Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on Sept. 11. Volunteer today

Bits & Bytes

Most Popular


Tech New Year's Resolution

Follow these simple steps for a happy tech year.

Buy an Uninterruptible Power Supply

When your power goes out suddenly, bad things happen to desktop computers. Any changes to files you were using are lost in an instant. Worse, the fast-spinning platter inside your hard drive and the magnetic head that reads data from it can collide, potentially damaging the disk. This isn't a problem for laptop users, since there's a battery inside to keep powering the machine if the lights go out. If you have a desktop computer then you'll definitely want to purchase an uninterruptible power supply (UPS.)  

A UPS is a great big battery for desktop computers. You leave the UPS plugged in to the wall, continuously charging, and your computer plugged into the UPS. Not only does this protect against power failures, it also keeps power spikes and brownouts from hurting your equipment.

The tricky part is figuring out what size UPS you need. You want to plug the computer and monitor (not the printer, which is a power hog and unnecessary in a blackout) into a battery-backed outlet, but different computers and monitors draw different amounts of power. If you look at your computer and monitor manuals, or the manufacturers' online sites, you should find the power draw figures in volts (VA) and watts (W). With this information, you can visit UPS manufacturers' websites or read product boxes at a retail store and figure out which units will meet your needs.

As an alternative, if you know what kind of processor your computer uses and the monitor size, you can calculate a recommendation at the web site of APC, a leading manufacturer in this category (you're not locked into their product line, since the results provide the recommended power capacity in addition to specific APC model names). As you'd expect, their calculation will err on the high side, but that's not the worst thing — having more power available never hurts while not having enough is big trouble, and even beefy UPS system for home users are available for around $100. Also, some UPS systems come with software that will automatically and safely shut down your computer in case of a blackout, a very useful feature.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


Social Networking

Step-by-step instructions on how to use some of the Web's most popular networking sites. Go


How to Use Your PC

Guides covering everything from setting up your desktop, to getting the most out of Excel. Go


Protect Your Digital Life

Keep your computer secure, your web surfing safe, and your inbox spam free with these tips. Go


Discounts & Benefits

Geek Squad Computing

Members save on Geek Squad services with Geek Squad® Tech Support & Guidance for AARP® Members.

AARP Discounts on ADT Companion Services

Members get 20% off NEW installation and activation of ADT® Personal Emergency Response System.

AARP Discounts on Consumer Cellular Phones and Plans

Members save 5% on monthly service and usage charges with Consumer Cellular.

Member Benefits

Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change. Join Today


computer questions and tips

Computer Questions & Tips

Pick up some handy how-tos from this savvy group of techies. Discuss


Freebies Group

Favorite Websites & Freebies

Share your top sites for interesting information, helpful resources — and free stuff! Discuss