So, what is a UPS and why do I need one?

To understand why you need a UPS we need to tell you a little bit about electrical power. We all know what a blackout is -- a sudden loss of mains (AC) power. But equally dangerous are some things you may be less familiar with, such as spikes, surges, brownouts and blackouts. These terms all have to do with either too much power or too little. Either condition is bad for your systems, and can be prevented by a properly sized UPS. A UPS, in its simplest form, is a battery backup that takes over supplying electricity to your systems in the event of a power loss. Usually, a UPS is a separate box that sits in the power chain between the source of power (eg, a standard power point) and the rest of your systems. The UPS protects every other piece of equipment that is plugged into it. It is designed to prevent spikes, surges, sags and blackouts from reaching your valuable equipment (See "Power Problems" below). Being first in line, the UPS receives electrical current directly from the power outlet. When mains power is present, the UPS provides filtering (frequency regulation) of small fluctuations to ensure that a continuous supply of "clean" power is fed through to your equipment. When AC power fails, the unit uses its internal battery to supply back-up power without interruption. A typical UPS will power your system for 15-30 minutes, depending on its size (capacity) and the amount of equipment connected to it. Many, if not most, blackouts last for under one hour and while a good UPS will give you enough power to gracefully shut of your equipment during the first few minutes of the blackout, a more powerful unit can give you a "run time" long enough to ride through the entire outage. This will cost you more, of course, and you will have to plan your battery capacity appropriately. Some larger units can take extra battery packs to increase their run time.

PC peril

Without UPS protection, a sudden loss of power turns off everything, instantly -- often with disastrous results. Computers, in particular, don't like to just "have their plug pulled" with no warning. When you tell your computer to shutdown, it executes a series of commands that puts everything away in its rightful place, ready for the computer to be booted up again. It saves any open files or reminds you to do so, then deletes any temporary files that have been in use and are no longer needed. This usually takes only a matter of seconds, but it is vital to the health of your PC. Failing to shutdown properly like this can corrupt data files instantly. But that is only half the story. Giving your electronic equipment too much power can actually "fry" its insides. This power surge gives your systems a burst of more current than they can cope with, and they can burn out -- this can include your not only your internal power supply unit (PSU) but also your computer's memory (RAM), processor, motherboard and even hard drive.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

IDG Online Staff

Good Gear Guide
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?