Are Power Generators Safe for Computers?

by Nick Davis

Power generators are standalone electrical devices that provide electricity during a power outage or when you cannot access electricity. The devices contain gasoline-powered engines and 110V electrical outlets, as well as 220V outlets on some models. It is safe to power computers, including desktop and laptop models, televisions and other electronics using a power generator, but you need to connect a surge protector between the generator and your computer or other electronic device.

Surge Protection

A surge protector is an electrical device that protects computers and electronics from varying increases in voltage, including voltage spikes from electricity generated from a power generator. Voltage spikes can overload and destroy a computer's power supply, wires, memory, processor and other components within the computer. Surge protectors work continuously to reduce and regulate the amount of electrical current flowing from the power generator to your computer.

Surge Protector Connection

To connect a surge protector to your power generator, plug the surge protector's power cable into one of the 110V electrical outlets on the top or side of the generator, and then turn on both the power generator and the surge protector. Some surge protectors automatically power on once electrical current is present; other surge protectors contain an "On/Off" switch.

Computer Connection

After your power generator and surge protector are both on, make sure your computer is off, then plug the computer's power cable into one of the surge protector's electrical outlets. Connecting your computer to the surge protector with the computer's power on may result in electrical sparks and possible damage to the computer. Make sure your computer is powered off before connecting it to the surge protector. Once the connection is made, turn on your computer and use it as normal.

Powering Off the Generator

When you are ready to power off your generator, turn off your computer and any other electronics and devices connected to the generator first, then power off your generator. Turning off your power generator first can result in your computer's hard drive crashing, especially if applications are running and files are still open. Shut your computer down properly via the operating system's shutdown procedure and wait until your computer fully powers off before shutting off your power generator.

Power Generator Safety

Always operate your power generator in a clean, dry area outdoors away from any open windows or passageways. Do not place the generator inside of your home, business or other enclosed space; emissions from the generator can pollute the air and cause illness or even death. Keep the power generator dry and make sure the device is properly grounded as well as properly vented in accordance with the instructions in its manual. Lastly, do not overload your power generator by connecting and running too many electronics and other devices via the generator. Observe your generator's electrical limits, stated in its owner's manual.

About the Author

Nick Davis is a freelance writer specializing in technical, travel and entertainment articles. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Memphis and an associate degree in computer information systems from the State Technical Institute at Memphis. His work has appeared in "Elite Memphis" and "The Daily Helmsman" in Memphis, Tenn. He is currently living in Albuquerque, N.M.

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