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Should you get a UPS for your PC?

GPU
GPU (Image credit: Windows Central)

Essentially, a UPS is a big battery pack that can keep things running in the event of a power failure. Think of it like those little USB battery packs you plug your smartphone into, only much, much larger.

It sits between the mains power supply and your electrical equipment, acting as a passthrough while charging itself under normal conditions. If the power goes out, the battery will then use its charge to keep your electricals powered up.

Large companies will use a UPS to keep their essential systems running in the event of a power cut, but much smaller options are available for the home and small office environments. It's something if you've considered at all, you should definitely invest in.

Or rather, it's something you should invest in if you have anything in regular use that isn't portable, such as a laptop or tablet, with their own built-in batteries. It's a waste of money if you only use something like this.

Desktop PC equipment and many other electricals for that matter are sensitive to sudden surges or complete cut outs in power. Once or twice you can get away with, but if losing power is a frequent occurrence then having a UPS in-between will protect your valuable equipment from both. Whether it's frequent power cuts or a toddler who keeps turning off the plug, you'll have piece of mind that when the worst happens you have a backup.

A UPS will give you piece of mind that your expensive equipment is being looked after

What you'll get from a UPS is time to correctly shut down your equipment if you've lost power completely at the mains. The size of the unit you go for and how many devices are connected will ultimately determine how long you have, but you'll have an opportunity at least. This is the main benefit to having a UPS in the home; you can shut everything down correctly and minimize your chances of serious issues. Some will even have special software to shut down devices like NAS drives properly without you having to do a thing.

It all sounds rather expensive, and as such might be something that keeps getting put to the back of your mind. But, as with most technology, there's something for everyone. UPS systems don't have to cost a fortune, with some very affordable options out there.

The bottom line is that we'd certainly recommend a UPS to anyone who has an amount of frequently used, sensitive equipment such as desktop PCs and games consoles. Give yourself the time to make sure they're shut down correctly while protecting them from surges during use. Most UPS units will also come with some kind of insurance from the manufacturer, so that should an issue arise as a result of use, you have that little extra piece of mind.

The best UPS backups for your PC

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

48 Comments
  • What about high-rated power supplies, as in high end gaming configurations? Some years back I had to stop using my UPS when I upgraded my PSU, it was not compatible with it. And I don't mean capacity, it was related to the type of power the UPS supplied.
  • Yea its alright though because those high end or actually any decent PSU will absolutely be able to handle any surging that happens. I have a corsair that is not compatible with UPS or powerstrips/bars
  • I recall it had something to do with the waveform of the energy output from the UPS being square and not round, which would trigger the surge protection (or similar) in the PSU. Does it make sense? It was a long time ago and I researched hard but I forgot the explanation. I think this kind of articles should cover most of the use scenarios, and there's a lot of people with gamer setups. But if you have the money and make it work, an UPS is a really nice addition to a serious rig.
  • To get a good sinusoidal waveform from a ups you need to get an expensive one
  • Well, just install a really good inverter in the house mains itself with a good battery (capacity)!!
    You'll get a Sine wave throughout the time irrespective of whether you have power or not ! :) And yeah, having a UPS on top of that is a definite plus.
  • Yeah as the comment below yours my 1700w is just not going to happen, im going with let it pop and buy new gear for the price of an ups for it at £1000
  • Anyone can provide a cheap ups for 1700w for a few minutes, im happy
  • http://www.apc.com/shop/us/en/products/APC-Smart-UPS-3000VA-LCD-120V/P-S... gives you a full 9 minutes to shut down
  • Sadly I rather let the pc pop and buy new gear over £1000 ups
  • They are not cheap, and you are supposed to change the battery every 2-3 years, which is about the price of the UPS itself.  But companies like APC and Tripplite try to sell you on the fact that you're not protecting the hardware, but the data.
  • We have APC UPS at work. They are a pain in the butt. Every two years they start beeping and we have to basically buy a new one as the batteries are so expensive... I say have a good backup system in place for home, and if it shutsdown and you somehow lose data or get corruptions that cant be fixed just restore from the backup. Its not worth having an UPS imo. For home use that is.
  • For a student, I cannot get back in time to shut it down. But my computer is either off, hibernating, or in sleep. Sleep mode might mess it up a little, but I think it's going to be ok for the one time a year occurrence that the power goes out
  • Get the lithium one. Battery lasts much longer and It's light weight.
  • Yup I definitely recommend it. In fact, come to think of it, I should start looking to replace mine as they're getting quite old. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Well nice article.
    But...I have an i3-6320-rx480 ...(650 Watt PSU)so can anyone recommend me a good UPS for my PC?
  • You have to add everything connected to it, 650w, the monitor if it's also connected to the battery part of the UPS, and your router if you don't want to have to wait for it to reset every single brownout you get.   In all with a 650w power supply around 1000w should be enough.  Keep in mind that 1000v is not the same as 1000va. For 1000w you're looking at around 1500va, depending on the brand and how efficient it is.
  • Game consoles don't need a UPS...
  • if the system shuts down as it's writing to the drive, it can cause corrupt data.. 
  • The cost of maybe 750va ups vs console price
  • Ok maybe a 500va version at £75 ain't bad, it still depends either way
  • They do if you want to remain online to finish a match. I have a UPS on both my pc (modem and router as well) and on my tv with my Xbox. I don't plan on playing off of them because I have a standby generator that will provide power 90 seconds later. Great peace of mind playing that progress won't be wiped on a hard achievement because of power loss, no matter how short.
  • It would be a good thing just in case you are saving and during the same time it just randomly shuts down. So instead of corrupting your data it actually saves you time and effort. That's just how I see it lol. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Every piece of electronics you have should be on a UPS. At least the ones you wanna extend the life of.
  • Don't plug a printer though
  • Maybe it depends on where you live, but we don't really get power outages in most parts of the UK. If the price is right then it can't hurt but I've never had a power outage in my adult life, never mind one that caused me any sort of loss. In business, totally different story but I'm thinking of at home
  • I can't speak about the UK, but here in the US (at least in the area I live) there are a lot of places where if you stick a meter into an outlet you can see power fluctuations. Most of the time they are harmless amounts, but many have an amount that can lessen the life of your electronics. A good UPS can solve this, while also providing some protection from power loss.
  • That makes sense. I think we are quite well shielded from most things in the UK, and in the part I live in we don't even get the kind of flooding certain parts of the country get. Really no extreme weather and power always seems stable here, which isn't the reality in a lot of the world. (We're pretty tiny....what could go wrong) I do prefer to just use an Anker portable battery to charge my USB devices abroad, I'm sure power supplies there won't do any hard to a phone etc. but it's also easier.
  • At least talking about Xbox One fat, it is recommended not using any UPS or similar.
  • UPS systems are damn cheap today, and they are available for as low as $23 in India, for a normal PC.
  • $23? Wen in US?
  • LOL.
  • I bought a rather good UPS last week for about $44, by APC, the company pictured in the article. APC is "American Power Conversion" Corp, so, you might get some.
  • APC supplied the units that FNW (failed when needed) as remarked on in my post below.
  • Got my UPS ready for Hurricane Matthew tonight.
  • Be safe my friend, be safe.
  • If you don't make it can I have your stuff?
  • Been using one for over a decade. Also have one ok my router and modem. And yes, most of the time when power fails, internet keeps on going.
  • Ya, me too, but mine is only like a 750 and it only lasts 40 minutes with modem and router. Still better than nothing, and great for the short outages! Great idea and I hope others will do it too.
  • A must for those with SSD's.
  • Or those with STD's.
  • dumb article/question. OF COURSE YOU SHOULD!   hell I go even further and put backup batteries for EVERY TV and important electrical device (sat box, xbox's, phones, modems, pc's, etc.). no, you won't be able to continue gaming for long if the power goes out, but you'll have plenty of time to save your progress and gracefully shut everything down.
  • Phones? They already have a battery....Just grab an Anker rechargeable battery for you phone and you can use it during the 99% of the time there isn't a power outage. I've got a 20,100 mAh battery from Anker and whenever we go away for weekends abroad etc. I don't even both plugging my phone into the wall as this can pretty much keep two phones going for a long weekend
  • What I meant was the base station for my home phones. If the base station goes down, they all do. And yes I am aware that a regular phone gets power from the line, but I don't have regular phone service- I use VoIP.
  • UPS delivered my UPS the other day. A Cyberpower with 1500VA. 
  • I cannot recommend a UPS. I worked for a software company for many years.  All machines had UPSes.  This may have been a maintenance problem, but on the occasions when we needed them, only about 50-60% of the UPSes actually cut over in time, and some of those subsequently failed within minutes or seconds, bleeping their alarms across the floors,  I remember losing about 15 minutes of coding on an installation program because my UPS didn't work at all. Of course, in those days, UPSes used mainly SLA battery technology,  That may have changed. About eight years ago, I started to use notebook computers exclusively.  One evening, my spouse (who had a work laptop) and I were sitting at the kitchen table, working on our respective projects, when the power went down for the neighborhood.  The lights went out.  It was 5-10 minutes before we realized that anything had happened.  Laptops, with their low power consumption and excellent battery life, have become my tool of choice. If you're a high-end gamer, notebooks and tablets may not work for you. But for all other uses, I can't see any reason to have something that's not self-powered.
  • I wouldn't say I don't recommend it, but what you say is true in part, it does give you a false sence of security, and like I said, you do have to replace them every 2 to 3 years. I work for a majoy computer company, we have UPS in each of our stations, but we now have to keep them off and use only the surge part as a strip basically, if anybody turns their UPS on it will just start beeping cause the batteries are dead. But like you, we all did move from towers to notebooks, and we have generations that power on the building right away, so there is no chance of a data lost anymore, at most our monitors will flicker between the power lost and the generators kicking in
  • I have been using APC Back-UPS Pro 900VA for a long while now and can recommend. It is important to me as I run some stuff like router and NAS 24/7 and want to have access from outside at all times. This UPS can provide juice for NAS and router for several hours in case of long power outages. As for my PC, it gives about 20 minutes of normal desktop performance
  • Yep. That's all I'll use the UPS for: router & NAS. Don't care about my desktops. Newer laptops in the household have about 3 hour battery life with moderate usage.