Installing and Configuring a UPS with Windows 10

The power grid at my home office is sometimes unreliable. In the last year there have been several power outages ranging from several hours to transient outages of a few seconds.

My main PC is a silent desktop which means (unlike a laptop) has no resilience to power outages. This is where an external uninterruptable power supply (UPS ) comes in handy. A UPS is like a big battery that gets charged from main power, but when there is an outage the battery kicks in and provides power to connected devices.

When choosing a UPS, generally speaking, the more expensive they are the longer they can provide power to connected devices (or provide the same or more power for a longer time). Having researched typical power consumptions and armed with the knowledge that my PC uses SSDs, is fan-less, and does not have a high-powered GPU something in the 1000-1500 VA range was required. My main requirement was the ability to save work and safely shut down the PC before loosing all power. If I had more complex energy requirements I would have first purchased a power meter to measure how much power my devices were using before choosing the UPS.

Installing the UPS

Once I understood the approximate power requirements, I selected the Smart-UPS 1000VA LCD 230V from APC.

APC Smart-UPS 1000VA LCD 230V Front

The rear of the unit consists of a number of sockets, for the outputs there are 2 distinct groups that can be configured differently. For example the main group can have the PC and one of the monitors connected. The secondary power group can have non-essential devices attached, in my case the powered studio monitor speakers. The UPS was configured to turn off the secondary group if there is a power outage but after a 15 second delay; this will help with short transient outages. The main group will remain on for as long as the UPC battery has power. There are many different ways to configure this UPS by using the LCD display and front buttons, including the ability to enable/disable audible notifications.

APC Smart-UPS 1000VA LCD 230V rear panel

The rear panel also has a USB connector that can be connected to the PC.

Configuring Windows 10 Power Settings for a UPS

Once everything had been connected (including the UPS-PC USB cable) it can all be switched on. Once the UPS battery is fully charged, turning off the main power at the power outlet causes the UPS to switch to battery power, the PC and single monitor stay on and 15 seconds later the speakers turn off (to save power). Once on battery, the PC and monitor draw about 50W of power and the estimated run time according to the UPS LCD  is about 2 hours.

Because of the USB connection to the PC, Windows 10 also displays the battery status in the system tray:

Windows 10 UPS Battery status

If a power outage occurs when using the PC, once the battery gets low I can manually shutdown the PC to prevent damage/data loss. If however the PC is unattended at the time, I still want it to be safely shutdown.

To do this in Windows 10, type “power & sleep settings” in the start menu and configure the basic settings. From here, “Additional power settings can be opened” and power plans customized. Once in the plan settings, the “Change advanced power settings” can be selected to get down into the fine details:

Opening additional power settings

Once in the detailed Power Options dialog, in additional to other settings I opened the Battery section and changed the critical battery level to be 20% and the critical battery action to Hibernate. I also modified some o the other battery settings. 20% for critical is very conservative as I wanted to hibernate the PC with plenty of UPS battery capacity remaining.

Hibernating Windows 10 when critical UPS battery level reached

Now when on UPS battery power, Windows will warn me when the battery gets low (I configured this to be 40%) and then auto-hibernate at 20% battery.

It’s a great feeling to know that even when there is a storm blowing in that I will not loose any work and that my main PC hardware is protected from surges and unexpected power loss.

The Joys of Silence

I recently took possession of new desktop PC. As a Pluralsight author one of the unique considerations when choosing a new machine was generated noise. After some research I settled on sourcing the computer from a UK company called QuietPC.com.

NoFan PC case from front

Initially when I started researching what to buy I had assumed that I would pay some performance penalty as I wanted a CPU with fan-less cooling and I didn’t want the additional complexity of something like water cooling.

As the following image shows, I was able to get a quad core Skylake (Core i7 6700K 4.0GHz) without requiring a fan:

Nofan CR-95C Pearl Black IcePipe 95W Fanless CPU Cooler

The humongous thing in the preceding image is a Nofan CR-95C Pearl Black IcePipe 95W Fanless CPU Cooler. This fan-less CPU cooler is based on thermal heatpipes that are able to transfer heat away from the processor, the heat then being dissipated by the huge surface area of the “fins”.

Nofan CR-95C Pearl Black IcePipe 95W Fanless CPU Cooler

The case itself is a Nofan CS-80 Fanless Computer Case coupled with a Nofan P-500A Silent 500W Fanless 80+ GOLD PSU. The case features a vent at the top of the case above the CPU cooler to aid in convection.

In use, the PC is completely silent, no fan noise or electrical hum – the only noise emitted is if you are used the optical drive.

Prior to this machine I was using and was very happy with a Lenovo laptop though under load the fan noise was becoming a little distracting – in all fairness it was an aging machine that had been an 8 hour a day workhorse for a few years.

It’s amazing that once you’ve experienced the joy of completely silent computing, going back to using machines with fans seems archaic. No doubt we’ll eventually have silent, high-performance, fan-less laptops – though the small form factor will present some hard thermal dissipation challenges.

Full hardware specs:

  • Nofan CS-80 Fanless Computer Case
  • Gigabyte GA-Z170XP-SLI LGA1151 ATX Motherboard
  • Intel 6th Gen Core i7 6700K 4.0GHz 91W HD 530 8MB Quad Core CPU
  • Corsair DDR4 Vengeance LPX 32GB (2x16GB) 2400MHz Memory Kit
  • Nofan CR-95C Pearl Black IcePipe 95W Fanless CPU Cooler
  • Nofan P-500A Silent 500W Fanless 80+ GOLD PSU
  • Samsung 950 PRO M.2 512GB NVMe SSD
  • Samsung 850 EVO 250GB 2.5in Solid State Drive
  • Pioneer DVR-221LBK DVD and CD Reader/re-writer
  • Gigabyte Dual Band Wireless-AC GC-WB867D-I Wi-Fi/Bluetooth Card
  • Gigabyte GC-TPM Trusted Platform Module

The Complete Beginners Guide to Hello World using C# .Net and Mono on Raspberry Pi

Disclaimer: some of the software used below is pre-release, use at your own risk...

This article assumes basic knowledge of writing C# and using Visual Studio - it doesn't assume any prior knowledge of Raspberry Pi or Linux.

My Parts List

You can find a list of verified peripherals here, below are the specifics of what I'm using successfully:

  • Raspberry Pi Model B (from element14 Australia)
  • 1 metre high speed HDMI lead (from element14 Australia)
  • Microsoft Comfort Curve 3000 USB keyboard;
  • Logitech M100 USB mouse;
  • SanDisk 16GB Ultra SDHC Card, Class 10, "up to 30 MB/s 200X"
  • Nokia AC-USB phone charger (output: DC 5 volt 1 amp*)
  • Cat 5 Ethernet cable (wired to Belkin wireless bridge/extender)

* It's important to have a sufficiently powerful supply.

Preparing the Operating System

Download Soft-float Debian “wheezy” image from http://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads.

Extract the .img from the zip file.

Download Win32 Disk Imager http://www.softpedia.com/get/CD-DVD-Tools/Data-CD-DVD-Burning/Win32-Disk-Imager.shtml (make sure you get the correct link as there's lots of advertising and other download links on the page).

More...