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PSU? CPU?


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#1
Adrenalin

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My Computer... she is dead :)
I don't have another PSU or CPU to test with, neither do i have an extra motherboard lying around. Does anyone have any ideas as to why it could be dead? The PSU is a Thermaltake 500W that is 14 months old. It came with a little thing to show you how much wattage it is using. That still seems to work? Goes from 108 to 111 to 117 to 120. No other figures. The CPU is old... 3.0Ghz pentium, not dual core or anything. Motherboard is a Gigabyte P35C-DS3R ver II. Which is also as old as the thermaltake PSU.

anyone............. please
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#2
Digerati

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Did this problem suddenly start? Were there any recent hardware changes?

You don't have many options - you need to determine if you have good power before you do anything else. Assuming all the wires are properly connected, see my canned text below to test PSUs.

Once you know you have good power, you can proceed from there. After the PSU is checked, I generally start by disconnecting everything not needed, which includes all but one stick of RAM, all drives, and any detachable devices, so you are left with one stick of RAM, the CPU and heatsink fan assembly, keyboard and mouse, and the graphics solution (if not using on-board graphics). You should see it attempt to boot but halt when it cannot find a bootable drive. If it does not get that far, your only options are to try another stick of RAM (if you have more than one). If it still fails, then without any spare parts to try, a trip to the shop would be in order.

Do note if you try another motherboard, it would likely corrupt your boot drive as the Windows on the drive would see the new motherboard (which has many integrated hardware devices, each requiring their own hardware drivers) as a different computer, and either choke completely, and/or make you re-authentic with Microsoft.

***
To properly and conclusively test a power supply unit (PSU), it must be tested under various realistic "loads" then analyzed for excessive [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ripple_(electrical)""]ripple[/url] and other anomalies. This is done by a qualified technician using an oscilloscope or power analyzer - sophisticated (and expensive) electronic test equipment requiring special training to operate, and a basic knowledge of electronics theory to understand the results. Therefore, conclusively testing a power supply is done in properly equipped electronic repair facilities.

Fortunately, there are other options that are almost as good. I keep a FrozenCPU Ultimate PSU Tester in my tool bag when I am "in the field" and don't have a good spare power supply to swap in. While not a certain test, they are better than nothing. The advantage of this model is that it has an LCD readout of the voltage. With an actual voltage readout, you have a better chance of detecting a "failing" PSU, or one barely within specified ATX Form Factor Standard tolerances. Lesser models use LEDs to indicate the voltage is just within some "range". These are less informative, considerably cheaper, but still useful for detecting PSUs that have already "failed". Newegg has several testers to choose from. All these testers contain a "dummy load" to fool the PSU into thinking it is connected to a motherboard, and therefore allows the PSU to power on, if able, without being attached to a motherboard - great for testing fans, but again, it is not a true load or suitable for conclusive testing.

As mentioned, swapping in a known good supply is a tried and trued method of troubleshooting used for centuries, even by pros. Remove the "suspect" part and replace with a "known good" part and see if the problem goes away.

I do not recommend using a multimeter to test power supplies. To do it properly, that is, under a realistic load, the voltages on all the pins must be measured while the PSU is attached to the motherboard and the computer powered on. This requires poking (with some considerable force) two hard and sharp, highly conductive meter probes into the main power connector, deep in the heart of the computer. One tiny slip can destroy the motherboard, and everything plugged into it. It is not worth the risk considering most multimeters, like plug-in testers, do not measure, or reveal any unwanted and potentially disruptive AC components to the DC voltages.

And remember, anything that plugs into the wall can kill. Do not open the power supply's case unless you are a qualified electronics technician. There are NO user serviceable parts inside a power supply.
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#3
Adrenalin

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Thanks Digerati,

In the end, I bought a cheap PSU, and voila... now i have one more question.
Bought my Thermaltake 500W PSU 16 months ago for a not so cheap price, how long is the warranty here is South Africa?
the website says 3 years, my receipt says 1 year.
I'm not overly impressed with it only lasting that long... am i being silly?
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#4
Digerati

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No, you are not being silly. Thermaltake is a major brand, typically highly respected among experienced builders for making good quality PSUs, coolers and cases. That said, there are dozens of components inside a typical PSU. Until humans can create perfection, there is always a chance of a flaw in any one of those components, perhaps an impurity in the raw materials used to make them. And, by chance, you bought that 1 - luck of the draw. :)

The receipt, I suspect, shows the retailer's warranty period. If TT says 3 years, you need to contact TT. I would expect them to gracefully replace it.

The question becomes, did the PSU fail due to a faulty part or poor construction? Or was the PSU subjected to abuse? I am not suggesting you threw the PSU at the wall a couple times, but a power anomaly might have overwhelmed it's protection/regulator circuits. This is why I recommend all computers be powered through an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) with automatic voltage regulation (AVR). It is important to remember that EVERY TIME, EVERY TIME the refrigerator, microwave, air conditioner, hair dryer, toaster, coffee pot, water cooler, or any other high wattage device cycles on or off, anomalies (surges, spikes, dips, and dropouts) are sent down the line. PSUs are designed to compensate for small "events", but in doing so, heat is generated, and repeated banging by small events eventually wear (age) the components, and can cause them to fail prematurely. So, if you have any high wattage appliances in your home or office, or you live in an apartment building, get an UPS with AVR to protect your hardware investment, and your data. Note a decent 900VA UPS with AVR will support the computer, all your network equipment, and 2 LCD (or 1 CRT) monitors.

That said, surge and spike protectors are nothing more than fancy, and over-priced extension cords as they do NOTHING for sags (opposite of surges), dips (often called dropouts, and the opposite of spikes), or long-term surges.

Notice I have not mentioned backup power during a complete power outage - that's because backup power is only the icing on the cake. The voltage regulation is the key advantage.
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#5
123Runner

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Glad to see you got the problem resolved. However, I am curious about the following...

It came with a little thing to show you how much wattage it is using.That still seems to work? Goes from 108 to 111 to 117 to 120.

The 108 to 111 to 117 to 120 seems more along the lines of the voltage going in to the psu (from the wall). If this is the case, I am concerned.
What is the supply power (voltage) from the wall. Not being from South Afica, is it 120vac or 220vac?

If the supply voltage is wandering that much, it will kill anything connected to it. I can only suspect that the power is also unclean and has spikes and frequency issues.

If this is true, then I will sugest a power conditioner to clean the power (not a zip stip for spikes only)

EDIT: Digerati, you beat me to it. You type faster than me.

Edited by 123Runner, 30 August 2009 - 07:05 AM.

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#6
Digerati

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You type faster than me.

Only because I am on my second pot of coffee! :)

Note that power conditioner (often used in home audio/home theater systems) is often a misused term. They are nice for shaping the incoming voltage and ridding it of unwanted "noise". However, they have minimal impact during low voltage events, meaning they have a hard time compensating for sags, dropouts, or brownouts. An UPS with AVR, on the other hand, uses the internal batteries to boost the power supplied to the PSU to the required levels.
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#7
123Runner

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An UPS with AVR, on the other hand, uses the internal batteries to boost the power supplied to the PSU to the required levels.

. Definately agree with you on that one, esp since I suspect that is input voltage is fluctuating from 108 to 120.
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#8
Digerati

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esp since I suspect that is input voltage is fluctuating from 108 to 120.

Yeah - that was a good catch. I did not pick up on that as Adrenalin said it was a measure of wattage. It may be wattage but certainly the 117 and 120 does make one think supply voltage. However, I don't have clue what South Africa uses. We need to wait and see what his reply tells us.
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#9
Adrenalin

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I'm back :)

thanks for the replies.

I suspect that 123runner is onto something here... The TT PSU came with the small "Total Watts Viewer" that slots into a space where you can place a DVD-Drive etc... and has a 3 digit watts viewer (I presume it's watts now)
South Africa uses 220VAC.
I might be adding a bit to much info on here but the lights in my bedroom keep blowing, like 3 days after i've bought them. However my PC is in the dining room and not in my room.

Thanks for all the help i will contact Thermaltake (If they have SA offices)
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