Surge protectors, or suppressors, can clip surges, sending excess power to ground, but theyíre useless against brownouts. They generally use devices called metal oxide varistors (MOVs), which can accept a certain amount of power while shunting excess current. MOVs can gradually degrade, however, through a series of small surges, and they can be blown useless by a major spike such as a lightning strike. Often, itís difficult to tell when a surge suppressor has become useless due to a worn MOV unless it has a light to indicate the status of the MOV. Look for this if you buy a surge suppressor, and make sure itís compliant to the UL 1449 standard, a high-quality standard that ensures good, solid protection.
Available for $200 to $300, a power or line conditioner does the job of a surge protector and more. It contains a complex range of circuitry and acts as an active device, constantly monitoring the status of an AC line. Itís able to supply power to make up for the loss during a temporary brownout, clip the worst of surges, and generally keep a clean stream of AC current running to your computer. Itís an excellent device to own if your PC shares a line with something that causes occasional dips in power when it starts up, such as a washing machine, a dishwasher, or a furnace. Note that line conditioners canít prevent your system from going down in the case of a blackout.
Uninterruptible Power Supplies
For the ultimate in power protection, a battery backup is paramount. UPS devices contain just that. Able to condition a line as well as any line conditioner, a UPS, available for anywhere from $200 to thousands of dollars depending on the size of the battery and other factors, adds the security of keeping the computer working for a limited period of time even in the event of a total blackout. Note that UPSs are not intended to run the computer for more than a few minutesó theyíre intended to keep it on for just enough time to shut down the system gracefully. Intelligent UPSs can interface with the operating system and do this automatically.
Many distinguishing factors separate one UPS from another, including the amount of backup time they provide and the amount of power they consume. When a blackout occurs, a UPSís battery will gradually discharge as it powers the computer connected to it; when power returns, it will automatically recharge its battery. A UPS is the ultimate device in power protection. A powerful surge, such as a close lightning strike, can still damage your PC no matter how well itís protected.
Installing a Power Supply
When youíve finally made all the important decisions about powering your computer, including choosing a power supply and the use of external power protection, itís time to install the power supply into the chassis. If youíre starting from scratch in the creation of your new super system, youíve probably got a bare, empty chassis with lots of holes in it and not much else to speak of.
Securing the PSU
The first thing youíll need to do is figure out how to get the cover off your case. If you purchased a tool-free chassis, look for a latch or other release. Otherwise, youíll probably need a medium-sized Philips head screwdriver to remove the case cover.
Chassis covers can be modular, meaning that various sides come off independently. Often the entire cover comes off in one fell swoop (except for the front bezel, which almost always comes off by itself). Determine which type youíre working with by checking for seams at the corners of the case cover.
The power supply itself is held in place by four screws that come through the rear of the case. Getting the power supply into place can be tricky, depending on the makeup of the chassis. The power supply should be situated so that the larger fan (on its bottom) faces down into the case, while the panel with the smaller fan and the AC connector faces out the back of the machine, as shown in Figure 1-14.
Figure 1-14 Situating a power supply
Have four wide-thread screws ready. Wrangle the PSU into place, being wary of hazards such as guide panels, support pillars, and so on.
Reigning in the Wires
Inside the case, youíll see a jumble of wires. Make sure they make their way down into the chassis. If a support beam appears across the side of the case, run the wires through the opening behind it. For now, before youíve inserted the motherboard and peripherals, you can stuff the wires into the 5ľ-inch drive bays. This will make it easier to install the motherboard, assuming your case doesnít have a removable motherboard panel. If it does, donít worry about where the power supply cables lie just yet.
Later, when youíve got most of the system assembled, youíll want to get the cables under control. You might want to secure them to available metal struts with cable ties, which will move them out of the way and foster good airflow through the case. But thatís for the future; as long as youíve gotten the power supply secure, youíre finished with this chapter.
That Was the Easy Part
Youíve got power in your case, but right now thereís nothing to use it on. Weíll get into connecting the motherboard and other peripherals in later chapters. Now that your computer has skin and a beating heart, itís time to give it a brain. That comes in the form of a CPU, or central processing unit, which is discussed in detail in the next chapter.
This chapter is from Build Your Own High Performance Gamers' Mod PC, by Chen and Durham (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2004, ISBN: 0072229012). Check it out at your favorite bookstore today. Buy this book now.
DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.
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