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What are Hardware Threats


What are Hardware Threats

What are Hardware Threats

Hardware problems are all too common. We all know that when a PC or disk gets old, it might start acting erratically and damage some data before it totally dies. Unfortunately, hardware errors frequently damage data on even young PCs and disks. Here are some examples.

Power Faults

Your PC is busy writing data to the disk and the lights go out! It's vital to know for sure if anything was damaged.

Other power problems of a similar nature would include brownouts, voltage spikes, and frequency shifts. All can cause data problems, particularly if they occur when data is being written to disk (data in memory generally does not get corrupted by power problems; it just gets erased if the problems are serious enough).

  • Brownout Lower voltages at electrical outlets. A brownout is an intentional or unintentional drop in voltage in an electrical power supply system. Intentional brownouts are used for load reduction in an emergency. The reduction lasts for minutes or hours, as opposed to short-term voltage sag (or dip). Frequently you will see a brownout during a heat wave when more people than normal have air conditioners on full. Sometimes these power shortages will be "rolling" across the area giving everyone a temporary brownout. Maybe you'll get yours just as that important file is being written to disk.

  • Voltage Spikes Temporary voltage increases are fairly common. Spikes are fast, short duration electrical transients in voltage (voltage spikes), current (current spikes), or transferred energy (energy spikes) in an electrical circuit. Fast, short duration electrical transients (overvoltages) in the electric potential of a circuit are typically caused by. Power surges, (sometimes called voltage surges) are fast, temporary spikes in voltage within an electrical circuit. These surges, which are unavoidable, occur when something boosts the electrical charge at some point in the circuit. Lightning can put large spikes on power lines. And, the list goes on. A common surge protector will stop voltage spikes and surges, but not the violent, catastrophic burst of current from a close lightning strike. Direct lightning current is simply too big to protect with a little electronic device inside a power strip, or even a hefty UPS unit.

  • Frequency Shifts While infrequent, if the line frequency varies from the normal 60 Hertz (or 50 Hertz in some countries), the power supply on the computer can be affected and this, in turn, can reflect back into the computer causing data loss or component damage.

Age of Computer

It's not magic; as computers age they tend to fail more often. Electronic components are stressed over time as they heat up and cool down. Mechanical components simply wear out. Some of these failures will be dramatic; something will just stop working. Some, however, can be slow and not obvious. Regrettably, it's not a question of "if", but "when" in regard to equipment failure.

Magnetic Zaps

Computer data is generally stored as a series of magnetic changes on disks. While hard disks are generally safe from most magnetic threats because they are encased within the computer compartment, floppy disks are highly vulnerable to magnets.


Active action on your part can help you identify problems and, perhaps, head them off early.

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