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Help Needed - Multiple Blown Power Supplies

By mkd · 10 replies
Mar 14, 2006
  1. I got my PC about 3 years ago. Part of it was setup at the shop (e.g. Case, Processor, MB), rest of the "easy" pieces were added by myself.

    In the past 3 years, I have blown (count 'em) 5 power supplies.

    The first few times, I just returned the PC to the shop, and I suspect that they were replacing the PSU with generic models. I was blowing power supplies once every 6 months.

    For the last supply, I purchased and installed an Enermax 420W, more than enough to power my system. That one lasted me 13 months, and blew this past weekend. By blew, I mean you hit the power button and nothing happens.

    I have gotten to the point where I can tell if the PSU is going to go. I had noticed some signs over the past two weeks (lockups, cutouts). It finally went after the PC had been powered on for about an hour, and about 5 minutes into playing a graphics intensive game.

    I have tried plugging in just the PC, with the side off to inspect lights inside. When I hit the button, there were no lights inside the case. When I went to remove the power cord, I noticed what I would call static (white light with crackle) inside the PSU. I tried another power cord, and as soon as I plugged it in I got a crackle.

    In all the times that I have had issues, I have never lost a component inside the system, always just the PSU. We have another PC in the house with roughly the same specs that has run without issue for 2 years.

    List of things that I have tried:
    -Move the PC to another outlet (although on the same circut breaker switch in the apartment)
    -Replaced Video card (about 2 months ago)
    -Moved down from 2 CD/DVD drives to 1
    -Moved down from 2 HDs to 1
    -Inspected the MB for signs of capacitor issues (bulges, leaking).
    -Checked to ensure that there were screws in the MB as per MB manual
    -Checked to the best I can see that the MB is not touching the case
    -Searched endlessly on the internet for a competitor to my PSU blowing record

    Yet to try:
    -Moving to a new apartment
    -Purchasing a new PC (after wraping caution tape around the old one)

    Anyone have any ideas what may be causing my problems? I am to the point where I am thinking of just purchasing a new system, however, am concered that there may be an issue with power inside the apartment, and don't want to start blowing PSUs on a shiny new rig.

    System Specs:
    Intel P4 2.4 GHz
    Cheap Generic Case #3 (metal on the sides)
    1 GB RAM
    ATI AIW 9600 (AGP x4)
    DVD/CD Burner
    Hercules GameTheater Sound Card
    Some random modem

    Any input is appreiciated.
  2. dmill89

    dmill89 TS Guru Posts: 475

    Sounds like a wireing problem to me. You might want to get the wireing in your apartment checked. It could be a short in your computer but that seems unlikely.A short usually causes the power supply to cut out imediately.since most powersupplies have protection circuicts so they don't get fried by a short inside the computer. I know Enermax has these circuicts and the generic ones probably had these too.Power serges could also cause power supplies too die. so if you don't already have one get a good serge protector.If you do have a serge protector it may be a good idea to replace it. On average serge protectors only protect against serges for 2-5 years (over time the protection circutritry wears out).
  3. Frank Smith

    Frank Smith TS Rookie Posts: 75

    I agree with "dmill89" sounds like bad wiring...in the apartment... you can buy and add a good Surge protector.. it will help... you might also buy a small testor to see if the wiring is wired correctly... even in AC there is a right and wrong way to hook the wires.... make sure the ground wire is connected ... the small plugin testor will tell you that.... also.. the PSU might look blown/not work and still be OK.
    1. unplug the power cord.
    2. move the 220/110 switch back and forth 2 or 3 times...
    3. make sure its in the 110 slot. replug the cord...
    4. start the computer.... 99.9% of all new PSU have a built-in
    open ground... by moving the switch back and forth... it discharges the PSU which will allow it to work properly.... old crappy wiring can cause this to happen.. and not using properly grounded circuits can cause this.
  4. mkd

    mkd TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks for the information Dmill89 and Frank. I have no electrical knowledge so this is helping.

    I will stop by an electronics shop and get an outlet tester. The apartment building is only about 7 years old, but based on the cheap paint, I wouldn't be surprised if there was cheap or faulty wiring.

    I was using a Belkin surge protector, something similar to this:

    But that surge protector is probably a few years old now, and I probably should pick up a new one. Is Belkin a good brand, or would you recommend APC or something else?
  5. Frank Smith

    Frank Smith TS Rookie Posts: 75

    once you verify the circuit is wired correctly.... see what the voltage is on the line.... 110 vts actually means it should have 120 vts..
    220 is really 240 vts.... proper volts and wired correctly.. means your Surge protector was defective... (IMHO) when the leds stop working on a surge protector the protection is not working.
  6. mkd

    mkd TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I tried Frank's suggestion to flip the 115/230 switch a few times, tried the power switch, and the power supply worked. The PC was disconnected from the monitor, but I let it go until the HDs started reading, so I am assuming that it was booting up OK.

    What problem does flicking this switch correct? Since that worked, is this most definately an incoming power issue, not something within the PC? You mention it discharges the PSU. What does that mean? Is electrical wiring causing it to get "over-charged"? Could this still be a surge protector issue if that worked?

    I purchased an outlet tester and tried both sockets in the outlet I use and both read as "correct".

    The LEDs (protected and grounded) are showing as working on the surge protector. I did at one point have a previously used UPS (server type) attached to the PC, but ditched that when I came home one day to a hot plastic smell and found the sides of the UPS were hot. That may have been because the UPS was older or underused with the equipment I have, or may be another symptom of my problem.

    I also purchased a digital multimeter (the guy at the shop said that could be used to check voltage). There are instructions included, but I know nothing about electrical, so I am hesitant to start sticking things in sockets. If need be, I think that I may just call up an electrician to see if they can come out and check this for me.

    I have noticed that when the washer changes cycles, or the dishwasher is running, the lights in the living room flicker for a second, and sometimes I get a quick fuzz on the TV. Could these also be signs of a problem?

    Thanks again!
  7. Frank Smith

    Frank Smith TS Rookie Posts: 75

    I'd leave the voltage check alone if your not sure. (AC has 3 spots - 1 round = ground .. 2 upright = voltage.. insert 1 meter tip into ea upright one... make sure the meter is set to read AC.. plug in the cable.. and read the meter -- 115v is the lowest it should read and 230v on the other side is the lowest it should read... {} 12 volts DC should actually read 14.8v) The surge protector only protects from spiked/increased voltage not low voltage.)
    OK flicking the switch back and forth... indicates that your power supply did not totally discharge caused by improper shut down .. therefore it fails to start ..... auto shut down automatically shorts the capacitors to ground..thru a bleeding resistor... etc etc etc.. just remember when your system fails to SHUT DOWN correctly, do the unplug and switch thing. saves you lots of $$$$

    Retired CEO & Owner TTT Spec Co... Electronic Firm - sales and repairs - computers and anything else that worked with electricity...
  8. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 6,000   +15

    I would have the wall socket checked for proper grounding and connections.
  9. mkd

    mkd TS Rookie Topic Starter

    OK, it's offical... I am calling in a pro to look at the wiring.

    I am still puzzled on how the power supply works again after flicking the switch.

    You mention that indicates that there was an improper shutdown...

    You mean a shutdown on the PSU itself not the OS right? Sometimes I have to use the power button on the case if Windows doesn't shut itself down properly.
    Would that improper shutdown be caused by low voltage, improper grounding, or both?
    Is that PSU still safe to use?

    I know I have 50 million questions, but I feel like I am making progress on a problem I have had for too long. Thanks again for the assistance!
  10. mkd

    mkd TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Yesterday, I purchased one of these, hoping that it will help my problem:


    It includes "Automatic Voltage Regulation", which if I am reading right, will smooth out issues incoming power.

    Should this UPS help with any low voltage issues I may have?

    I also spoke with the Super who said other people in the building have had some problems with outlets, and I am hoping they will have a pro out to look at the outlet itself sometime this week.

    My burning question, is that now working Power Supply still safe to use?

    Thanks again!
  11. Frank Smith

    Frank Smith TS Rookie Posts: 75

    Says it will work taking care of both problems HI Voltage and Low Voltage...(brownouts=low voltage)

    Yes, I'd continue to use the PS in your computer.. if it causes problems then replace with a higher wattage unit.. flipping the switch back and forth.. helps the PSU reset it self so it can function properly.
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