You’ve probably not heard much about this particular component of your PC, but that’s because most of the time you can’t really see it and it does get taken for granted. But, what would a PC be without its power supply box? Most of us are so awed by the amazing things possible on a PC that we forget it runs on electricity, much like a ceiling fan. It is the power supply box that actually ensures that your PC powers on every time you start it. Without it all you have is a large metal box with lots of wires!
The power supply box is located on the top right corner of the PC Tower. Its function is to convert the Alternating Current (AC) that flows into it from your home, into Direct Current (DC). (There are two types of current – AC and DC, but we’re not going into that now). Along with this, it also has to supply the correct voltage to different parts of the PC. You’d be surprised to know that almost 120 volts of electricity is supplied to the power supply and even higher in some countries. The power supply converts these 120 volts into smaller divisions of 3.3, 5 and 12 volts for different components. Usually the smaller voltage is used for the digital circuits and the 12 volts are used to power the disk drives.
In the really old computers, power supplies used to be large, heavy and bulky parts. However, today the power supply box is pretty compact and doesn’t weigh much. These power supplies also use a different technology called the switcher technology which enables the smaller size. Today, all power supplies conform to the ATX standard which is an industry accepted standard. If you see the power supply box, you will also notice quite a lot of colored cables running out of it. The cables are color coded depicting the component they are supposed to be attached to. This makes it very easy for a consumer to connect the right cable at the right place and leaves little room for errors. Also, the connectors used for the cables, and the wires themselves are highly standardized which makes it easier to replace them.
However, your power supply box plays a much more important role than that. The average computer consumes a pretty large amount of electricity. If you were to leave it on for 24 hours, over a year it would cost you almost $700 in electricity bills! Enough to buy a whole PC! At this juncture, the new power supply boxes make it possible to manage your power. Power management software are available which make it possible to control the amount of electricity your PC uses up by controlling the state the machine remains in when not in use. One such system called the Advanced Power Management (APM) is available from Microsoft and Intel. The system however, requires that all the components of your PC be APM compliant. Other options to conserve power are available in your PC itself and the EPA is more than glad to give you more ways and options on its EnergyStar website.
Power supply is also one of the most problem-prone areas of the PC and could cause most damage. Computer components could actually get burned when the power supply breaks down or is damaged. It is very important to have good earthing for your computer, especially in countries where the AC supply is 220 volts instead of 120. Also, in case your area is prone to having power fluctuations, a stabilizer is a must. A power supply problem can be detected if the cooling fan in the supply box stops working or if you notice a burning smell before the machine powers down. Random reboots which seem to have no reason could also point to a power supply problem.