How to Check the Power Supply on a Desktop Computer

Learn how to check your desktop computer's power supply and how to replace it if necessary with CGDirector's guide.

How to Check the Power Supply on a Desktop Computer

Knowing the power supply of your PC can help you update other parts of the computer, such as the graphics card. A power supply is a dedicated unit, typically inside a desktop PC, that provides power to everything else inside the PC. All-in-one computers and monitors can also have external power supplies, which are normally just normal old power blocks that need to be plugged into the wall. Depending on the specific format of the power supply, the details mentioned above may change a bit.

For example, many BTX power supplies (common in older prefabricated versions) have their fans that run out right next to the wall power port, rather than the ATX tradition of having the PSU fan on the top or bottom. However, SFX PSUs will generally look like smaller versions of their ATX counterparts. So, how do you check your PC's power supply? You can start by removing the side panel of the case. If you bought a prefabricated PC, you can also check the power supply in the computer manual or contact the manufacturer.

The exact instructions for removing the PSU may vary depending on the format of the PSU and the form factor of the case, but in general, this is a fairly quick job that can be done by unscrewing the PSU from the back of the PC and simply taking it out of there. Since you'll only want to take a look at the power supply label, you shouldn't have to disconnect all the cables connected to the PSU. When pulling the power supply out of the back of the case, make sure that you don't pull too hard and that the cables connected to it are long enough to give way. Replace it and tighten the screws once you have found out what type of power supply it has.

On a laptop computer, you can find out what type of power supply (or more likely, charger) you have by following similar steps. They all transmit information about themselves so that the motherboard can determine which components are connected to it and make them work properly. A power supply does not need to be calibrated via the motherboard. In general, the name and brand of the power supply should be visible as soon as you remove the nearest side panel, but on rare occasions, you may have to completely remove it from your computer to obtain this information.

If your PC's power supply needs to be replaced, thankfully it's pretty easy. With some reductions in size compared to a standard ATX board, BTX power supplies also tended to have a different format compared to ATX PSUs. The most common distinctive change was that the exhaust and power switch were on the same side, and the rest was normally made of sealed metal. An SFX power supply is a specialized power supply that looks a lot like a standard ATX PSU in design, but is much smaller.

It is common practice among departments that manage several computers to have one or two spare power supplies on hand for “swap tests” to identify when a power supply is causing recurring computer problems. If your computers are under warranty and you suspect that your power supply may be at fault, take advantage of your manufacturer's support and warranty for your desktops. When a PC breaks down suddenly for no apparent reason, checking its power supply first can save a lot of time in troubleshooting it. One of the most obvious indicators of a faulty power supply is that your computer won't turn on at all.

To perform a basic test on your PC's power supply, locate its 24-pin connector on your motherboard and activate its switch on its back while listening for its internal fan. If you can hear it running, this should verify that your power supply is turned on. If it doesn't turn on, try a different cord and outlet to eliminate those items as potential sources of problems.

Carlton Picchetti
Carlton Picchetti

Hardcore internet buff. Certified twitter nerd. Wannabe bacon aficionado. Evil tv maven. Proud social media evangelist.

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