An Underpowered PSU Myth and Fact
Constantly cruising the blogosphere and internet forums can expose you to a lot of information. It seems that everyone is an expert, so who do you trust?
One discussion that seems to keep popping up again and again is poor PC gaming performance and how to improve it. Surprisingly we saw more than a few
threads that looked like this:
Q: “HELP! My Battlefield 2 keeps artifacting!”
With the response: “Check your PSU”
Q: I am getting horrible frame rates!
A: What kind of PSU do you have?
While it certainly is great to get free advice, this advice probably does more harm than good, here’s why: Good or bad, your PSU does not affect your PC’s
That’s right; a malfunctioning PSU will not affect your frame rate just as replacing an old PSU will not speed up your PC.
This requires a bit of a technical explanation. As you know a computer PSU converts the AC (alternating current) that comes from the wall socket into DC (direct current) that your computer components want (that is why laptop power cables have that large brick, it’s a converter). So as the names suggest, AC power is like a wave, it rises and falls, where DC power is more continuous, like a line.
To provide an illustration, many people see PSU and performance to be a proportional relationship much like that of a flashlight. New batteries mean a strong beam and a flickering or dim beam means low power. But that’s not the case with your computer’s PSU. When it comes to PSU, either your PSU can power your gaming PC’s components. Or it can’t.
But how do you know when your PSU is bad, under strength or malfunctioning?
Easy, in most cases your entire system will just shut down.
Allow me to explain. A quality PSU will include integrated safety features such as over and under current protection. These features are designed to detect a power deficiency and shut down your gaming PC before it begins to damage components. So if your power level drops below the necessary levels, even for a second, these safety features kick in and shut down your PC preventing damage. This can mean the blue screen of death, a black-screen or just a full system crash.
While it might be annoying, this ‘fail safe’ is meant to protect your PC, its components and you.
So what if these safety and fail-safe measures malfunction or don’t exist?
Then you have a real problem. Sometimes the PSU is still able to provide its 12 volts, but not stability (see Continuous Power). This type of an underperforming PSU can ‘blow caps’ where the soldering melts off the PCBs. Even worse is a full PSU failure. This is bad; without safety features like Circuit Shield, a PSU failure can mean a problem of the smoky, flamey variety. No exaggeration, to be clear, we are talking about exploding PCs. So, therefore, a PSU’s safety features are just as vital as its wattage.
So when choosing a PSU or trying to improve performance, you have a lot to consider. You certainly want to make sure that you have enough power to push
all your hardware and deciding what is ‘enough’ a full discussion better left for next time. But the main point is, if you PC isn’t performing, I feel bad
for you son, you might have 99 problems, but your PSU aint one.