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Keeping your gadgets safe during load-shedding

Colin Thornton, Dial-a-Nerd's chief executive, gives us five tips on how to manage our devices during blackouts.

Over recent years, South Africans have been subjected to numerous episodes of load-shedding, Eskom's euphemism for scheduled power cuts. But on March 6 2014, we fell victim to one of the worst bouts of load-shedding South Africa has witnessed, with very little or no warning.

Because our electrical appliances and devices have not been designed for load-shedding, equipment failure is possible due to continued surges upon restoration of the electricity supply.

In order to prepare yourself and to prevent unnecessary damage to your expensive electronic equipment, it is firstly encouraged to familiarise yourself with the load-shedding timetable, which can be found on either Eskom or your city's municipality website, and to follow these tips below. 

1. Unplug your cables
It is vital to unplug computer power cables from the sockets, as well as telephone cables from the modem when there is an imminent power outage. This actually applies to all sensitive equipment, including TVs and any other equipment that may have been in use during the time of the outage due to the surges in power that may occur when electricity is restored.

2. Make use of surge protection
As already mentioned, the greatest cause of damage to equipment from a power outage is from electrical surges. Installing a surge protection device can help minimise some damage in unforeseen situations.

3. Fully charge your batteries
Make sure that your laptop battery is fully charged and that your smartphone and tablet have enough battery life in order to carry on working. Having an emergency 3G dongle for such situations is an idea, or utilising the 3G from your smartphone to power the internet on your laptop is also a possibility.

4. Invest in a UPS
A UPS not only acts as a back-up battery for your machine in the event of a power failure, but it also regulates the amount of power that your computer receives – too much or too little power can be detrimental to your computer, as components such as motherboards and hard drives need a constant source of power, provided at a specific voltage to operate effectively. Typically, a UPS will provide power for only 15 to 60 minutes, in order to allow you to back up data and shut down systems correctly.

5. Back it up
It is always important to back up data, but when your power may be turned off, with little warning, it is more important than ever. There is nothing worse than losing work you have spent hours on because you didn't save it. Saving should become a habit – saving every 10 minutes or every few paragraph is adequate. Make it a priority to then save your data offsite, in case of a hard drive crash or unforeseen electrical fault. Online "cloud-based" backups are very convenient and are mostly automated, which means that you have one less thing to worry about.

Load-shedding is unpleasant, but these tips will help you operate during load-shedding and afterwards. –

Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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