Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS) should be a part of every computer setup. Not only does it provide actual protection against power surges (unlike those $9.95 power strips), it also provides battery power to your PC for several minutes if the power fails completely, giving you enough time to save any open documents and shut down all programs and Windows gracefully.
APC is one of the top names, so when I went shopping for a new UPS, the APC web site was one of my first stops. After deciding on what features and how much power I needed, I decided to get the Back-UPS Pro 500 USB.
The Pro 500 was surprisingly light and small, and easily tucked away under my desk in the corner. Installation was a breeze. The installation instructions that came in 5 different languages were barely needed. Before you can use the unit, you have to open the battery compartment (the battery is user replaceable, no need to buy a new unit or send it in) and connect the battery. I plugged a 19″ Iiyama monitor and my home-brewed Celeron box into 2 of the 4 (!) battery backed-up (and surge-protected) outlets, and my speakers into one of the three surge-protected only outlets. Then I connected the UPS via a USB cable to one of the USB ports of the PC and installed the software as prompted. The instructions said 4 hours charging time would be enough to achieve maximum capacity, the web site claims 7. I just let it sit overnight.
After everything is installed, a new icon showed up in the Systray in form of a power plug. Double-clicking it brings up the Power Management Properties window, the same one you get by going to Start / Settings / Control Panel / Power Management. There is now a new tab available, called APC UPS Status. It displays all the important stuff, such as Current Power Source (Battery or AC), Total Battery Capacity Remaining (in percent), Runtime Remaining (in minutes), and a slider that lets you adjust at what percentage of battery capacity left the PC is to be shut down automatically. The default is set to 40% to give enough time to shut down all programs and Windows gracefully. Very simple, but efficient. Just the essential stuff and no unnecessary gadgets, just the way I like it.
Once it was set up, of course I wanted to know whether it worked as advertised. So I got me a watch to track the time and pulled the plug on the UPS. The light on the UPS turned from green to yellow and an audible alert of 4 beeps sounded every 30 seconds indicating that battery power is being used. The status tab in Power Management informed me that the UPS was at 100% capacity, could provide 15 minutes of backup time which is more than plenty, and was set to shut down the PC when 40% battery capacity was left. Sure enough, after 8 minutes a dialog appeared on the screen informing me that the PC was about to be shut down with a 30 second countdown timer. The nice touch was that it gave the option to abort the shutdown, or to confirm shutdown and proceed without waiting 30 seconds.
I had a browser window open, Windows Explorer, and a Word document that was partially saved. After 30 seconds all applications closed automatically one after the other. Then it shut down the software for my Wingman steering wheel. This software always shows a warning on shutdown informing you that the wheel will not work if this software is not running and the OK button needs to be pushed. Not a problem for the automatic shutdown, it closed the warning dialog without hesitation. Once all programs were closed, Windows was shut down gracefully and the PC was turned off. Exactly what I expected.
I plugged the UPS back in and turned the PC back on. Windows came up without any complaints. When I checked the APC UPS Status, it informed me that the battery was at 46% capacity with 7 minutes run-time left and charging. Again, exactly what I expected. When I checked again later, it was back up to 100% and 15 minutes backup time. Then I pulled up the Word document to see if the part of the text that was not saved when I pulled the plug was still there. Sure enough, it had saved it before closing Word, as expected.
Additional nive touches are that the UPS also has surge-protection for a phone line. In addition, it comes with a few feet of extra phone cord and some velcro cable ties. The instructions are in form of a big, clearly illustrated sheet and come in 5 languages, plus a very informative booklet about power problems, what a UPS does, and more.
I have to say I was very impressed with how flawless and efficient this UPS worked. Exactly as advertised, everything worked perfectly, it provided even more backup time than advertised and left nothing to be desired. No wonder that APC is the top name. Job well done!
Submitted by: Alex