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Should laptops have surge protectors?

Posted on 2013-01-20
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Last Modified: 2013-01-24
Most people don't think of surge protectors when they buy laptops.  I've been supplying my clients with them when I sell them laptops.  Just to be safe.  When the laptops aren't plugged in there's no need for one but many of my clients use laptops like desktops much of the time.
Are surge protectors necessary for laptops?  Have you ever heard of a laptop being fried by a surge?
Thanks,
Al
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Question by:alanlsilverman
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by:Frosty555
Frosty555 earned 71 total points
ID: 38799328
I don't see any reason why the laptop would somehow be less susceptible than any other electronic device. What makes a laptop different than any other computer? The battery certainly doesn't have any bearing on whether or not the laptop can be damaged by a surge.

Laptops are like any electronic device, and although the danger of electrostatic damage is only present when the laptop is actually plugged into the wall, the danger is still there just like any other computer.
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by:rindi
rindi earned 71 total points
ID: 38799334
I've never yet had any surge issues with any laptop, and if there is an issue, the power supply would be the first to go, not the laptop. Also the battery of a laptop can usually take up some functions of a surge protector. So in my opinion that is a thing you don't need. Powersupplies for laptops can easily be replaced and normally aren't expensive.
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by:chilternPC
chilternPC earned 71 total points
ID: 38799365
the power supply would go not the laptop - but in my opinioin  the surge protector is a good insurance - its far cheaper than a new power supply.
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DarinTCH earned 74 total points
ID: 38799378
@ alan
@Frosty

the reason why laptops are significantly less likely to be effected by an electrical are several and well known
--a powersurge is usually 110% of the standard voltage or >

1-mentioned by rindi is the fact that they are connected differently
the laptop uses a corded power supply
most laptop power supply can provide some protection against high and low level power surge

2-is the amount of time connected
average desktop is directly connected to power 24x7x365
avg laptop may be connected 2-3 hours every other day for recharge purposes

right away you see the difference 10 hrs a week as opposed to 168 hrs for the desktop

additional considerations
-some folks use a laptop as a desktop replacement and may be plugged in all the time
(consider this as more like a desktop)
-the laptop will be affected if the surge does reach the actual device..ie motherboard shortout
-laptop repair....if possible will cost significantly more
-A UPS for Desktop almost always has surge protection
(most do not have UPS for laptop)

in the end I plug my laptop into a powerstrip (that has surge functionality) when I charge it....
its the same ones I have everything else plugged into throughout the house
I have had to reset the power strip several times a year in Florida
(lightning capital of the WORLD)
never had computers fried - but did lose a TV to lightning surge

the $20-30.00 for a powerstrip/surge provides me peace of mind
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by:alanlsilverman
ID: 38799748
Hope I'm not off topic, but what about whole house surge protectors?  Are they useful, in addition to surge protection for individual devices?
Al
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by:akahan
akahan earned 71 total points
ID: 38799896
Why would the power supply on the laptop be any more effective at absorbing power surges than the power supply in a desktop?  The only difference between the two is that the power supply for laptops is integrated into the cord rather than into the machine itself.  Desktops get fried by power surges, their power supplies don't make them immune.  What's the difference?
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by:rindi
ID: 38800102
The battery of a laptop can absorb some of the surge, so this can protect the laptop.
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by:nobus
nobus earned 71 total points
ID: 38800111
i would like to disagree on one point: what is different about the power supply of a laptop and a desktop?
imo - they are just the same : 220 V in, and  low voltages out
they both have the same specs, for filtering and protection
and why should laptops not be connected allday long?... i know some people that do it -  but i don't recommend it ( why WASTE power?)
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by:alanlsilverman
ID: 38801573
and why should laptops not be connected allday long?... i know some people that do it -  but i don't recommend it ( why WASTE power?)

nobus, could you explain this further.  Why does it use less power running on the battery?  And won't this make the battery fail sooner?  The reason people run laptops connected is because they always used to dim out when not connected.  Is this still true?  Many people (including myself) need laptop screens as bright as possible.  They can be made to not dim out when on battery, but that adjustment is beyond the capability of many older people.  
Thanks,
Al
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by:rindi
ID: 38801597
What nobus means is that when the laptop isn't used, you should shut it down and disconnect it from the power source, as the the power supply draws power even when the laptop isn't turned on.

Actually the same should be done with desktops, as also their powersupplies draw power when they are off.
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by:rojosho
rojosho earned 71 total points
ID: 38801710
Hola alanlsilverman y et al,

Not much that I can add here as you have been given all three sides of the coin - sort of speak.  As for me and my 'two cents', I see three completely different worlds for the use of a laptop:
a. Home
b. Office
c. Mobile

For Home and Office, i would go the extra mile and purchase a small UPS (Under $40.00).  Why you ask? For something called 'sags' and 'brown outs'.  Most sags and brown outs last for a few seconds, but are enough to force a PC to reboot and will most likely result in loss of data/work.

For mobile usage, it is going to be awkward to carry a UPS around and Nobus' suggestion is a good one to do on a 'cold, and dark raining night (Move: 'Big Trouble in Little China'), but i agree with you, having a surge protector is not expensive and gives you that extra protection  - to be very honest, if a lighting strikes close enough that my laptop would need a surge protector, i dont want to be near it  :)

Good question and very good dialog...

Rojosho
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by:nobus
ID: 38801734
>>  Why does it use less power running on the battery?   <<  i did not talk about this, only about leaving it on all day - when not in use.
i only meant to say : when you don't use it, power it off; then you don't waste power
and i mean : REMOVE the AC cord from the socket, without an AC switch, it STILL consumes power (up to 5 W per hour) when connected - with laptop OFF, and battery fully charged

>>  And won't this make the battery fail sooner?   <<  that was so with Ni-Cd batteries, much less so with the new ones; though i recommend doing a full unload / charge cycle regularly, at least once a month (so you know how long the battery still holds)

the screens dim to save power, (because they use more power on full throttle) and make the battery run longer
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by:alanlsilverman
ID: 38803937
Rojosho,

Here's what a laptop looks like after it’s been hit by lightning:
Burnt LaptopActually the house was hit by lighting.  That’s what the laptop looked like after the firemen finished putting the fire out.  He was a writer and of course he hadn’t backed up his data.  I took out the hard drive, set it as a secondary drive on another computer, and all the data was there.  An angel must have been looking out for him.  

Al
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by:akahan
ID: 38803942
I don't think a surge protector would have helped that one.
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by:rojosho
ID: 38803954
Wow, Guess this laptop was not a Timex, huh?  Thanks for sharing; the picture sort of resembles pop-art... maybe Andy Warhol.  Absolutely amazing that the data was recovered.

Rojosho….
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by:rindi
ID: 38804340
The carpet looks pretty unscathed...
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by:DarinTCH
ID: 38805673
@alan

yes surge protectors for House or business are useful
although I did not often use them in the NE area of US

In Florida - I always consider them for businesses I'm networking or installing IT equipment

in one business - we installed a $50 component - after lightning strike - they had to change a single wall outlet and replace the 'fuse'

the other businesses on the same street faced $10,000 - 50,000 in electrical appliance damages

So where do you live and are these electrical problems common?
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by:alanlsilverman
ID: 38805941
DarinTCH,
I live in the mid-Hudson valley of New York.  We get occasional lightning, but not like Florida.  Still I think, in terms of the cost and benefits, I think it's worth doing.  Are there any whole house surge protectors you like?
Thanks,
Al
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by:alanlsilverman
ID: 38812881
Good discussion.  I’m going to close this, but here are a few extra points if anyone wants to comment.

nobus, the point I was trying to make about the dimming is that, at least for older individuals, a dimmed out laptop can be close to useless. (I have many elderly clients, including one who is 95.) These people don’t have the knowledge or ability to change the settings so it doesn‘t dim when not plugged in.  For many it’s beyond them to remember to unplug the computer and then plug it back in every time they want to use it. But if they keep it in one place and simply close the cover and put it to sleep, their computers can be very useful to them. I know people who leave their desktops on all the time.  I’m not talking about that.  But how much power does a computer in sleep mode use?

DarinTCH, are there any whole house surge protectors you would recommend?

rindi, I took that picture at my house, after the customer brought it to me.  If you’d like to see more pictures, go to my Picasa web album:

https://picasaweb.google.com/115874002550064781662/ButTheHardDriveSurvived

Thanks to all,
AL
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by:DarinTCH
ID: 38812910
Leviton
SquareD
Intermatic
APC
MSA
GE
Tripplite
Eaton

the one i mentioned was MSA - worked well

but I also use APC for internal - home and server racks

leviton is also a well known brand

you can get some at HomeDepot
or ur electrician can get others at the electrical supply house
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by:alanlsilverman
ID: 38812961
DarinTCH, Thanks for the info.
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by:nobus
ID: 38813320
i posted  the laptops use around 5 W
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by:alanlsilverman
ID: 38814193
nobus, Is that when plugged in either in safe mode or if the laptop is shut down completely?
Or does safe mode use more electricity than plugged in and shut down?
Thanks,
Al
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by:rindi
ID: 38814254
What do you mean with "safe-Mode"?

A laptop's powersupply draws idle power even when the laptop is turned off. One reason is because the on/off button is on the laptop, not the power supply unit there needs to be some circuitry running for this on/off button to work (it's similar to dekstops, also there you need some current running, as the on off is done by electronics and not an actual circuit breaker switch. Apart from that many laptop's/PC's can be turned on using the LAN or mouse actions etc. Also for that you need standby power.

If the Laptop is in hibernation mode, then it is off and you'll use the same amount of power as the system uses as when you have normally shut it down.

If on the other hand it is in sleep mode, there are still some more laptop parts that need to be powered, like the RAM. So in that mode it'll draw more power than it does when off or on standby, but less than if it were running.
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by:alanlsilverman
ID: 38814636
rindi,
that answered my question.  As to "safe-mode", that was a brain-blip from an aging techie.  Of course I meant when you put the top down on a laptop, putting it to sleep.
Thanks again,
Alan
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by:nobus
ID: 38814727
the mode does not change the power used, in hibernate, or power off = the same
it is a shame that nowadays nearly all devices and appliiances come without REAL power switch (i had to install maybe 20 at my house to be able to power them off)
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