Here’s a veteran systems administration move that not a lot of people know about. Though to be honest I haven’t really asked around to find out if people know about it or not; that’s not so much beside the point as it is back in the cheap seats on the point’s reunion tour, obviously. It’s also counterintuitive, this year’s soi-disant-intelligentsia shorthand for “fashionable”, so between that and the exclusivity of ignorance there’s so much pseudointellectual cachet going on here that I almost feel I’m cheapening it by telling anyone. Let’s just agree that if you read this article before Friday you can tell anyone you hear it from later that you liked it before it went mainstream. Mail me a postcard, I’ll send you the single when it comes out on vinyl.
That was a little florid, so let me cut to the chase, which is this: don’t use power bars with surge protectors for your personal computer. It’s fine to use them anywhere else, though you also want to avoid them for any attached external drives and their various connective tissues, USB hubs and network switches, for example. But your computer, at least, you want to be either plugged into a decent UPS or directly into the wall.
Almost all power bars but the very cheapest include surge protectors now, and if you’re trying to protect sensitive equipment you’d think you’d want something like that between your relatively delicate computer and the outside world. But protecting a computer from a surge by cutting the power is a lot like protecting someone from secondhand smoke by putting them in a chokehold. Strictly speaking your surge protector may be protecting your hardware, but in exchange for that you’re assuming a lot of risk involving your data.
Specifically, you’re accepting the risk of killing your box in the middle of an important write or, worse, with an unknown quantity of uncommitted data still in your drive’s onboard cache that’s just gone, never to be seen again. And on the off chance you’re (foolishly, in my opinion) using RAID at home the risk to your data actually gets worse, not better.
It’s harmless in the case of your appliances, game consoles or printers, and we all need more sockets than we have. But in terms of data preservation, if you don’t have a UPS you’re far better off plugging straight into the wall and letting your power supply take the abuse.