MacMost Now 378: Uninterruptible Power Supplies

An Uninterruptible Power Supply is a great accessory for your Mac. It provides surge protection, protection against momentary power outages and gives you a chance to save your work if a longer power outage occurs.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let's take a look at uninterruptible power supplies. So an uninterruptible power supply or UPS for short is basically something that replaces your power strip, but provides not only surge protection, but a battery. The purpose of the battery is that when power goes out, you can still power your Mac through the battery, at least for a short period of time. So there are many UPS's on the market. Usually they cost anywhere from fifty dollars up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars for professional ones. So you plug your UPS into the wall and then you get power through the UPS just like you would a power strip. Usually there are two sets of plugs on the back of a UPS. One set is just for surge protection only. It acts just like a power strip. When power goes out you lose power to those outlets. The other set goes through the battery so if you lose power in your house or office then you still get power going out of these at least as long as the battery lasts. Now usually people think of a UPS when they lose
power. They usually get a few extra minutes of power to their Mac. So what you do with that extra time is of course save, quit your applications and shut down immediately. One mistake people make is to actually keep working and you just have a few minutes of power left so you don't want to mess around. But the real strength of a UPS is not in a full power outage. It's in those momentary power outages. I'm sure you've experienced them. Where you lose power maybe for just a second, your lights dim really quickly. And if you're running a computer sometimes your computer will shut down. Well if you have
a UPS you really see the power of the uninterruptible part 'cause your Mac just keeps going on and you don't have to worry about the power outage. In my neighborhood, I get these from time to time especially if there's a big snowstorm or thunderstorm and the UPS is invaluable for not losing my work and keep on going. So here's some buying advice. First of all, most UPS's are measured in a number that stands for voltage times amps, VA. Now for instance you might get a typical one for about fifty bucks that has 500 VA. This measures how much power the battery can produce once you have an outage so the larger the number the more equipment you can run. Now for a typical Mac setup, say an iMac, you could do with the standard home UPS, which usually run 500 to 700 VA, but make sure you don't plug too much into it. Consider what you really need if there's a power outage. For instance, if you have an iMac plugged into it that's all you may need. You may not care about your printer when there's a power outage but you don't want the printer to take any power from the battery. But if you have an external harddrive that's always hooked up to your Mac then you may want to have that plugged in to the UPS as well else you lose power to that and it will basically disappear from your Mac if you get a power outage. Now you can find UPS's almost anywhere. You find them in lots of online stores and you can also buy them locally in office supplies stores and home electronics stores. Now once you get one it's very important that you follow the instructions exactly. Some of them have pretty complex setups where you actually have to enable the battery, sometimes pulling off some tape off the battery or inserting it into the UPS. And then test it out. So say you have to charge it for a night or two, do that exactly as the instructions state and then try plugging a lamp into it and see what happens when you pull power. You don't want to just rely on the fact that it works and find out it doesn't the first time you actually have a power outage. And these things don't last either because there are batteries in them, so expect to get one every two or three years or so. That's where the real advantage of spending only about fifty bucks and getting one for your home is, is you can afford to do that. Get an expensive one, well it may fail after two or three years and you have to buy another expensive one. If you have a lot of equipment to plug in, say multiple Macs, consider getting multiple UPS's instead of one large one that way you don't have a single point of failure. Also I find it useful if you got network equipment like say your cable or DSL modem plus an AirPort Extreme and that's in another part of the room or house, maybe have a inexpensive UPS running those that way if you lose power you not only have a minute or so with your Mac, but you also still maintain your network connection. So one big exception to getting a UPS is of course if you have a MacBook. You've got batteries in MacBooks and MacBook Pros so you kind of have a built-in UPS, even battery. You've got probably hours of battery life after you lose power so you don't have to worry about it with those. This is mostly for iMacs, Mac Minis or getting a larger one for a Mac Pro. So I recommend anybody that uses a computer, Mac or anything else, to get a UPS. They're pretty inexpensive and well worth while. Until next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig for MacMost Now.

Comments: 6 Responses to “MacMost Now 378: Uninterruptible Power Supplies”

    Ken
    3/29/10 @ 1:15 pm

    Thanks Gary!

      Steven
      9/25/10 @ 2:39 pm

      I just bought a APC XS1500 for my Mac Pro and note that the last Power Chute app they provided us was in 2006 for Jaguar OSX 10.4. Nothing for Leopard or Snow Leopard so the UPS’s ability to shut down your computer if there’s a failure and before the battery runs down and you’re not around won’t function. If you you need Power Chute if you’re running a server, APC may not be the answer anymore. I’m returning mine.

    George Brickner
    3/29/10 @ 2:36 pm

    When I moved from Chicago to the suburbs in 1992, I bought a UPS from APC. That save my bacon many times when power dipped or failed.

    I had been buying UPS models with replaceable batteries since about 2000 and I find that the batteries typically last 3-5 years.
    Replacement batteries from APC arrive with a prepaid shipping label to ship them off for recycling as they contain lead.

    Herman Lette
    4/3/10 @ 2:05 am

    Maybe time the UPS is built in… Everyone is susceptible.. and definitely a useful feature..

    Alan
    4/7/10 @ 10:59 am

    I was looking for a way to ask Gary Rosensweig a couple of questions;

    Q1) How do you open and update files on my iDisk from the iPad, specifically in pages and numbers. I completely bought into the mobile me and idisk concept from apple and now they apparently abandoned it on the ipad. I don’t want to be sharing multiple versions of files i need to update from different platforms.

    Q2) Is for tip for Gary, or any other author within ear shot. There is little information out there for newbies, on how to take iWeb to the next level such as writing and publishing interactive web pages and web apps, written with dashcode. You tube, apple’s dev site and many bloggers go only so far, but haven’t put it altogether. This is an amazing combo of programs begging for attention by a growing number of apple enthusiasts. I think it’s an opportunity for an informed writer. Meanwhile I am learning it the hard way…

      4/7/10 @ 11:19 am

      In the future, you can use the Forum (http://macmost.com/forum) to ask questions not related to the topic of the post.
      A1 — They may update MobileMe to do this. But you don’t need it, necessarily. Look in iTunes, under your iPad’s Apps tab and you’ll see a way to transfer iWork documents. But I believe you can also use the iWork.com system, but I haven’t tested it yet.
      A2 — I think part of the reason is that iWeb is not meant for high-end production. It is more for simple personal sites. iWeb is the one program from Apple that I really do not like.

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