Voltage is the force that moves electrons through a circuit. The movement of electrons is called current. Computer circuits need voltage and current to operate electronic components. When the voltage in a computer is not accurate or steady, computer components might not operate correctly. Unsteady voltages are called power fluctuations.
The following types of AC power fluctuations can cause data loss or hardware failure:
- Blackout - Complete loss of AC power. A blown fuse, damaged transformer, or downed power line can cause a blackout.
- Brownout - Reduced voltage level of AC power that lasts for a period of time. Brownouts occur when the power line voltage drops below 80 percent of the normal voltage level. Overloading electrical circuits can cause a brownout.
- Noise - Interference from generators and lightning. Noise results in poor quality power, which can cause errors in a computer system.
- Spike - Sudden increase in voltage that lasts for a short period and exceeds 100 percent of the normal voltage on a line. Spikes can be caused by lightning strikes, but can also occur when the electrical system comes back on after a blackout.
- Power surge - Dramatic increase in voltage above the normal flow of electrical current. A power surge lasts for a few nanoseconds, or one-billionth of a second.