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One of the more important features on a UPS is automatic shutdown. This feature allows the UPS to instruct your operating system to shut down itself and/or the PC. Without this feature, in some circumstances your UPS will do you absolutely no good. Consider a PC that is running unattended with no automatic shutdown function. The power goes off, and the UPS switches to battery power. The outage continues, but nobody is present to do anything on the PC. Eventually the UPS battery runs down and it shuts off, and the PC is abruptly powered down. All the UPS has done here is delay the inevitable; you still may have an operating system mess to clean up.
A UPS with the automatic shutdown feature makes use of control hardware and software that connect its microprocessor to the PC. You set the parameters for when you want UPS shutdown to happen in the event that a prolonged outage occurs. For example, you may want to let the PC run on battery until the battery is 80% depleted, and then have the PC shut off. At that time the UPS's software will initiate a shutdown procedure to close your applications and shut down the operating system. Further, if your system uses a new form factor that supports soft power, the PC itself can be powered off by the software. Then, the software will send a command to the UPS to turn off.
Of course, if you never run anything unattended on your PC, and you are careful to turn it off when it is not in use, you probably do not need this feature. But it is still a nice option to have. And few people remember to turn off their PCs as routinely as they should. :^)
Note: This feature is not
foolproof. Some applications are poorly written and won't respond properly to a shutdown
request from the operating system. If you leave a file open when you leave the machine
(which you should never do anyway) then the application might get stuck at a "Do you
want to save this?" dialog box instead of closing. And sometimes operating systems
just crash. Most of the time this feature is very helpful, but don't tempt fate; save your
data and close applications when you are done using them.