Archive for March, 2013

Cheap PSU’s are the pits

Any computer is only as good as its power supply. It’s not something you’d necessarily think much about if you are buying an office full of computers for example, but it’s the most vital piece of equipment in the PC. No PSU, no working computer.

For many years, the quality of PSU’s in “white box” computers was just enough to get by. Mostly of the no name variety, the PSU’s had a laundry list of issues. Cables too short to properly reach areas, even inside a standard non exotic ATX sized case. Not enough connectors – usually SATA to be honest. Noisy cooling fans, and somewhat exaggerated power supply ratings.

I’ve had a number of these power supplies start dying this year at work. Although the supplies are just over 4 years old, many of them have died or are on the verge of doing so. Last week I replaced a PSU with a cooling fan that had totally seized up. The whole computer was seriously over heating, to the point where I’m not sure how it kept running for so long. However, despite replacing the PSU, I think the damage may have already been done to that box. Funny things happened during Windows installation, so I will need to troubleshoot and determine if the motherboard or graphics card have been damaged thanks to the power supply.

Other PSU’s have either developed an extremely noisy cooling fan or they struggle to provide enough juice to switch the computer on. While I suppose one could possibly lubricate the cooling fan, you’d need to open up the PSU itself, which is something I’m not comfortable with, given what’s inside. In a classroom, a noisy fan is seriously distracting, especially when a teacher is trying to talk, only to be half drowned out due to this noise. As for the other problem, that’s either due to capacitors no longer able to hold their charge, or some other issue with the PSU due to its age. Either way, the best course of action is to replace the PSU.

In short, my advice is simple: be prepared to spend a little more to get a quality name branded power supply, even for bulk orders like an office or a computer lab. Preferably, it has one large 12 or 14cm cooling fan in it, which is not only quieter than the normal 80cm fan, it also moves more air and is more efficient. It can be a bonus if the cables are sleeved, as this makes handling the cables inside the case a lot easier, and dust doesn’t sit in-between the individual cables that run to the power connectors. Also, a standard office or classroom PC for example, doesn’t need a 500W power supply. A good solid 350W power supply is more than enough, provided it’s from a name brand. We’ve come a long way from the power hungry Pentium 4 and D days.