6 Signs You Need to Upgrade Your PC’s Power Supply

Computers are expensive devices and you need to take care of yours to make sure it lasts. While CPUs, GPUs, RAM, and storage drives are important PC components, there’s one crucial component they all depend on: the power supply unit (PSU).

Power supplies are crucial because they meet the electrical needs of each room. If a power supply fails catastrophically, it could destroy your computer.

So how do you know if your power supply is about to fail? These are the six signs you need to watch out for.

1. Advanced age

a disassembled five-year-old computer

Many users buy a new computer when their device is about five years old. While you can buy an entirely new system, replacing everything including the power supply, you can also choose to upgrade existing parts.

This is where the problem lies. As a power supply ages, so do its internal components. This means capacitors, resistors, and other electrical components that can fail. When this happens, it can cause an internal power surge that will kill your newly installed RTX 3090 Ti.

That’s why it’s prudent to replace an aging PSU, especially if you’re installing expensive components. You should only keep a power supply beyond about five years if your computer has specialized units guaranteed by the manufacturer to last longer.



BSOD error on old Windows PC

The Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) appears due to a catastrophic system failure that prevents your Windows PC from operating safely. While there are over 260 possible causes of a BSOD, there are at least five directly related to hardware:

  • 0x00000080: NMI_HARDWARE_FAILURE
  • 0x00000122: WHEA_INTERNAL_ERROR
  • 0x00000127: PAGE_NOT_ZERO

If you get one of these errors, your hardware may not be working properly. This may be due to an error in a specific component. But if you get this BSOD often, even after removing or replacing the suspect part, your PSU could be at fault.

Related: How to Fix Windows Blue Screen Error

3. Crackles, static and other noises

static electricity jump between two boards

Manufacturers design computers to run as quietly as possible, except for fan and cooling noise. You should be careful when you start to hear hissing or crackling noises coming from your computer.

Power cords, lights, and other external interference can all cause unexpected noise. However, if you still hear them after checking these sources, including nearby outlets, there is cause for concern.

Try unmounting and remounting your system to see if that fixes the problem. If not, you should consider taking your computer to a certified technician or replacing the power supply.

Safety Note: Remember to always unplug your computer when doing this. And never open your power supply!

Loose connections, arcing across the wires, or even a minor short can all be causes. It’s best not to plug in your system until you fix the problem.

4. CPU or GPU issues

three GPUs stacked together

If you’re building your own system, it’s easy to miscalculate its power requirements. Although your computer is still running on the minimum power requirement, it may run into issues when you start pushing it.

This is especially true with high-power video chips and cards, which can use much more power than their baseline power requirements. For example, the Intel Core i9-12900K requires a base power of 125 watts but can consume up to 241 watts when pushed to its limits.

An Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 Ti GPU requires 450 watts of power. If you combine this with the processor above, you’ll need at least 700 watts to run these two parts. This does not even include other components and peripherals, thus requiring a more powerful power supply.

Related: Why PSU Efficiency Matters in PC Gaming

Although a less powerful PSU will run the system, you may experience issues under heavier loads. So if you recently upgraded a component and you are having BSODs or other issues, first check the capacity of your PSUs.

5. Power fluctuations

an old soviet voltmeter

A sign of power supply problems is when you experience power fluctuations while using your PC. This is similar to what you’ll see when your home is hit with electrical instability – lights may dim or flicker and some systems will restart.

Although internal power cuts do not affect your monitor, they can affect the LED lights powered by your PC. If you see them flickering or dimming, it may signal a problem in your power supply.

You might even see a power issue causing your computer to suddenly shut down or restart for no apparent reason. Computer systems usually have security systems that shut off power to prevent catastrophic results. So, if this happens to you frequently, you should have someone check your system.

6. Physical damage

computer damaged by flood

Even if you don’t use your computer much, it’s a good idea to open it up once in a while to clean and inspect it. You can do this every year or more frequently if you are a heavy user. When you open your desktop PC for cleaning and reassembly, you should also check the physical condition of its parts.

Bulging capacitors, burn marks, or other types of physical damage to your motherboard are all warning signs. If you see them, you should have your system checked by a professional. You can also check your power supply by looking through its vent holes and other access points, but never disassemble the unit to inspect it.

When working with computers, one thing you should never do is open your power supply. Even if you have disconnected the power supply, the components of a power supply can retain their charge, especially the capacitors. Touching a capacitor can give you a nasty shock or worse, even if you unplugged the system first.

Power supplies can kill your PC

All computers have sensitive electronic components. These need a specific voltage and current, but you could damage them if you exceed their requirements. Many users have had their systems taken down by a bad PSU, so you should be aware of any signs of trouble with your PC.

When you think you have problems with your power supply, the best thing to do is to have a certified technician examine it. This way, you can avoid damaging your PC or even completely destroying it.

Remember, when building a PC, never forget the power supply. Because if you have an unreliable power supply, it could kill all the rest of your expensive parts.

Power supply
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About the Author

Alan A. Seibert