Why you should avoid buying cheap Power Supplies

The computer power supply is not only one of the most important parts on a PC; it is also the most overlooked. When computer buffs talk about their systems having very powerful processors, RAM and video cards they rarely ever mention the power supply, and if they do, they only mention the power wattage.

The power supply is a non-descript metal box and when purchasing a new computer people would rather put more money into a faster CPU, Video Card or an interesting case instead of putting it into a good power supply. The savings you make by skimping on the power supply will not be worth it.

Why should I get a good Power Supply?

There are currently a large variety of power supply manufacturers and the cheaper ones should be avoided. Cheap power supplies not only provide poor output and stability, but generate much more heat than higher end models. Increased heat in your power supply will reduce its lifespan and cause erratic power fluctuations causing all sorts of computer problems. Of course, that is if it didn't blow up first taking out some of your hardware.

Just recently, I was called out to a client because their computer wouldn't turn on. I suspected it would be a blown power supply caused by a surge and all I would have to do was swap out the power supply. I went to run some tests and put a new power supply into it however when I unplugged the ATX connector on the motherboard I noticed some peculiar damage.

It turns out that one of the pins has completely melted into the motherboards power socket and 3 others were seriously scorched. This was caused either by:

  • The pins were making poor contact with the motherboard and the computer was using a lot of power which generated a lot of heat which eventually melted the pins.
  • The system was using more power than the power supply could supply

In both cases this is caused by cheap power supplies which resulted in the motherboard and power supply needing to be replaced.

We all should give the power supply the respect it deserves.

How do I know if I am getting a good power supply?

  • First of all, get one with enough power output. Your usage should be between 40 - 70% of the power supplies total output.
  • If the power supply exceeds 400 watts it should have more than one fan.
  • Although not a very scientific and rough way of deciding, consider the weight of the power supply. Heavier power supplies typically represent thicker wires, larger compactors and thicker heat sinks which usually mean better, more robust construction. This of course isn't 100% as it is possible more for expensive power supplies have smaller, more efficient heat sinks. But worth considering.
  • Stick to brands recognized for quality such as Antec, Thermaltake and Enermax. Look at the amount of information they provide you about the power supply such as on the packaging or on the website. The more information they volunteer the less they feel they have to hide. If little information can be found, the more they don't want you to know.

Helpful Advice from those Friendly People at DOT-COMmunICaTions