Miscellaneous Articles

Upgrades on a Shoestring: Power Supply Units

Hello again fellow readers and fixers! Last year, we covered solid state drives with regards to upgrading parts in a desktop computer or a laptop on a shoestring budget, since those parts have reached a point where achieving a performance uplift through faster internal storage for little outlay became viable. But which other computer parts do upgrading on a shoestring budget makes sense?

Today, we look at power supply units, which are one of the core parts a desktop computer needs in order to function. Power supply units are designed to turn alternating current drawn from the mains socket, into low-voltage direct current, and then feed that low-voltage direct current to the other internal components (including the processor, storage drives and any peripheral devices) to enable them to function.

Modern power supply units are designed to be energy efficient, based on different levels of power load; this means that they consume less power drawn from the mains and in turn, produce less heat. This also means that they can also operate quieter, since the fans inside the power supply units do not need to spin up as much; in fact, some high-end power supplies are designed to operate silently at low loads, or generate sufficiently little heat that enables them to be cooled passively. They also commonly have built-in safety features that help protect against excessive temperatures, loads or currents, short circuits and over or under-voltage problems that can cause damage to the power supply unit itself, or potentially to other hardware components.

Of course, even now, there are generic power supplies that are manufactured at such low cost that they are marketed at people who are looking to build or upgrade their desktop PCs, but cannot afford to buy a good quality unit from a reputable brand, such as Corsair, Seasonic, be quiet! and Thermaltake. They usually tend to be lighter in weight than with reputable units, due to fewer internal components and thinner metal casings.

Unfortunately, because these generic, no-name power supply units are often poorly-designed and assembled, they lack the extra safety features built into units manufactured by reputable brands. With metal cases as thin as cornflakes cardboard boxes, they are perhaps the one kind of computer part where you absolutely do not want to scrimp and save on. After all, the last thing anyone wants to see happen to their computers for the power supply unit’s internal components to snap, make the whole unit itself crackle, and potentially cause the other hardware components to go pop, with the end result being a possible electrical fire and the replacement of any other hardware parts damaged by such a power supply failure.

In summary, the power supply unit is one computer part where it is better to spend that bit more and get a decent quality unit than a generic one. We would recommend buying a power supply which has a wattage capacity that is appropriate for your computer or build, with around 25-30% headroom to take into account ageing and efficient operation.

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