12/10/14
9:14 am

Uninterruptible Power Supplies

Next to a back drive, a UPS is the most important accessory you need if you own an iMac, Mac mini or Mac Pro. Essentially a power strip with a battery, a UPS will keep your Mac running if you have a power outage or even a split-second power interruption. Then you can shut down your Mac gracefully and not lose any work. Most UPSes today come with a USB connection that you can connect to your Mac. Then you get a new section in System Preferences where you can set your Mac to shut down on its own if power is out and the battery is in use.

Video Transcript (Click to Expand)
Hi this is Gary with MacMost.com. On today's episode let's take a look at using an uninterruptible power supply.

So an uninterruptible power supply, usually just called a UPS, is like a power strip with a battery. Plug it into the wall and then you plug your Mac into the UPS.

Basically when the power goes out or even if there is a short interruption the battery takes over and your Mac can stay on. Now this isn't meant for you to be able to keep working for a long period of time because the battery can only last for so long. Unless you are going to spend a lot of money on an UPS you are only going to get a few minutes of battery power out to power an iMac.

But what it will allow you to do is save your work, quit all your apps, and gracefully shut down rather than having your Mac suddenly turn off because of lack of power.

Now if you have a MacBook this isn't something that you need because your MacBook already has a battery in it. When you loose power that battery will take over and you actually can keep working for awhile.

But if you have an iMac, a MacMini, or a MacPro then I think an UPS is a must have.

They can be relatively cheap. If you look online at major sites like Amazon or you go to stores like Best Buy you are going to find them ranging from about $50 to in the thousands. Now the ones in the thousands are pro models and they will keep you working for little awhile. They have huge batteries in them.

The $50 ones will be good enough just to keep you working for a short period of time so you can shut down gracefully. So go and shop around for one. I haven't found an UPS that I think is really fantastic because they are all just basically large batteries and there are some flaws with batteries. They will only last maybe a year or two or three if you are lucky. But if you are not sure if you need one just get a cheap one, like one about $50, which is way better than having nothing.

On top of that most UPS's you get today, even the cheap ones, will come with a USB cable and you can hook that up to your Mac. When you go to System Preferences with those connected and you go to Energy Saver you will see that even on this Mac, which is a MacPro, I've got the Power tab, which I had before, and I have a UPS.

This is how the Mac will behave when the UPS battery is now active. The USB cable tells it that it's on battery power and now I can have the Sleep go much lower and Display sleep go much lower. Even set Shutdown options for when the battery reaches a certain level. So you can have your Mac gracefully shutdown, or at least somewhat gracefully shutdown, even if you are not sitting at your desk using these settings.

There is even the ability to show a Menu Bar icon which will give you some basics like how much battery power is left and stats like that. What you see exactly is going to depend on the UPS you buy.

Another place you can use an UPS is connected to your cable modem or DSL modem and your WiFi router. This will keep you up and running and connected to the internet even when you loose power. So if you have a MacBook and you have those two devices on an UPS then you should still have an internet connection even when power is down, at least while the power in that UPS lasts.

So look into getting a UPS for your desktop Mac. It is the second most important peripheral you can get next to, of course, your time machine backup drive.

Comments: 10 Responses to “Uninterruptible Power Supplies”

    Jeff Tucker
    12/11/14 @ 9:22 am

    Great article. I suffered over a 10K loss prior to connecting every device I own to a APC battery backup or similar device.. 8 years ago when I started using the battery backups I have never suffered any losses to date and I live in Florida where we have daily thunderstorms that result in many power fluctuations or outages… I wouldn’t own a electrical device without a Battery Backups..

    Dennis Logue
    12/11/14 @ 9:46 am

    You might add that a good UPS can protect from power fluctuations.
    I work with a lot of farmers out and around the Imperial Valley. Even in perfect weather, their power to their farm offices and houses jumps between 90 VAC to 130 VAC. I recommend a good sized UPS for each of those clients. A good UPS will regulate that short term power fluctuation and protect their equipment from dramatic surges. We use larger (or multiple) UPS systems so they can protect all their delicate equipment.

    Phil
    12/11/14 @ 10:50 am

    If the UPS battery runs down before the power comes back on is there a way to remotely reboot an iMac running Yosemite?

      1/14/15 @ 9:48 am

      In your System Preferences, Energy Saver. There is an option for this. You’ll see it.

    David
    12/11/14 @ 5:46 pm

    Gary, thank you for this. I did not even know that UPS’s existed at this level. If I’m going to put my iMac, my time capsule router, and my modem on the UPS so that I can work a little bit before shutting down in a power outage, is there a recommendation for how many volts/watts/etc. I should purchase to run those three? Cheap seems fine, but I want to make sure it’s enough.

      1/14/15 @ 9:49 am

      It is money vs. power. Spend more money, you get a bigger battery, and you have more power and a longer time period to use it. If you are good with numbers and electronics, you can look at every device, figure out home much power/time each uses, and then estimate how long you should last. The more you add to the UPS, the more quickly the battery will be used up.

    Tim
    12/24/14 @ 4:08 pm

    I did not know that a UPS only lasts a year or two. Mine is ten years old. Time to get a new one.

      Michael Logue
      1/11/15 @ 3:02 pm

      I have a TrippLite that has lasted over 30 years. I have had to replace the battery twice, but that is reasonable. Also had several other UPS’s that have lasted over 20 years that had to have there batteries replaced twice, so I don’t know where you got that erroneous information. Of course the surge protectors only last until they are used, which could be anywhere from a couple of minutes to several years.

    Cliff
    1/16/15 @ 6:40 am

    I have owned at least two UPSes of different makes over the last seven or eight years, and have found them to be completely ineffective against split second power interruptions. At least once, I was sitting right in front of the computer when it happened. The UPS unit did nothing to prevent the shutdown. I would not waste money on one again.

      1/16/15 @ 7:02 am

      Interesting. But I think perhaps you got some bad ones, or maybe there was another issue. I’ve seen many short power outages (1-5 seconds) and my various UPSes have never failed to work.

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