How to run my desktop computer from a car battery

Written by rebecca burdick
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The amount of electronic devices available these days is staggering, and the amount of time we spend using them seems to increase exponentially every year. There is more and more reason to want to be able to plug your personal devices into an outlet in your car or RV.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Car battery (preferably in vehicle)
  • Automotive power inverter
  • Desktop computer
  • Monitor
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse

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  1. 1

    The power supply of your computer, or in the manual, find the maximum power draw for your computer in watts. Find the same information for your monitor. Add those numbers together, along with the power requirements of any peripherals you absolutely need to have plugged in. This is your maximum total power draw in watts.

  2. 2

    Head to your local electronics store to look at their automotive power inverters. Find one that matches or exceeds your maximum total draw. If possible try to find one that plugs into your car's 12-volt power receptacle, aka the cigarette lighter. If this proves impossible, then you will need to install one of the larger versions.

  3. 3

    Start your car. Some cars require the car to be running to draw any significant power, and in any case you don't want to drain the battery during testing. Plug your inverter into the 12 volt power receptacle, and then plug your computer into the outlets on the inverter.

  4. 4

    Turn the computer system on. Provided enough power is coming from the battery to the inverter and the inverter to your computer, you should have a working computer! If not, recheck your calculations for maximum power need, and check the fuse for your car's cigarette lighter. Remember, you may need to specially install a larger power converter if cigarette lighter adaptor versions are inadequate.

  5. 5

    It is easy to drain your battery this way, so make sure to keep your battery charged by starting your car every so often.

  6. 6

    Assuming you have a stand-alone car battery that is fully charged, you can temporarily power a computer in much the same way. Head down to your local Radio Shack and get a 12-volt power receptacle. This can be attached to the battery per its instructions, and the inverter can be plugged into the receptacle. Alternately, you can hook a more powerful inverter to the battery directly, but keep in mind that a battery not connected a charging mechanism will eventually drain completely. This is not good for battery life.

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