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Don't let lightning zap your PC

Tips for protecting your computer from summer storms

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(CNN) -- It's a stormy summer night, and thunder and lightning wake you from a peaceful rest. A flash, a crash ... the power goes out.

As you struggle to find the flashlight, a thought pops into your mind: I hope the surge protector kicked in.

Computer damage and data loss from lightning strikes cost the United States nearly $2 billion in annual economic loss, according to the National Lightning Safety Institute.

"Computer damage from severe weather conditions is surprisingly a very common problem," said Jim Reinert, senior director of software and services for Ontrack Data Recovery, a firm which specializes in recovering lost or corrupted data.

When power problems strike, they can cause permanent damage, either to your equipment or your data. The best way to deal with these problems is to prevent them from happening.

Ontrack offers tips to minimize your PC's chance of getting zapped by mother nature:

  • Install a surge protector between the power socket and the computer's power cable, and spend the extra $20 to $30 to get an actual surge protector, not just a power strip.
  • Get surge protectors that offer protection from surges through network cables if you run a small business with networks.
  • Check protection devices regularly. At least once a year you should inspect your power protection devices to make sure that they are functioning properly.
  • Use dedicated circuits, if possible, putting the computer on its own power circuit, so it isn't sharing the power with other electronic devices.
  • Turn off and disconnect the power cord during an electrical storm.
  • Turn off power during a blackout. If you lose power, when the power comes back on the signal can initially be inconsistent, which can make things more difficult for your power supply.
  • Unplug the telephone line from the modem jack or use a telephone line surge suppressor, during electrical storms. High voltages can enter your computer through the phone line connected to the modem.
  • Invest in some form of uninterruptible power supply, which uses batteries to keep servers running during power outages, if you run a business with network servers.
  • Keep your computer in a cool, dry area to prevent overheating. Summer heat can also be a problem.

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