Anyone who’s tried to build a PC gaming set-up with a lower quality power supply unit will know that is just not possible. The power supply, or PSU, basically fuels the whole system, so it makes sense that if it is not up to scratch then the setup isn’t going to be either. In this article, we’re going to explain what happens if your power supply is too weak for your system.
A lot of custom PC builders understandably try to cut corners when building their latest set ups. Unfortunately, PC gaming can get quite expensive, and there’s quite a lot of kit and gear that you need in order to build an effective set up. The power supply is not something you can afford to sacrifice on though since it really is the thing that holds everything else together.
Having said that, a good PSU doesn’t have to break the bank. After we’ve explained why you should make sure your PSU isn’t too weak, we’ll present a couple of affordable options that will comfortably power your set up.
What is a power supply?
Before we talk about why you need a good PSU, we should quickly outline what role the power supply actually plays in your PC build.
The PSU converts the AC power from your mains supply into the low voltage DC power that is needed to power computer components. There are different DC currents required for different components, so it is also the job of the PSU to work out how much everything needs, and distribute it accordingly.
This is clearly quite an important job, and the best PSUs will do all of this quickly and automatically. You really shouldn’t have to worry about the PSU so it is important that you have one which is reliable. But what makes a great PSU?
What to look for in a PSU?
There are a few things to look out for when choosing your next PSU. A PSU with all the following features will run effectively and won’t be causing you any annoyance or headaches.
This may seem obvious, but the first step before buying any computer component is to ensure that it is going to fit inside your computer casing. The most common size of PSU is called ATX, but not all PSUs come in this size. They also come in mini and even micro versions. Just confirm the size before you buy.
PSUs have a pretty useful grading system that lets the buyer know how efficiently the power supply will operate. The labels often say things like “80 Plus Bronze” or “90 Plus Gold”. If you want a top tier PSU, then you should be looking out for Titanium, Platinum and Gold certificated models. These power supplies will be the most efficient, meaning you will save money on your energy bill and reduce the heat output of your setup.
Modular vs Non-modular
A power supply that has modular cables means that those cables can be removed from the power supply end. This makes cable management much easier and also improves the installation process. Non-modular or fixed cables aren’t bad, but they can be more annoying and most of the top PSUs will go with a modular approach.
Check the video card
The video card is the most power demanding component in any computer set up, so we need to make sure that the power supply will be able to fuel it. If the power rating of the PSU is less than what is required by your graphics card, then there’s already no way that power supply will be effective.
Checking the video card’s power requirements is a good first step to get a rough idea of how powerful your PSU needs to be.
Signs that your PSU is too weak
There are a few common errors that occur when you are using an underpowered PSU. All of the following things will most likely indicate that your PSU is too weak, but they could also be problems with other parts of the system. Make sure you investigate any issues thoroughly before splashing out on any new gear.
The system won’t boot
If your system won’t boot up at all, then this could be a pretty obvious sign that your power supply isn’t up to scratch. If the PSU can’t even get the computer up and running then there’s absolutely no chance it is going to be able to run the latest demanding video games.
Of course, you should check other things before concluding that the power supply is the problem. It could easily be cables that aren’t plugged in properly, or the cables might even be faulty themselves. Also, check that you’ve switched it on at the wall…
If your apps and games regularly freeze or crash, then this could again be a problem with your PSU. A graphics card demands quite a lot of juice from your power supply, so an underpowered PSU will often be the cause of freezes in games. Also look out for drops in framerate or general lag.
Blue screen of death
If you’re using a windows computer, then you might have come across the dreaded “blue screen of death”. This is where your computer simply displays a bright blue screen, and there’s nothing you can do about it without rebooting.
Like the other problems on this list, there are a few factors that might cause the blue screen of death to appear. These include bad updates and poorly installed drivers. Be sure to check these things first.
How to fix an underpowered PSU
Unfortunately, the only way to really increase the output of your power supply is to invest in a new PSU with higher wattage. For gaming, it is usually recommended that you use a 700 – 750W power supply, whilst everyday computer use will probably only require a 500 – 600W PSU. It is always worth doing a quick calculation by adding up the wattage of your most demanding components.
Luckily, there are plenty of great power supplies out there that won’t be breaking the bank (https://bestbudget.com/technology/computer-hardware/best-power-supply/). Just remember to do enough research into your system so that you know exactly how much power you need from your PSU. A great power supply will keep your system running smoothly and will be able to deal with any component upgrades you make in the future.