When you put together a computer system, one piece of standard equipment you'll probably buy is a surge protector. Most designs serve one immediately obvious function -- they let you plug multiple components into one power outlet. With all of the different components that make up a computer system, this is definitely a useful device.

But the other function of a surge protector power strip -- protecting the electronics in your computer from surges in power -- is far more important. In this edition of HowStuffWorks, we'll look at surge protectors, also called surge suppressors, to find out what they do, when you need them, and how well they work. We'll also find out what levels of protection are available and see why you might not have all the protection you need, even if you do use a quality surge protector.