What is a motherboard power supply?

The motherboard power supply is the replaceable unit inside a computer that supplies power to the system. Also known as a power supply unit (PSU), it provides cabling that runs from the unit to the power switch on the case, to the motherboard, drives, graphics card, and fan(s). The PSU also incorporates a fan to cool the unit, which can exhaust from the back, bottom, or top, depending on the model.

A computer motherboard.

As motherboards have evolved over the years, so has the PSU. In 1995, the ATX (Advanced Technology eXtended) format was released, replacing the earlier AT motherboard and power supply standards. ATX remains the most common form factor, spanning multiple versions that represent evolving standards. While it was simple many years ago to buy an ATX power supply for an ATX motherboard, things have become a little more complicated.

A power supply supplies power to the motherboard and other computer components.

In addition to the alternative connectors used for newer Serial ATA (SATA) drives versus legacy Parallel ATA (PATA) drives, and the ability to run two graphics cards for more profit for your games, the way motherboards utilize the energy also changed. Newer motherboards use a 24-pin main power cable, while older motherboards use a 20-pin cable. Some PSUs come with a 20+4 connector that splits to accommodate any type of motherboard. An adapter can also be purchased to convert one connector type to another.

In the past, the main power cord was used to power the computer’s processing unit (CPU), but today virtually all motherboards today use a dedicated 12-volt CPU power cord. Here again, there are two standards or versions: the 4-pin connector (P4) and the 8-pin connector (ESP12V). As well as the main power cable, some motherboard power supply models come with a 4+4 12V CPU cable to accommodate any type of motherboard, or an adapter can be used.

See also  What is the difference between vector and matrix processing?

If working with an older AMD® dual CPU motherboard, a 6-pin auxiliary connector may be required. Most PSUs do not provide this cable, so if your motherboard needs it, a compatible PSU can be purchased.

Older computers draw power from the 3.3 and 5 volt rails provided by the motherboard’s power supply unit, but with the introduction of the AMD® Athlon 64 and Intel® Pentium 4, a new strategy emerged using the 12 volt rail. As a result, PSUs that follow the ATX12V 2.0 (or newer) standard direct most of their power here. If purchasing a power supply for an older motherboard that relies on the 3.3/5 volt rail, consider a motherboard power supply made to the ATX12V 1.3 (or earlier) standard, which provides most of the power. its power to the 3.3/5 volt bus. Alternatively, some newer power supplies provide enough power on the 12 volt and 3.3/5 volt rails to be compatible with any motherboard.

The number of connectors or cables on the PSU is an important consideration. Some cheaper models have fewer connectors, which may be suitable for some systems but not for others. Also, modular power supplies are usually a little more expensive, but allow the user to plug in only the necessary cables, avoiding the clutter of extra cables inside the case. Some enthusiasts, however, shy away from modular designs, believing that plug-in connections are a potential source of unstable power supply, unlike wired models.

Another consideration when searching for the motherboard power supply is wattage. There are several online calculators available for getting a general idea of ​​what range to consider. The average system with a single graphics card is generally well-served by a PSU in the 550 to 650-watt range, but its mileage may vary. Also be sure to check motherboard specifications or the manufacturer’s website for power recommendations, as a particular number of amps might be required as a minimum on a particular rail.

See also  What is a mainframe operating system?

Not all motherboard power supply units are created equal. Some deliver cleaner power while others might be made with second-rate components. When checking specs, compare supported or tested hardware, efficiency ratings, certifications and warranties as a few indicators of quality. Customer reviews can also be helpful.

The motherboard’s power supply goes from the drive to the computer’s power switch.

Leave a Comment