All you were doing was checking your email when the screen went black and your computer powered off for no reason. What could have caused this heinous crash? You wait for a few seconds before powering your computer back up, and everything seems fine. You open the browser, and it happens again—the black screen. Your system just powered off again, on it’s own!
So begins the questions flying through our heads: What’s wrong with my computer now? Who can I call to fix it? How much is it going to cost? Is this an easy fix that I can do on my own?
Diagnosing The Problem
Here are just some quick problems you could be facing:
- Sporadic Shut Offs/reboots: Your power supply is on its last leg, and will soon die completely, which means your computer won’t be able to turn on until it gets replaced. You might be able to get a few more days out of it, but it’s not something to bet on.
- Power Cords: Sometimes you won’t have an issue with your power supply at all, but the cords are just loose. Open up your case and make sure everything is tightly plugged in.
- Burning Smell: Sometimes a power supply will emit a burning smell, and is often a good sign that you should stop using your computer and replace the power supply before turning it back on again. Alternatively, burning smells can also come from bad capacitors and a very hot processor or video card. If you can’t accurately figure out where the smell is coming from, it might be best to take your PC to a professional.
- Computer Randomly Freezes: In some, albeit rare, scenarios, your computer could freeze up. This could be from a spike in voltage from the power supply (another indication that it may need replacing), but more often than not, it’s usually a motherboard, hard disk or RAM issue. If it’s the power supply, you can avoid this–most of the time–by purchasing high quality power supplies in the future, and not strangely-named generic brands.
- Bent Wires: While this isn’t particularly common, bent wires (or wires torn on the inside of the insulation) can stop your power supply from powering your computer. While you can repair the wire yourself, it’s usually more recommended to get a new power supply and/or entirely new cables for it.
These are seemingly small issues, but eventually they will result in a dying, or altogether dead, power supply.
Unfortunately, the case in almost all of these situations is that you’re going to need to replace your power supply unit. Like many computer parts, there isn’t much possibility of prolonging the life of a dying piece of hardware. With that in mind, you can get some fairly decent power supplies on Amazon for under $100. Some good brands to look out for include Seasonic and Corsair, as both companies offer some very nice solutions at an affordable price, sometimes well under $100.
When buying a new power supply, make sure to get the correct wattage for your desktop’s needs. In fact, it’s usually not a bad idea to get more than the minimum wattage you need. By doing this, it’ll give you plenty of extra wattage for when you replace computer parts, particularly new graphics cards. That said, you won’t really have to worry about your power supply getting overloaded with new computer parts or too many peripherals plugged into the machine.
As far as specifics go, unless you have a low-end system, it’s best to look into the ballpark of 500+ watts or 750+ watts, especially if you have a hefty gaming machine/workstation with SLI or Crossfire configurations. In the event that you do have a low-end system with integrated video, 300+ watts should be more than sufficient. But once again, it’s always a good practice to buy more wattage in the event that you decide to upgrade computer parts down the line.
Finally, you should buy nothing but a modular power supply these days. They’re often pricier, but are worth it as far as cable management goes. Instead of cables coming pre-attached, you only attach the ones you need with a modular power supply. It truly helps with cable management and keeps air flow to a maximum!
Preventive Measures For The Future
To prolong the life of any power supply, it’s best to make sure you’re taking good care of it. For a power supply unit within your PC, make sure to clean your computer out at least once a month by vacuuming it or using a can of air. This will protect all of the computer’s parts from getting too dusty and eventually overheating.
For laptop power supplies (i.e. the charger you carry with you), make sure that when you travel with it, you’re not hastily coiling the cord and tossing it into a bag. You don’t want to bend your power cord into any weird positions, or even tightly at all. Constant stress on the cord will eventually result in it coming loose from the supply itself, or tearing of the wire insulation. Instead, get the cord into a loose circle and bind it together with a piece of electrical tape to keep it from coming undone.
Another warning to heed for laptop users: the best place to use your laptop is always at a desk or some other hard surface. If you have it propped up on a pillow or other soft cushion/material, you prevent the system from being able to breathe properly, therefore your laptop can easily overheat, causing the problems mentioned above.
The bottom line here? Take good care of your power supply, and you can get a many years out of it before needing to replace it. And when the time does come, learn how to notice the signs ahead of time so you’re not put in a spot at the last minute.