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Apple Notebooks Apple's notebook computers including MacBook Pro, MacBook, MacBook Air, PowerBook, and iBook.

Macbooks and powersurge damage: Prevention?


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mtndew1054

 
Member Since: Nov 23, 2011
Posts: 2
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Mac Specs: 2010 white Macbook 2.4Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB memory, OS X Lion 10.7.2

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Hi everyone,

First post here. I did a couple searches for relevant threads before posting this, and have gathered some useful information, but not the answer to my question. Please redirect me if I missed something.

I recently bought a Mid 2010 'white' Macbook refurbished direct from Apple. My question deals with prevention of damage to my computer as a result of power surges. Reading over some other threads, I see that some people have had their Macs damaged even when plugged into a surge protector!? I am using this computer in the USA only so the electric current inconsistency is not an issue for me. What is an issue is that I live in the Inland NW part of the country, and we do occasionally have power outages/surges due to lightning storms. Three things I am wondering about in specific:

1. Do I even need to protect? Is my Mid 2010 Macbook's power cord designed to give sufficient protection? It's a long-shot question but I thought I'd ask if I was already OK.

2. How can I prevent damage to my computer from power surges? Preferably something easily portable, and not too expensive? (Yes, I am planning to start backing up my hard drive with an external soon.)

3. If my computer is damaged by a power surge, will it be covered by my 3yr. Apple Care Protection warranty?

Thanks for any helpful input!
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cwa107

 
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Member Since: Dec 20, 2006
Location: Middletown, Pennsylvania
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtndew1054 View Post
1. Do I even need to protect? Is my Mid 2010 Macbook's power cord designed to give sufficient protection? It's a long-shot question but I thought I'd ask if I was already OK.
It depends... are the places you use it in prone to surges? Have you lost electronics in the past to surges? How's the wiring in your home?

A good quality surge suppressor can certainly help, but they're not fool-proof. El-cheapo suppressors can often be poorly made and are more or less glorified outlet expanders. And of course, if your home is poorly grounded or not wired up to modern standards, no suppressor can help you.

Quote:
2. How can I prevent damage to my computer from power surges? Preferably something easily portable, and not too expensive? (Yes, I am planning to start backing up my hard drive with an external soon.)
The best case scenario would be to hire an electrician to install a whole-house suppressor. Otherwise, if your wiring is up to snuff, get a nice Belkin or APC suppressor and you should be fine.

Quote:
3. If my computer is damaged by a power surge, will it be covered by my 3yr. Apple Care Protection warranty?
No, but your homeowners insurance might. You could also check into third party "warranties" from well-established companies like SquareTrade (they're more like insurance policies than a warranty).

Liquid and computers don't mix. It might seem simple, but we see an incredible amount of people post here about spills. Keep drinks and other liquids away from your expensive electronics!
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mtndew1054

 
Member Since: Nov 23, 2011
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Thanks, cwa107!
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westom

 
Member Since: Jan 03, 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtndew1054 View Post
2. How can I prevent damage to my computer from power surges? Preferably something easily portable, and not too expensive?
First learn that a protector and protection are two different items. A protector only connects to protection. Protection is where hundreds of thousands of joules dissipate.

Some systems don't have any protectors. But must always have the required item. Protection is earth ground. For example, household appliances are protected from a surge incoming on a cable TV or satellite cable by connecting to single point earth ground. A wire connection that exists just before the cable enters the building. No protector required. A wire connects that coax cable to earth. That is the best protection for cable TV.

Other incoming cables cannot connect directly to earth. So AC electric and telephone cables connect low impedance (ie 'less than 10 feet') to earth via a protector. No protector does protector. Either a protector or a wire connects to earth. Earth ground is where energy dissipates harmlessly outside the building.

You have two choices. Earth that transient before it enters the building. Or that transient is hunting for earth destructively via appliances. Could be the Mac. Could be the furnace. Either you have protection for everything. Or let advertising myths become knowledge. Your choice.

Obviously, wiring inside a house does nothing for appliance protection. Best protection means no rewiring. Same solution is just as effective on a 1930 house as on a 2010 one. Protection is always about connecting to earth BEFORE a surge can enter. An effective solution (that also costs tens or 100 times less money) comes from more responsible companies including ABB, Siemens, General Electric, Intermatic, Leviton, and Square D. A Cutler-Hammer solution sells in Lowes and Home Depot for less than $50.

Telephone already has superior protection installed for free. Even required by codes and Federal regulation. That 'whole house' protector is also only as effective as an earth ground that only you were responsible for providing. A box, where telco wires connects to your phone wires, must also have that low impedance (ie 'less than 10 foot') connection to single point earth ground.

Expressions such as 'less than 10 feet' and single point ground are critically important. Otherwise a surge will go hunting for earth via any household appliance. You are not just protecting the Mac. You are protecting everything - including the stove, clock radios, and GFCIs. Recommended is the only solution that was proven by science and 100 years of experience. That does not have massive profit margins resulting in urban myths and advertising.

But again, protection is always about where energy dissipates. Either harmlessly outside the building. Or destructively in a hunt for earth via appliances. You make that choice. A properly earthed ‘whole house’ protector means superior protection inside the Mac and other appliances is not overwhelmed. Typically destructive surges occur maybe once every seven years. Nobody even knows a surge exists when one ‘whole house’ protector is earthed. So that even direct lightning strikes (typically 20,000 amps) are connected harmlessly to earth by a minimal (50,000 amp) protector. These are provided by companies with names that any ‘guy’ has long respected.

If a Belkin did any protection, then a recommendation listed spec numbers that claim protection from each type of surge. A Belkin protector is near zero protection. Just enough joules above zero to claim 100% protection in advertising. Specifications that claim protection do not exist. Less responsible manufacturers will sell that $4 power strip with some ten cent protector parts for $35 or $100. Obscene profits means plenty of expensive advertising. More responsible companies put that money into better protection. Be aware of products that cost tens or 100 times more money while its spec numbers claim no protection. Protection is always - as in no exceptions - about where energy dissipates. That simple rule separates superior products from profit centers.
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bud--

 
Member Since: Nov 27, 2011
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The best information on surges and surge protection I have seen is at:
<http://www.lightningsafety.com/nlsi_lhm/IEEE_Guide.pdf>
- "How to protect your house and its contents from lightning: IEEE guide for surge protection of equipment connected to AC power and communication circuits" published by the IEEE in 2005 (the IEEE is the major organization of electrical and electronic engineers in the US).
And also:
<http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/practiceguides/surgesfnl.pdf>
- "NIST recommended practice guide: Surges Happen!: how to protect the appliances in your home" published by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology in 2001

The IEEE guide is aimed at those with some technical background. The NIST guide is aimed at the unwashed masses.

Quote:
Originally Posted by westom View Post
For example, household appliances are protected from a surge incoming on a cable TV or satellite cable by connecting to single point earth ground. A wire connection that exists just before the cable enters the building. No protector required.
"No protector required"?

The IEEE guide says “there is no requirement to limit the voltage developed between the core and the sheath. .... The only voltage limit is the breakdown of the F connectors, typically ~2–4 kV.” And "there is obviously the possibility of damage to TV tuners and cable modems from the very high voltages that can be developed, especially from nearby lightning."

Quote:
Originally Posted by westom View Post
A properly earthed ‘whole house’ protector means superior protection inside the Mac and other appliances is not overwhelmed.
A service panel protector is a real good idea. But from the NIST surge guide:
"Q - Will a surge protector installed at the service entrance be sufficient for the whole house?
A - There are two answers to than question: Yes for one-link appliances [electronic equipment], No for two-link appliances [equipment connected to power AND phone or cable or....]. Since most homes today have some kind of two-link appliances, the prudent answer to the question would be NO - but that does not mean that a surge protector installed at the service entrance is useless."

The NIST surge guide suggests that most equipment damage is from high voltage between power and phone/cable/... wires. (An example is in the IEEE surge guide starting page 30.) A service panel protector does not limit the voltage between power and phone/cable wires. A service panel protector should protect anything connected to only power wires.

Quote:
Originally Posted by westom View Post
So that even direct lightning strikes (typically 20,000 amps) are connected harmlessly to earth by a minimal (50,000 amp) protector.
The maximum surge current that has any reasonable probability of occurring is 10,000A per power service wire (mentioned in the IEEE surge guide). That is based on a 100,000A strike to an adjacent utility pole in typical urban over head distribution. The IEEE surge guide has recommendations for the ratings on a service panel protector.

Quote:
Originally Posted by westom View Post
If a Belkin did any protection, then a recommendation listed spec numbers that claim protection from each type of surge. A Belkin protector is near zero protection. Just enough joules above zero to claim 100% protection in advertising. Specifications that claim protection do not exist.
This is nonsense.

Doesn't claim protection? Some plug-in protectors have protected equipment warranties.

The author of the NIST surge guide looked at the amount of energy that can reach a plug-in protector. With branch circuits of 10 m and longer, and surges up to 10,000A (as above) the maximum was a surprisingly small 35 joules. In 13 of 15 cases it was 1 joule or less. A plug-in protector with high ratings and connected correctly is likely to protect from even a very near very strong lightning strike.

If using a plug-in protector all interconnected equipment needs to be connected to the same protector. External connections, like phone, also need to go through the protector. Connecting all wiring through the suppressor prevents damaging voltages between power and signal wires.

Any surge protector (service panel or plug-in) in the US (including UPSs with surge protection) should be listed under UL1449.

Every one of westom's "responsible companies" that make service panel protectors, except SquareD, also make plug-in protectors and say they are effective. SquareD says for their *best* service panel protector "electronic equipment may need additional protection by installing plug-in [protectors] at the point of use."

Both the IEEE and NIST surge guides say plug-in protectors are effective.

===========================
As cwa107 asked, are the places you use the computer in prone to surges?

Is the computer connected only to power? A service panel protector or plug-in protector are effective.

Does the computer have power plus phone or other signal wiring? A plug-in protector is effective. All external wires need to go through the protector.
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