Your PC relies on a consistent stream of power to stay on—but sometimes, your mains supply may not be so reliable. So if you live in a neighborhood prone to outages, you might be wondering: can a power outage damage a PC, and what can you do to protect yourself from its effects?
Let’s explore the risks of a power outage and how to avoid them.
The Different Types of Electrical Anomalies
The electricity flowing through your home is not constant. Electrical currents can ebb and flow, dipping above and below what’s ideal. Both too much and too little power can cause problems.
When power completely shuts off, it’s known as a blackout. These tend to occur due to issues beyond your control (e.g., power station disruptions, damaged electrical lines, etc.), but sometimes they can be self-inflicted (e.g., by shorting or overloading circuits).
A similar issue called a brownout is when your electrical voltage experiences a temporary drop without fully blacking out.
If you’ve ever seen your lights dim for unknown reasons, it was probably due to a brownout. These can be intentional to reduce electrical loads and prevent blackouts, though they can also be unintentional.
How a Power Cut Can Damage Your Computer
The sudden shutdown after a blackout is the primary danger to a computer’s health. This is because operating systems are complex, and they must go through a “shutdown sequence” to ensure all running processes have correctly terminated before powering off.
A sudden loss of electricity will interrupt this sequence and may leave processes “half-finished.” This has a chance of corrupting files and threads, which then damages the operating system.
System files are the largest concern. The sudden cut will corrupt the file if the operating system is busy editing an important file when the power outage hits (such as during a system update). Then, when you try to reboot the computer, the operating system trips up over this corrupted file and fails to boot.
What’s worse, a power outage may not be the end of your problems. A surge often follows up an outage once the electricity comes back online.
A power surge will overload and fry the electronics within your PC. While an outage doesn’t do a great deal of damage to a power supply or motherboard, the subsequent surge will. This will result in a computer that won’t turn on after a power outage occurs.
As such, if you want to stay safe from a power outage, it’s worth investing in power surge protection too. There’s nothing worse than skillfully negating a blackout, only for everything to fry due to the surge afterward!
Keeping Your Computer Safe
Power outages can damage system files and data, and the subsequent power spikes can destroy hardware. As such, if you live in a neighborhood with unstable power, you should take the time to protect against both and save some headaches.
Unfortunately, power cuts are but one of the many ways you can damage your hardware. So if you’re purchasing a new PC or building one from scratch, it’s a good idea to learn all the ins and outs of maintaining it to keep it running as long as possible.