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Thread: What are the symptoms of under powered PSU

  1. #1

    What are the symptoms of under powered PSU

    I just got a used PC with pretty good main spec:
    - Core2Duo 3GHz
    - 3GB RAM
    rest are just OK like on-board video and sound, 160GB HD, DVD-ROM drive.
    That's pretty much all it has.

    The part that I don't like is the PSU. It's a 280-watt PSU.
    I think that probably is just enough power to support the current spec.
    I am thinking if I add one of the PCI Express x16 video card and maybe another HD, it will be under powered. And maybe it maybe bit under powered as is now.

    So, Question #1. I was trying to see what sort of symptoms I might see if the PSU is really under powered. Would it even start?

    Question #2. And if I upgrade it, I am thinking 550-watt would be enough?
    I have another PC with 500-watt PSU that's holding P4-3GHz processor w/ 2GB RAM, 4 HDs, DVD-RW drive, a AGP video card, plus SoundBlaster 128 PCI card. So, I am thinking if 500-watt can handle that, 550-watt should be able to handle a PCI-express card, a PCI card for wireless NIC, and SoundBlaster PCI, and something later for one 1 PCI-e 1x slot which I am not sure what I might use it for..


  2. #2
    PSU power output/wattage drops as it ages. What happens is that when low-voltage smoothing electrolytic capacitors start drying out, the power supply is going to start supplying increasing amounts of electronic noise (current ripple mainly) to other components in the system. This is not a good thing - it's like a car whose suspension has failed and now it bounces and wobbles like crazy upon hitting every pothole, making the passengers carsick.
    You might experience some or all of the following:

    -Computer randomly failing to start (or starting upon 7th crank or so, sometimes not starting at all)
    -Disk drives cycling on and off, sometimes recalibrating, also data corruption when copying large files
    -MEMTEST86X failures
    -Physical damage to disk drive platters due to power brownouts, as well as some other components in your PC (mostly mainboard)
    -BSODs left and right
    -Inexplicable program errors
    -Every imaginable error you can think of, none of which are serious but will prevent you from having an enjoyable experience with this computer.

    You're right on the money, the PSU you're using now has gotta go. 550W/600W sounds fair. Pick a good quality power supply that will last you a long time; a reasonable power supply should cost at least $100.

  3. #3
    OK. Thanks.. Basically it can start with all sorts of "not-so-serious" errors while using down to potentially damaging mobo and other components when it gets to be serious.. And I'll stick with 550W or 600W depending on what I find.. though I don't think I will be spending $100. I've used Antec PSU that died after about a year and lost the faith on good PSU, then tried a cheap one before and it seems to be fine, so I'll just have to do some searching and pick the ones with good reviews and etc.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2000
    The Mountain State
    More often than not, the kind of 'damage' being talked about moves the motherboard from a 20 year component lifespan to a 10 yr one (more than the 'useful' life of the technology).

    The thing about power supplies...if it doesn't weigh very much, it isn't any good. The better quality ones use heavier components and will handle the heat/stress better. A good solid case is another tip off to it being a good one...with a stiff/solid case (one that doesn't feel like tin foil) it will dampen vibrations and be quieter. So it isn't just the 'numbers' that you should go by.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    If you look around for a good deal you should be able to get a good quality 550-600w PSU for about $60-$70. Sometimes you can find the Corsair 650's for that range after a $20-$30 MIR.
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