Are PC surge protectors needed in the UK?

Are surge protectors on the main power supply actually needed in the UK?
here in the UK we have few overhead mains power lines and have a
relatively steady mains power supply when compared to many other countries (including the US).
However there seem to be very many surge protector products advertised for sale in the UK (Argos, Maplins, etc).
I am quite sure it is not bad practice to use a surge protector but in fact I have never known anyone who has has a problem from a surge coming in through the power supply.
So personally I don't bother using a surge protector on my PC.
Am I being too complacent?
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No, at least not to protect PCs.

Lots of people run a particular OS which is known for its instability, and you can sell them just about anything if you suggest it might make their systems more stable. Of course it doesn't, but that just means they'll try something else (except changing the OS;-). Surge protectors are one of the many items on the list that such people will try.
The other issue is that the multi-way trailing socket blocks got down to the point where they're only a couple of pounds each, or even less. By adding a extra few pence worth of components, you can call them surge protected and sell them for 3 times the price. Brings in more profit.

True. Even if you have millions of pounds worth of equipment on your supply, it isn't worth it, the occurance is so rare, so it certainly isn't for a few home PC's.
What I have seen several times is damage caused by a surge induced by lightning on a phone line. Of course, the mains surge protector will do nothing to protect against that.

Not in my opinion. If I saw something at less than rip-off prices for protecting against surge on phone line, I might consider that.
--
Andrew Gabriel

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Is the cumulative effect of transient voltages leading to premature equipment failure not an issue then? something as simple as a desk fan switched on & off and supplied via the same socket as a PC can create a transient over voltage of 1kV Sure it will not knock the PC out but it will reduce the life of the kit.
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Andrew Gabriel wrote:

I have a surge protector which includes protection for the phone line, so that's where the ADSL modem gets plugged. Whether it would actually work or not is another matter of course. My complacency lies in not bothering to research the matter thoroughly, on the grounds that if I was buying snake oil, it was at least *cheap* snake oil...
For the mains, online UPS is the proper solution, but I can't say I'm unduly concerned about not having one. Power provision in the UK is fairly reliable at the moment, although political and business imperatives will probably conspire to make it worse in the future.
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A plug-in surge protector is on the order of tens of times more money per protected appliance. Furthermore it does not even claim to protect from the typically destructive transient. Protectors do not stop, block, filter, or absorb destructive transients. Ineffective protector manufacturers get one to wish that is how they work. In reality, the protector is not protection. Protector and protection are two separate components of a surge protection system. Effective systems must include the protection. And the connection to protection is either a hardwire (less than 3 meters) or a protector (also part of a less than 3 meter connection).
In short, the protection is called single point earth ground. Destructive surges may enter the building seeking earth ground. If not earthed (either by hardwire connection or by surge protector), then the destructive surge may find a path to earth ground via computer. One classic example is due to a direct strike to lines highest on utility poles - AC electric. Incoming on AC electric, through computer and its modem, then outgoing to earth ground via phone line. Many then *assume* the surge entered on phone line, damaged modem, then stopped - a violation of even primary school science.
Effective protection means all incoming utilities are earthed before entering the building. All must be earthed to the same single point earth ground. That means even the CATV wire drops down to earth ground, connects ground block 'less than 3 meters' to that earth ground, and only then rises back up to enter building. Again, no surge protector required because earthing is accomplished by a direct and short hardwire connection.
These concepts are explained further including some examples of 'whole house' protectors for AC mains at: "RJ-11 line protection?" on 30 Dec 2003 through 12 Jan 2004 in pdx.computing at http://tinyurl.com/2hl53 and "strange problem after power surge/thunderstorm" in comp.dcom.modems on 31 Mar 2003 at http://tinyurl.com/2gumt .
Additional information on how surge protectors work, how they are rated, installed, etc was posted in: "Opinions on Surge Protectors?" on 7 Jul 2003 in the newsgroup alt.certification.a-plus at http://tinyurl.com/l3m9 and "Power Surge" on 29 Sept 2003 in the newsgroup alt.comp.hardware at http://tinyurl.com/p1rk
One industry professional demonstrates how two structures are protected. Notice every wire entering each structure (building and tower) must first connect to single point ground. Even the buried phone wire carries a potentially destructive transient which is why even buried wires must enter building at the service entrance with the 'less than 3 meter' connection to earth ground: http://www.erico.com/public/library/fep/technotes/tncr002.pdf
How do we identify ineffective protectors? 1) No dedicated connection to earth ground AND 2) manufacturer avoids all discussion about earthing. A surge protector is only as effective as its earth ground - the protection.
Those ineffective protector manufacturers fear you might learn about the essential earth ground AND discover that plug-in protectors cost tens of times more money per protected appliance.
Pyriform wrote:

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Could a very fast-acting switch (like in an Residual Current Detector) be used to cut the incoming power supply quickly enough to halt the transient mains electricity spike before it got to be too large?
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Again an assumption that something will stop or block a destructive transient. Kilometers of air could not stop the transient. Do you think that silly little RCD switch contact will do what kilometers of sky could not? Again, protection is about shunting (diverting, connecting, shorting) a transient to earth ground. There is no way around that fundamental fact. Nothing is effective at stopping such transients.
Again, read those cited discussions. Effective protection was even demonstrated by Ben Franklin in 1752. It too is discussed there. Did Franklin stop or block transients? Of course not. Only products selling on myths attempt to get others to "speculate" that protectors work by sitting between the transient and its objective - earth ground destructively via a computer.
Second - what fast acting switch? That RCD maybe takes 10 milliseconds to respond. In the meantime, 300 consecutive and destructive transient would complete before the RCD even thought about tripping. That fast acting switch has the speed of molasses. Effective protection is defined in those previously cited posts. You have much to learn there.
"J.J." wrote:

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My surge protector came with a guarantee that the company will pay to repair or replace any equipment damaged through the powerlines when it was plugged in to their product.
--
"Outside the camp you shall have a place set aside to be used as a
latrine. You shall keep a trowel in your equipment and with it, when you
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On Fri, 09 Jul 2004 02:16:23 +0000, Gregory L. Hansen wrote:

Have you collected on that promise? Somehow I think you'd buy an extended warranty on that strip too. ;-)
--
Keith


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Haven't had anything break that was plugged into it, although the power has flickered or quit many times during storms. But then, the TV and VCR are still working, and they're not on a surge protector.
--
"Let us learn to dream, gentlemen, then perhaps we shall find the
truth... But let us beware of publishing our dreams before they have been
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wrote:

I've been around for some time now, and I've never known or heard of anyone actually collecting on such an offer. I know a few that tried, but gave up after about the fifteenth hoop (getting through the first few was a cake walk, but they kept getting higher, and higher!). :-] I've heard that some outfits will pay claims depending on the cost of the item involved, but know damage will occur with their devices, and consider the payout a cost of doing business.
Read all the fine print on the offer you have, and report back if you think you still have a prayer collecting after damaging surge event.
Louis-- ********************************************* Remove the two fish in address to respond
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     snipped-for-privacy@steel.ucs.indiana.edu (Gregory L. Hansen) writes:

If you do the sums, it cheaper for them to leave out the surge suppressor components altogether and just pay up on any such incident. Power line surges (in the UK at least) is a vanishingly insignificant source of damage.
--
Andrew Gabriel

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Yes, we've had an exceptionally stable/reliable supply in the UK for perhaps 30 years now (or well over 40 years if you ignore the 1972 miners strike). There are a number of reasons why that's unlikely to be maintained in the future though.
--
Andrew Gabriel

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snipped-for-privacy@cucumber.demon.co.uk (Andrew Gabriel) wrote:

What sort of reasons do you have in mind for causing a less stable/reliable UK mains power supply?
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In a nutshell... o We are no longer self-sufficient in energy (became a natural gas importer last year) and are increasingly going to have to rely on sources from the less stable parts of the planet and sources which require traversing the less stable parts of the planet. o All the non-natural gas sources of generation are winding down at the end of their service lifetimes, and no more being built (ignoring renewables, which are currently insignificant). o We no longer have a store of energy -- we used to have many months supply of coal stockpiled at power stations and weeks supply of gas stored in gasometers -- all now gone. o We now have very little in the way of spare generating capacity. The nationalised electricity generating board used to maintain spare capacity to enable peaks and unexpected outages to be handled without concern, but the privatised companies mothballed this plant as they are only paid for what they produce. It would take between 3 months and a year to get it back in service, depending how long it's been mothballed, so it's no use as an energency reserve.
The industry had a wake-up call on 10 December 2002 when the country got within a couple of minutes of having to load shed (switch off parts of the country in an emergency due to not enough power being able to be generated to meet demand). In spite of this, nothing was done. Again last winter, there was a particularly cold spell forecast and a number of experts warned we were in an even worse state than the year before. Fortunately, the cold spell wasn't anything like as bad as forecast. Given these wake-up calls have been ignored by the government, it looks like it's going to have to get worse before any notice is taken, and we probably are going to have to suffer a significant load-shedding incident blacking out significant parts of the country.
--
Andrew Gabriel

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I have no UK electrical power system knowledge.
I do however have extensive electrical utility knowledge.
I would never install a computer without a UPS.
What is the age of the installed cables? When a cable faults the surge is substantial. Transformers, capacitors, breakers, generators ...all fault at times and they result in heavy electrical surges.
HDD are frequently corrupted due to power events.
~$40 USD (350VA) with $15000 of equipment insurance is worthwhile.
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Does anyone have a reference to HDDs getting corrupted by power events on the mains power supply?
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References, no, practical, hands on experience, yes. I've seen this several times, not only the HDD, but I've had transient power problems take out motherboards too. Examples: Case 1: Home computer (this one) tree fell across a main line (11kva I think), caused a surge prior to the stepdown transformer kicking out, corrupted an almost new 40 gig hdd. Fortunately, an LLF fixed it. Case 2: Engraving lasers at work, fed from the bus, kept killing HDD's and motherboards. Ultimately traced to transient voltage spikes, installed an AVR UPS. Failures were occuring once to twice a week, after the AVR UPS was installed on each machine, we have had Zero failures, in over a year.
--
Anthony

You can't 'idiot proof' anything....every time you try, they just make
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Dunno about HDDS but I lost an Ethernet NIC (Netgear FA310TX) to a one-second transient just yesterday morning... Fortunately it is one of the cheapest and simplest parts in the PC to replace.
--
Mark

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Hard drives can be corrupted for various reasons based also upon what the filesystem is. For example, if using FATxx filesystems, then a loss of electrical power at the right time can even erase files from that drive. Just another reason why the technically informed want NTFS filesystems on drives; not FAT.
Transients should never be a problem to disk drives or memory. Based upon how these devices are connected, then a differential type transient would be required to cause damage. But all minimally acceptable power supplies must have the essential function called overvoltage protection - that makes a differential transient not possible.
That is the theory as well proven by power supplies even 30 years ago. Reality is the gross profits obtained by dumping inferior supplies in North America where so many computer assemblers don't even have basic electrical knowledge. Many clones are not built and sold missing the essential overvoltage protection because the assembler only understands one specification - dollars. It's called a bean counter mentality. If the power supply is sold on the cheap, (ie full retail price is less than $60), then this and other critical functions are simply *forgotten*. Does not matter. Consumer is only to be fleeced.
If the destructive differential transient does occur, there is no overvoltage protection circuit to protect that hardware - do to power supply purchased by a bean counter. No problem. Myth purveyors then quickly blame speculated surges, and recommend overpriced, typically undersized, and ineffective plug-in protectors.
Up front - does the power supply specifically state that overvoltage protection is provided? If not, then it probably is a man-made disaster just waiting to destroy disk drive, data, and other computer components.
This overvoltage protection is something completely different from another disk drive threat to FAT filesystems - blackouts and brownouts.
"J.J." wrote:

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