Building a new computer is an exciting thing, at least for most of the people who would be reading this. Whether itís a gaming rig, file server, home theater PC, or something simple for Mom to use for email, web browsing, and FarmVille, thereís a certain thrill associated with buying a bunch of parts from Newegg and spending an afternoon putting it all together. Itís the satisfaction of knowing you picked out every individual piece in that machine, assembled it with your own two hands, and saved some money in the process (prebuilts are for suckers!). Youíve got your case, motherboard, CPU, memory, video card, hard drive, DVD burner, and, uhÖ what am I forgetting? Oh, thatís right, the power supply! The thing you plug the rest of the stuff into so that it turns on, thatís no big deal, right?
Though itís one of the most overlooked and underrated components of them all, the humble power supply may be the most integral part of any computer system. Without sufficient power, your gaming rig is prone to instability, random crashing, or worse; I believe the first computer I ever owned burned out due to a power supply failure one evening with a flash on the monitor, very loud buzzing, and a puff of acrid smoke! A meltdown like that has the potential to damage any or all of the other parts in your case, even if it is very unlikely to happen with modern PSUs. Itís been my experience that if a computer isn't working and you canít figure out why, it's the power supply -- either itís dying/dead or one of your components isnít getting the juice it needs. Needless to say, choosing a power supply is not a process to be taken lightly.
If you're looking to buy a new PSU, it's always a good idea to be generous with your estimations as to how much total power, in watts, you will need. Of course, if youíre just looking to replace one thatís gone bad, youíve already got a good place to start. Otherwise, manufacturer recommendations for the graphics card(s) you will be using are helpful, but there are also several calculators on the web that will help you determine your energy requirements. They all give you slightly different results, so to be safe you might take the highest one, and then add an extra 50-100 watts, especially if youíre planning on upgrading in the future.
Popular PSU Requirement Calculators
Now that youíve got that figure in your head, letís talk about what it means.