Using a Portable Generator to Power a Computer

Using a Portable Generator to Power a Computer. What You Need to Know

6 Min Read

Most people think of all portable generators as being nearly identical to one another, at least as far as their utility.

These units are designed to produce electricity when traditional sources fail – using alternative fuel sources and helping us keep our lights on, our HVAC systems running, and giving us enough juice to operate all of our important appliances.

But what about some of the more sensitive electronics we own like our computers?

Is the electricity produced by portable generator exactly the same as the electricity pumped into our home on a regular basis?

Are we running a risk plugging our computer into a power strip that has been hooked up to a generator?

Find out the answers to these questions below!

What Do I Need to Know About Using a Portable Generator to Power a Computer?

Right out of the gate, you should know that the power produced by portable generator is not always identical to the power that normally gets delivered into your home.

Sure, plugging your computer into a power strip certainly looks and feels like you are doing the same thing you’ve always done when you plug your computer into the wall.

But the energy source that is being delivered to that power strip (and then into your computer) isn’t exactly the same.

You see, most portable generators (traditional portable generators, anyway) are not the safest thing in the world to use with your more delicate and sensitive electronics – like a computer.

That’s because these generators are pushing out a different kind of energy, one that fluctuates, is anything but uneven, and can surge at any time to push serious voltage fluctuations through your devices – frying them in the process.

Obviously that’s not ideal.

Are Portable Generators Safe for Sensitive Electronics Like a Computer?

Portable generators can be made safe for usage with more sensitive electronics like a computer if you do a couple of different things first.

For starters, you’re going to want to try your level best to invest in inverter style generators – those that have the ability to produce a pure sine wave or a square wave.

Your sine wave generators are the best of the bunch, delivering you even and consistent power that isn’t going to spike and that isn’t going to jump all over the place.

You’ll still want to use a power surge protector (something we highlight a little more in just a moment), but the energy produced by these generators is much safer for your sensitive and delicate electronics.

There’s a lot less to worry about connecting a computer to a sine wave inverter generator than there is an old diesel generator pumping all kinds of juice through the system.

Square wave inverter generators are little riskier to be sure, though they are still much more consistent than a conventional generator will be. PSU components inside of a computer should be able to filter out the spikes (since they are much smaller than a conventional generator), but you’ll still want to make sure that a power surge protector is hooked up.

Do Portable Generators Have the Power to Run Computers?

Portable generators definitely have more than enough energy to power a computer, as long as you’re not using some old-school handcrank operation, anyway!

The problem is that some portable generators (especially those designed for whole house backup power) may produce too much energy for your computer!

You’ll definitely want to be sure to read the owner manual on your portable generator before you start hooking up any delicate electronics.

You have to be sure that the voltage and the amperage will not cause any problems, but you also need to make sure that you’re not going to be pushing a ton of energy directly to your core components, either.

What’s the Best Way to Use a Portable Generator with a Computer?

The best way to use a portable generator with a computer is to run a power surge protector from the generator itself, only after making sure that it is an inverter generator that produces a clean and consistent sine wave.

This is as close to “normal” power for your computer as you are going to get.

The sine wave system emulates the natural AC signal that normally comes pumping out of your walls. You can hook up with real confidence that way.

Having that surge protector adds an extra layer of protection, too. It might not even be a bad idea to “double insulate” your computer from surges that portable generators are notorious for with a second power strip with PSU protection plugged in as well.

Obviously, make sure that you aren’t running a bunch of sensitive and delicate electronics off of the same power strip, though.

The last thing you want is a single point of failure that fries all of your valuable electronics in one shot.

Recommended Portable Inverter Generators for Computers

There are many different types of portable inverter generators on the market today. The one that you choose for your computer will depend on a number of factors, including the size of your computer, the amount of power you need, and your budget.

Using a Portable Generator to Power a Computer: Wrap Up

Portable generators are a great way to power your computer in case of an emergency. All you need to do is make sure the generator is a sine wave system made safe for sensitive electronics like computers.

Also as an alternative, you may want to look into a solar power setup your laptop for maximum portability.

Thats all you need to know to power your computer with a portable generator safety.



Brian has spent over 30 years as a general contractor, and in that time seen and faced many challenges. He brings all his knowledge of portable generators, battery powered tools, and outdoor equipment to every post he writes through real life experience. Learn more about us.

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