Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Buying a Power Supply

The main job of a power supply is to convert the power from your wall from AC (Alternating Current) to DC (Direct Current). Power supplies will advertise what they're rated to handle. A smaller power supply will be more or less then 250 watts. I try to shoot for 550~800 watts. This is normally a pretty safe range. It's best to buy a power supply that can handle a little more than what you're going to make it do. People who buy larger power supplies than this are probably gamers who are using multiple video cards. Video cards use a lot of power depending on what you get. The video card's details should tell you the minimum amount of watts needed.

Check the types of connectors the power supply has. Most motherboards use a 20+4 pin as the main connector. You may also want a few PCI connectors for video cards. A small video card won't need any connectors because the motherboard can supply all the power it needs. The larger the video card gets, the more PCI connectors they'll need. A huge video card may need up to two 6+2 pin connectors. A video card may say it needs a 6 pin connector. A 6 pin or a 6+2 pin will work for this. 12 volt rails are there to provide a dedicated power supply to the CPU. Some other cords it should come with are SATA connectors (to power the CD drive and hard drive) and some peripheral connectors.

It a good idea to buy a power supply that is energy efficient certified. Nobody wants to pay for energy that's going to get wasted. Here's a list of the energy efficient standards. Make sure your power supply is at least one of these.
80 Plus = 80% efficient
80 Plus Bronze = 82~85% efficient
80 Plus Silver = 85~88% efficient
80 Plus Gold = 87~90% efficient
80 Plus Platinum  = 89~92% efficient

Another optional convenience is modular cabling. This has no impact on the performance of the PC. Modular cabling lets you choose which cords you want to plug into the power supply. This is much nicer than having all the unused cords looking like a mess inside your computer.

Out of all the parts you buy for your computer, it is most important that you get a reliable power supply. It's one thing if a video card goes bad or an optical drive breaks. If a power supply fails, other parts could go down with it. Always make sure the power supply you buy has a good reputation. I normally pay $60 or more so I can have a power supply that I trust. You can easily find cheaper but it is not worth the risk. These are things to consider when buying a power supply.

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