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Modems and Lightning



Would you walk in an open field during a storm waving a golf club over your head? Most people would answer no, laughing disbelievingly at the fool who would. They know that this is dangerous and that no one should challenge a bolt of lightening. Yet people still persist in using their computer AND connecting to the internet during a storm, which can be just as dangerous. It really takes only seconds for a sudden power surge through either the power main or more likely, your phone line, to destroy your computer.

Many people will have surge protectors on the powerpoints. These offer some protection, but not enough to completely prevent a lightning strike from causing damage. No matter what manufacturers claim, NO SURGE PROTECTOR IN THE WORLD CAN SURVIVE A DIRECT LIGHTNING STRIKE. Also, even with a surge protector for power cords, your phone lines are still left unprotected. The public phone system always has a little current flowing through it. It has to. During a storm, any electrical buildup is going to get conducted straight through those lines and have to stop somewhere. Chances are your PC is a good place.

There is only one way to prevent yourself from frying your modem/serial ports/motherboard/etc during a storm, just unplug it. The best protection all around for your computer and modem is to disconnect the phone cord from the modem and unplug the power cords going to your computer and everything that is attached to your computer (monitor, printers, etc.) when not in use. Since this can be a hassle for most people - the most feasible form of protection for your modem is to just unplug the phone cord from the modem. You should also never use your computer during thunderstorms or when power disturbances (brownouts and blackouts) are likely.

Preventing Damage from Strikes and Surges
  1. The simplest way to protect equipment is to unplug it during any electrical storm. If a storm is imminent, shut down computer, unplug it, and pull the phone cord at the computer or jack. This is the only way to guarantee that the system will remain safe.
  2. Even when no storms are present, make sure the computer and phone line are plugged into a surge protector of some kind. Tiny electrical surges that could damage a computer are always present over the power grid.
  3. Another option is to connect the computer to an Uninterruptible Power Supply, or UPS. A UPS is similar to a standard $10 surge suppressor except that it includes a battery backup that can last anywhere from ten minutes to three or four hours, depending on the quality and amount invested. Most quality power supplies also regulate the power flow to a computer so that it receives a constant, unchanging stream of voltage. Many also include software that will shut the computer down when the battery gets low on power.


Once the modem is damaged, the best choice is to just replace the modem. Most people will not be able to repair a modem themselves, but taking your machine to a local repair shop may be an option as well. If your modem is under warranty, you should contact the manufacturer about repairs or replacement.


If you are looking more information on modems including common problems and fixes, you may wish to visit one of the following off-site links:
http://www.modemhelp.net
http://www.modemhelp.org
http://www.56k.com
http://elaine.teleport.com/~curt/mod-w95.html


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