Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Visual Guide to PC Components Pt. 2: Power Supplies

Well, it's been over a week since I posted something and I feel bad, so here's a quick one to tide people over.  I'm still working on posts regarding CPU cooling, building in the 600T, and I'm pulling together parts for a build I plan to sell, which I'll also be using to provide a detailed photo (maybe video?) guide on PC assembly and cable management.  Stay tuned for that.

I'll forgo the lengthy introduction a second time.  Suffice it to say that the guide below is intended more for neophytes than experienced builders, and I could never be accused of being a photographer.

Power Supply: Antec High Current Gamer 520W

Pay no attention to the accumulated detritus of (what seemed like) a thousand CPU cleanings.  God I hate thermal paste.

Anyway, what you see above is a very solid 80+ Bronze certified PSU from Antec's more budget-friendly High Current Gamer line.  Internally, it's a Seasonic S12II Bronze 520W PSU.  A very solid choice for any number of low to mid-range setups.  We'll be taking a look at the various cables to give you an idea what goes where in your PC build.

24 Pin Motherboard Power

As noted in the first part of this series (duo-logy?) the 24 Pin cable plugs into your motherboard and provides power to motherboard components, CPU, and expansion cards.  It's rather significant (as you might imagine), and easily the largest, thickest, and most unwieldy of PSU cables.  The plugs containing the pins are shaped, and the connector itself has a latch on one side, ensuring proper orientation.  All PSU connectors have such features in some regard.

8 Pin CPU Power

Labelled as an ATX12V or EPS12V connector, these cables are plugged into the motherboard near the CPU socket and provide power directly to the CPU.  These are a relatively new addition to PSUs (compared to Molex or Motherboard connectors, that is) and are necessary to feed higher-end CPUs.  Lower wattage CPUs will usually only have 1 of these 8-Pin connectors, while higher wattage models will include 2 (for motherboard designs with extremely large numbers of power phases, or dual CPU sockets).  The ATX12V connector is usually split into two 4-pin connectors, one of which is used if the motherboard only has 4-Pin CPU power, while the EPS12V connector is usually a solid block.

6+2-Pin PCI-E Power

PCI-E power connectors come in two flavors, 6 Pin and 6+2 Pin.  6+2 Pin connectors deliver more power, and are seen on more demanding video cards.  The Antec HCG 520W features two 6+2 Pin connectors.  Lower wattage units might feature 6 Pin connectors (or only a single PCI-E Power connector, 6 or 6+2 Pin) while higher wattage units will feature more connectors, sometimes mixed between 6 and 6+2 Pin connectors.  These connectors plug directly into the video card.  The 2 additional pins on a 6+2 connector are not fused to the first 6, so as to avoid fitment issues on video cards only requiring 6 Pin power.

SATA Power


SATA Power connectors are specifically for SATA drives.  This includes Optical Drives, Hard Drives and Solid State Drives.  They generally come on "chains" from your PSU, with multiple connectors per cable.  This can be irksome, if you only need one connector, or a godsend if you need multiple connectors arrayed closely together, for multiple hard drives in a single cage, for example.  The connector is L-shaped internally, to ensure proper orientation.

Molex (4 Pin) Power


Molex connectors are some of the oldest connector designs on your PSU.  These have been around forever, even the motherboard connector has seen pins added (from 20 up to 24).  Molex used to power drives, but SATA power has relegated them to an auxiliary role.  If your motherboard has auxiliary power connectors, or you need to power a water cooling pump, a fan controller, a fan directly from your PSU, a strip of LEDs, etc. then you're probably looking to use Molex connectors.

Floppy Disk Power


This is an essentially obsolete connector used specifically to power those old 3.5 inch Floppy Disk Drives.  Some PSUs still have a single one for the sake of users with legacy hardware, or include an adapter for the same purpose.  For any modern computer, they're worthless, and I'm a little irritated with Antec for hardwiring one to this PSU.

And with that we've basically covered every connector that will come out of a modern PSU.  For more advice on choosing a PSU, take a look at other posts related to power supplies on this blog, or ask in the thread.

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