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The PC Power Supply Guide for the Masses

  1. Introduction
  2. PSU Abbreviations and Glossary
  3. Connectors used in a PC Power Supply
  4. PSU cables: Non-Modular, Modular and the middle-ground!
  5. Power Supply Labels
  6. Power Supply Form-Factor- ATX12V
  7. Power Supply Form-Factor- SFX12V
  8. Basic requirements of a power supply
  9. Facts about 80 Plus Certification
  10. Protection Circuits and Features
  11. List of Power Supplies, OEM and Review Links
  12. Common PC Power Supply Myths
  13. Resource Links and References
  14. View All


Having a good power supply is important irrespective of the type of system you have- general, gaming and even high-end rig for a specific workload. After all it’s meant to protect your investment and irreplaceable data in your system by providing clean power. But in many cases (usually with general users and gamers in most cases), users have a tendency to ignore this saying that they cannot afford it or they ‘feel’ that they have no need for it. But a power supply protects your system and provides clean power at the same time.

A power supply powers up the components in your computer- from processors to even external storage devices connected to your PC via USB. In a very vague way of explaining power supply converts AC power to DC power that your components use, but in reality it does a lot more than that.

There are many functions within a power supply which protects your components from over-voltage, under-voltage, cooling of components within the power supply and also temperature of power supply. If anything on the power supply goes bad with none of these basic functions, it would most likely damage at least 1 component of your PC. Component manufacturers do not honour warranty on burnt hardware as they believe an end-user may have done something that he/she shouldn’t, including not using a proper power supply.

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Peers, users and even many reviewers also tend to give wrong information from time-to-time. Usually, they justify by saying that they never need it. In such cases, users are talking about their older hardware where it didn’t really require to have a power supply with certain specification. In most cases, they advice about gaming and high-end systems when they don’t know a lot themselves. Just like reviews, its best to gather information by asking multiple people and in public so that someone may correct them if its wrong or vague- and this is where forums help.

Those who review power supplies in a wrong manner usually plug it on a PC and run some games, post few pictures of OCCT. These reviews are highly inaccurate and should not be trusted. At the end of the day, components will be the one drawing power from the power supply and not vice versa. You need set of hardware that costs a lot of money to draw power from the power supply under a certain load from all the rails, testing the quality of the power, noise, ripple and also safety features. This all needs to be done with a fixed operational temperature, ideally 40 or better yet 50 degrees Celcius. In a sale-driven country like India where flow of information is erratic and could be misled easily. Even the Tier 1 brands are known to take advantage of this knowing that it would damage their brand name for earning money or getting rid of surplus stocks. Trust me when I say, but those review websites that don’t have equipments to test power supplies are far more respected and hold credibility.

But why do such brands and review sites do this knowing that it’s going to hurt their reputation for promoting reviews with ‘another perspective’? Your guess is as good as mine. But that’s a tale for another day. We can’t make a horse out of a donkey, but as a review source we can help you as much as possible.

Knowing the facts in hand, we do not have the resources to test power supplies. But throughout my time, I have done my best to help people, even have a rough/basic version of power supply written for few local tech forums that have been appreciated for many years before Hardware BBQ was started. At the least we can prepare an updated power supply guide. There are a lot of guides out there are many of the points are valid. But there are some power supply guides with information which was true at the time of writing. Technology evolves, and so do power supply, form factor and other aspects.

One of the hassles such users go through is to identify the component that is potentially damaged. This is a time-consuming process, since you will need to find out the component that is affected, which can only be identified usually either by a physical damage of the components- or by testing them one-by-one on another system till you can narrow it down. You may end up losing your data, and even have other components affected by reducing their lifespan. Therefore, a power supply is one of the important components that you should give some thought before making a random purchase. Buying a good power supply along with the system is the only practice that you should follow. One of the reasons that you should upgrade your power supply is when you install a particular hardware that requires a lot more power.

There have been times where certain manufacturers have given assurances that their product will work even with sub-standard power supplies. They even provide ‘burn warranties’. This is usually a marketing and sales gimmick done out of pressure from their management to gain sales from those users. Exercise caution to protect your investment as they are giving assurance only for their product and not for other components. This is counter-productive, even if by some way what they say is true to the word. Clean power and good protection are vital. Overkill is also counter-productive, which is what we’ll learn from this guide.

Such was a case where a Tier 1 motherboard (and many PC components) brand did in 2009 to compete locally with a similar model and spec from another Tier 1 brand. Certain words such as ‘anti-surge technology’ were thrown around, and written in a way to tempt certain types of users to would risk their investment with a sub-standard power supply. At the same time, there’s an * sign indicating ‘conditions apply’. There was also another Tier 1 brand that wanted to make their memory kit “stand out” in the Indian market, calling it as ‘India-Specific’. Judging by the model number given in the same press release, it was a kit readily available for a bit lower cost, but just to make a quick buck at the cost of brand credibility, they advertised it with the word “India-Specific RAMS”.

This is where ambiguous wordplay works for brands. Usually, I’ve seen it happening a lot in India but they fail to realize that it makes their brand lacks credibility. After reading the entire press release, they don’t guarantee their product will work properly in a clear language, rather they assure that they will repair/replace motherboard at no extra cost. This isn’t limited only to that particular tier 1 brand and not just with just motherboards. Some will use ‘anti-surge’, others will use ‘India Specific’, ‘power saving’ and ‘EMI filtering’. The best and real solution for that is a good enough power supply.

To be fair, certain sub-components may help in fine-tuning the power delivery, but a power supply does all that and a lot more for all of your hardware components. As far as your PC is concerned, a power supply is the source and the source should always be good.

Similarly, there have been power supply manufacturers that have a tendency to go way over their heads trying to justify a good (usually) power supply, by using the words power saving. The “power saving” point will be covered in FAQ, but it doesn’t reflect a brand in a positive light- and it’s counter-productive when a power supply is genuinely good.

Now before we address FAQs, let’s learn about certain basics, starting with the connectors on a typical ATX power supply.

2 comments

  1. Vicky B-Shift

    Koolest ripper guide to What is and what is not on SMPS!
    Thanks for adding those SMPS suggestions! 🙂

    • Much appreciated!

      I plan on putting more guides per component so that many people from newbies to regular users can understand “what is” and “what is not” for many components to help them make better purchase decisions! This way, we can guide even the newest of end users to understand whenever they read our reviews!

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