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Power-supply tips

HOW TO! If you’re shopping for a new power-supply, and energy-efficiency really matters to you (and it probably should); here’s a couple tips.

80 PLUS?

Pick a power-supply with an 80 PLUS certification. There are some questionable elements in the certification methodology, but overall it still generally delivers: Units with the 80 PLUS certification are more efficient (and generally far more efficient) than those without. 80 PLUS Gold is better than 80 PLUS silver is better than 80 PLUS bronze, is better than just 80 PLUS; where better means ‘usually more efficient’.

How many watts?

Every major component in your PC should have a wattage rating. Add those up, and don’t forget the fans. They won’t pull that all the time, but on the rare occasions that they do, you’d rather the power-supply actually delivered, rather than faltering and having your system reboot. Inadequate power causes blue-screens, crashes, and graphics corruption, this may not affect you until you’re really slamming your video card with 3D for a while, as may well be the case with Second Life.

Check your largest-capacity hard-drive’s power requirements and add that figure in again. You might want to grab another hard-drive later, or a larger one. Wiggle-room is good. Most of these wattage figures are available on manufacturer’s websites. Add 5% to the total to allow a little slop.

Beware, the circumstances under which the output of a supply is tested. Manufacturers self-test the rating, and a power-supply can often deliver only half of what the sticker says it can under real-world circumstances. Add 25-30% to the wattage total you calculated for your components to compensate for potential … exaggerations.

Got that number? Now double it.

Your PSU will be most efficient at 50% load. That is, if the PSU delivers 700 watts, the efficiency will be at its peak when the unit is delivering roughly 350 watts.


If you can get it, yes. Non-modular supplies have that octopus-like cable bundle permanently affixed. Modular supplies have sockets, into which you plug only the power-cabling you need to hook your devices up (and fewer cables means better airflow, lower temperatures, and higher efficiency). Check what cables your modular supply comes with. You might want a couple extras.

Good luck! Oh, and the most important tip: don’t kill yourself (as unlikely as that may seem). Electricity is dangerous if mishandled.

Categories: Hardware, How To, Technology.

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