A surge suppressor, also called a surge protector, is a device used to protect computer equipment from electrical surges. This protection is important because computers have a number of components that are very sensitive to extremes of electrical voltage. In particular, peaks in electrical energy can corrupt the contents of a hard drive or cause damage that can shorten the lifespan of other components. Using a surge suppressor that plugs into the computer’s electrical outlet is an easy way to take care of computer components and protect data.
Other types of expensive electronic equipment, including entertainment centers and their components, will also benefit from the protection of a surge suppressor. All electronic equipment is sensitive to high voltages, because their components can transmit only a certain maximum voltage before beginning to sustain damage. Surge suppressors protect electrical equipment by detecting sudden increases in electrical energy and diverting the excess energy before it can reach the electrical equipment. The excess energy is diverted into a grounding wire on the outlet.
The most basic and inexpensive type of surge suppressor is an outlet strip. Most strips have enough outlets to support two to six electrical appliances, but they provide only a minimal amount of protection. These units are not suitable for protecting expensive electrical equipment or computers but can adequately support smaller items.
Larger units called surge stations are ideal for personal computers and entertainment centers. These small box-shaped units will fit easily under a computer desk and generally provide protection for an external modem or router as well as a computer. Surge stations are about three to five times more expensive than outlet strips, with the price increasing as the level of protection obtained increases.
The most expensive and most effective surge suppressors combine the suppressor capability with a second unit that stores a small amount of power. This stored power can be used by the computer or other electrical equipment in the event of a temporary power outage. These uninterruptible power supply units generally store about five to 10 minutes' worth of electrical energy. This provides the user with enough time to power down a computer or other device correctly so that components are not damaged by unexpected power loss.
Even though there are multiple types of surge suppressors, choosing the right type is simple. The general rule is to buy a more expensive surge protection device if it is needed to protect expensive equipment. For example, an inexpensive outlet strip is suitable for items such as kitchen appliances or personal grooming tools, whereas a computer or expensive entertainment center will be better protected with a surge station. For the ultimate in protection, and for the best way of preventing computer data loss, an uninterruptible power supply is ideal.