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The Truth About Power Supplies

ATX power supply

Most of them look alike although some of them come in souped up chassis meant to raise the blood pressure of the drowsy, sleep-deprived gamer. Others sport innovative cooling technologies, LED lights, high-performance silent fans and a glittering menu of bells and whistles. All the trimmings and extras aside, your power supply is the heart and soul of your PC system, though it certainly does not get nearly as much ink as the sexy components like the processor, hard drive and memory do.

Because your power supply is so important to the life of your system, when it's time to buy a power supply it is essential that you know the difference between a good power supply and one that is merely adequate. So, what should you look for in a power supply? That's the question our fearless editors seek to answer.

Not Just Any Power Supply Will Do

Most people tend to overlook the importance of their power supplies, but those days are quickly coming to an end. That's because your power supply is far more than just an unassuming gray or black box that you plug into an outlet before you crank up your computer. Now that gaming machines, extreme PCs and fast, powerful workstations crave increasing amounts of reliable power, you can no longer afford to overlook the role that your power supply has in keeping your PC happy, healthy and running to its full potential.

While folks will talk forever about gigabytes of storage, megahertz of speed, how well their video adapters perform, how their 64-bit AMD processors can run graphical circles around an Intel CPU, they spend precious little time considering the power supply. Yet, when you build a system for the lowest possible price, guess what component the manufacturer is most likely to cut corners on? You guessed it, the power supply. As a result, you might just get caught with your pants down when you buy a PC system.

If you are paying attention to the power supply, there is a decent chance you are concerned mostly with how many watts of power it is rated to generate, even though at press time there is little chance you will be able to verify those power ratings. Unfortunately, many do not take the time to consider whether the power the supply produces is clean and stable, whether it is noisy, or if it is prone to system-jeopardizing spikes and surges.

The Increasing Demands on Power Supplies

It seems that only the PC connoisseurs, those putting together or purchasing extreme PCs or top-flight gaming systems, consider the power supply to be the heart and soul of the system and who always seek the best power supplies they can afford. The power supply is important simply because it supplies electrical power to every other component in the system. Unfortunately, it's historically one of the components most likely to fail, especially because so many manufacturers cut corners on quality when adding power supplies to their systems.

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