older than most, and the wiring’s starting to get on in years (faulty, in other words). Maybe something, somewhere in the grid has failed, and a surge has ended up jolting its way through your home. Or maybe there’s a downed power line nearby. Whatever the cause, it’s likelier than not that your PC will eventually be subjected to a power surge.
One thing I’ll say here is that I’d not recommend buying a cheap surge protector. Be willing to pay a bit of extra cash for a higher-end model. You won’t regret it.
Unplug Your Computer’s Power Supply
Unless you’re shelling out thousands of dollars for a hospital or industrial-grade surge protection device, chances are pretty good that whatever you’ve got isn’t necessarily designed to protect your equipment against a direct lightning strike. We’re potentially talking thousands or even millions of volts here; it’s extremely rare for anyone to have consumer-grade equipment that can survive that amount of electricity.
What’s more, in the rare event that your surge protector does prevent your computer from shorting out entirely, it’s not terribly likely to protect you from further surges.
As such, when there’s thunder and lightning within a mile of where you’re located, shut down your system and disconnect its power source. Better safe than sorry, right?
Remove Your Ethernet Cable(Or Network Adapter)
One thing a lot of people don’t actually realize is that network cables can carry power surges just as easily as electrical cables can. While they’re not designed to carry such high voltage currents, a power surge can nevertheless travel easily through the cable’s wiring into your system.
As such, you’re going to want to unplug all network cables from your system, as well. Again, better safe than sorry.