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Is it Safe to Play Video Games During a Storm?

Protect your PC, TV, Switch dock, Xbox, or PlayStation so you can stay stable and rest easier during bad weather.

Safety first

This article is meant strictly for normal inclement weather conditions like high winds and thunderstorms that may affect your power.

In the case of dangerously bad weather (hurricanes, tornados, flooding intense lightning storms, etc.), it's probably best to just unplug your PC and console and make sure that you are prepared for an emergency with adequate power supplies, light sources, food, water, first aid, and so on.

Various RGB SteelSeries products at a gaming deskRemember: your electronics can always be replaced—you and your loved ones can not!

However, if you're just wondering how you can safely play during a thunderstorm or otherwise unstable weather and power conditions, here are some tips to protect your gear.

Protect your PC or console from power surges

For everyday and normal storm protection, consider a housewide surge protector.

At the very least, make sure your PC is plugged in to a strong surge protector. Lower than 1000 joules is likely to not protect a gaming PC from a strong power surge, so don't just assume you're safe if you're using any surge protector! The higher the joules, the better your chances are of survivng a bad power surge. Many guides reccommend looking in the 2.000-4000 joule range to best guard your gaming PC.

Nowadays, some surge protectors even have USB ports so you can easily protect your phone and other devices while charging.

Use a battery backup (UPS)

While a surge protector will likely save your PC from getting zapped, you'll want to consider an "uninterruptible power supply" or simply "UPS"—a battery backup that will prevent sudden shutdowns from loss of power to your PC or console.

This will allow your PC to be powered for a couple of minutes (or more depending on size) if you lose power, giving you a chance to let your friends know you're leaving, save and quit your game, etc.

If you're playing online games, it's important to also put your router and modem on a battery backup. Otherwise, your PC may stay on, but you won't have any internet for that time since your router/modem will be unpowered.

We have several around the house to protect the important stuff (every PC, plus the router/modem). Brands like APC make great ones for less than $100 on Amazon.

UPS battery backup with surge protection

Battery backups even come with built-in surge protection for extra security, but they usually only offer surge protection up to a certain amount, so they likely won't be a great substitute a strong surge protector.

The safest method would be to use both a beefy surge protector with a separate a battery backup. This way, you'd plug all of your electronics into the battery backup (so they can survive loss of power), and plug the battery backup into a beefy surge protector to protect all of it from a bad surge. This way, you're protected from both power surges and power loss.

Pretty reliable: Wall outlet --> UPS battery backup with surge protection --> PC, consoles, other electronics

Safest method: Wall outlet --> Surge protector --> UPS battery backup --> PC, consoles, other electronics

Can you continue to game on a battery backup?

Not really. Unless you invest in some serious UPS battery hardware, a UPS really just gives you enough time to save and quit whatever you're doing and safely shut down your PC.

Protect your PC or console during major lightning storms

Since a power surge from lightning can totally fry your PC and other electronics, if there's a major lightning storm nearby, your best bet is to simply shut down and unplug your PC and other electronics. Anything plugged in to a wall has the chance of getting zapped.

Wall power outlet with cable not plugged in

While a good surge protector will probably save your PC, it's still possible that a strong surge can still overload the protector and damage your PC, or even start a fire if there's a more direct lightning strike.

While surge protectors are important, nothing beats simply unplugging your devices to avoid the risk entirely in very bad weather. This means unplugging directly from the wall sockets of your home, not just from your surge protector or UPS.

Protect your PC or console during a brownout

Brownouts are more temporary or only partial losses of power that may happen during high winds or a storm (for example, you might notice your lights flickering).

Without proper precautions, a dip in power from a brownout can instantly shut down your PC, which isn't good for it, especially when it keeps happening.

The best solution here is to utilize your surge protector and battery backup, which will keep your PC for a short amount of time on during brownouts.

As mentioned above, it's also good to put your router/modem on a battery backup too, so your game can go totally uninterrupted in the case of a short dip in power. We all know how long it takes a modem to power back on, and you don't want to risk abandoning a game while waiting for your modem to start back up.

Save early; save often

This is relevent for anything you're doing on a PC or console. If you know that inclement weather is approaching or happening, consider the following:

  • Avoid playing ranked matches where you risk punishment for a disconnect
  • Let anyone you're playing with know that there's bad weather and there's a chance that you may lose power
  • Make sure your PC, console, and modem are on a strong surge protector
  • Additionally, use a UPS (battery backup) to keep your electronics powered long enough to safely shut them down
  • If the weather gets very bad or there's a lot of nearby lightning, just play it safe and shut down/unplug your PC, console, and other electronics entirely

When it comes to electronics, it's always better to be safe than sorry. I hope this helps you understand safe gaming during a storm.

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