QoTW: How safe is it to leave your computer on during a storm?

May 30, 2011 by . 2 comments

A few days ago, my area had a little storm roll in. It didn’t sound bad at first, but then I saw one big dark cloud. With a crack of thunder, I realized we were in for a thunder storm. As I sat typing away at my computer, it came to mind that there might be a power surge. Now what was I supposed to do about my computer if that happened? I took it to the friendly people at Super User, to find out:

Is it bad to leave your computer on during a thunderstorm?

Generally when I hear the crack of thunder, my PC goes off immediately. Today I’m working though, and wondered – how bad is it to leave it on? If the power goes out, will it kill it? I use a power strip – that protects it, right?

In minutes I had a response from Randolf Richardson, who explained that my poor little power bar just wouldn’t stand up to any power surge. As the thunder and lightning went on outside, I continued reading through the comments flooding in.

By the sounds of it, the best thing to do is to unplug EVERYTHING your computer hardware is connected to. So unplug that tower, unplug that printer, and knock out your modem. Although I really should remind myself of my first modem. For years I never turned it off once. After a couple of storms, it took one hit, and was never the same. Goodbye LANcity modem.

I also learned about UPS (Uninterrupted power supply). The idea sounds great, it would give you just enough time to shutdown your computer, and save your work in the case of power failure. But those things aren’t cheap! As low as $25 (will save your phone) to a whopping $12,000! (Rack mountable!)


bill weaver, another Super User, also mentioned not only power, but coaxial and phone cables too. Power is everywhere! It seems you can never be too careful with these things, and I do like to keep my data close at hand. Something tells me burning a hard drive is NOT a good thing.

In the end, it looks like disconnecting your power will provide the best option. No worries then, and once the storm passes, you’re free to return to normal. So next time a storm hits, unplug the computer, and head on out to watch the lights!


Filed under Question of the Week


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  • johan says:

    It is a good idea to unplug your network /modem cable as well.

    I unplugged my computer but forgot to unplug my ADSL modem during a thunder storm. The next day I had to go and buy a new modem.

  • matthew says:

    +1 for going out and watching the lights. Unfortunately for us, our current landlords have a huge banner over our front picture windows advertising the house for sale. On a quiet street. In a lower income neighborhood. Yea, that banner’s been up a long time and I’d be willing to bet nobody who has come to look at the house has done so because of the banner. So we just turn stuff off and play Angry Birds on our laptop.

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