PSU keeps dying

January 12, 2012 at 04:46:12
Specs: Windows 7 64 bit, AMD FX 4100 3.6GHz, 8GB RAM
A couple months ago I started having intermittent power issues (computer would be asleep and when I came back into the room it would be off, etc) until eventually all I could get was a light flicker on the case and the cpu fan spin for 1-2 seconds before power off. Also, I could only get this effect if I turned the PSU off then on again (I could not do it 2 times in a row with the PSU set to on). I figured my old 430W PSU had died after its good 3-4 years of service and bought a Corsair 600W PSU. That one had the same problem, only much faster--I think it only lasted 1 month.

I can't seem to pin down what the problem is so I bought a new motherboard:
GIGABYTE GA-990FXA-UD3 AM3+ AMD 990FX SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX AMD Motherboard

And a new CPU (not overclocked):
AMD FX 4100 4-Core Processor, 3.6GHz Socket AM3+ FD4100WMGUSBX

New RAM:
CORSAIR Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9B

and for good measure, a new case and a new DVD drive (Sony DVD-RW, not sure of exact specs but I can get them if it would help)

The only original items left are the graphics card and the HDD.
HIS H467QS1GH Radeon HD 4670 1GB 128-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card

(I can get HDD specs if needed)

I took all of the components to a shop to have them installed since having so much trouble made me worried that I was doing something wrong. My guy tells me the PSU is bad, that the voltage is fine but it is giving a PG number that was so high his meter wouldn't register it.

The guy installs everything with yet another new PSU:

Cooler Master Extreme Power Plus 700W RS-700-PCAA-E3

Everything powers up fine, I take it home. The computer has turned itself off twice since then so I get a new surge protector and plug it into a different outlet. Last night it turned itself off in the middle of a program and won't turn back on. No lights or anything, flicked the switch on the back does nothing.

If it is the PSU, I'll be on my 4th in 6 months so I would love some help trying to figure out what is going on.

If you need specifications, I am more than happy to provide them but a little guidance as to which ones would be really helpful.

Also, I've built all of my machines (but would still consider myself to be an amateur) and I have never had a problem like this. No one seems to know what is going on--both on the internet and in person at shops.

See More: PSU keeps dying

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January 12, 2012 at 05:22:36
Four in six months is crazy. From what you've described, I would have a professional electrician check the current to your house or apartment. Too little can do as much damage as too much. Surge protectors are not foolproof either.

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January 12, 2012 at 07:28:06
My husband's computer is plugged into the same surge protector as mine and has experienced no power issues. Can hardware differences explain this or is something weird going on with mine?

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January 12, 2012 at 08:06:58
Hopefully you are sending in the PSUs for warranty replacement, even if you have to buy a new one in the meantime?

What type of case do you have - top or bottom mounted PSU? If it's on the bottom, do you have case situtated in such a way that fresh air can easily enter thru the underside of the case? In other words, the case should be sitting on a hard surface, not on a carpet, & it would help to have it raised up a bit to allow better airflow. Maybe not as drastic as the following tower on wheels, but it will give you an idea of what I mean:

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January 12, 2012 at 10:55:29
I sent the second one in for warranty replacement when I bought the 3rd. Still don't have the replacement one. I'll contact the manufacturer of the (now dead) 3rd one for warranty replacement but in the meantime I don't have a function PSU to put in.

My first case was a top-mounted PSU. My new one is bottom mounted and sits on the desktop. I moved here from an apt with no A/C so I'm pretty paranoid about air flow but I can maybe figure out a way to get it up higher.

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January 12, 2012 at 18:32:01
First an ideal temperature for any computer is a room at 100 degrees F. So that a computer will even work at that temperature, the chassis will have one fan. In a 70 degree room, the chassis needs no fans. Only the CPU (usually) needs one.

Many see failure when a computer is hot. Then assume heat has caused a failure. Nonsense. Heat is a best tool for finding defective semiconductors before the warranty expires. A computer that works normally in 70 degrees, but is defective, will fail in a 100 degree room. Then work just fine again in a 70 degree room. Ignore so much hype about heat. Use heat to find a defective computer.

Ideal voltage for any computer is even when incandescent bulbs dim to less than 40% intensity? Are your lights dimming and brightening that much? If not, then AC electricity is ideal perfect.

What determines when a computer powers on or off? A power controller. Another of many parts in a power system. PSU is only another part. Most do not even know a controller exists. The power controller even determines when the CPU can execute. From many inputs, it decides if a computer can power on. And if the computer must power off.

Only way you can know any of this is a $5 meter from Harbor Freight. A digital multimeter that also sells in Kmart, Wal-mart, and most every hardware store for a little more. Because it is marketed even to 14 year olds. IOW if you want an answer that actually says what must be fixed, then you must get that meter. And do the entire one minute of labor.

Either do what most everyone fears. Or just keep doing what you are already doing. Shotgunning. Keep replacing good parts until the problem goes away. Obviously the meter is the superior, faster, and a least expensive solution. Choose from your only two options.

Listed is what causes any computer to power on and off. Listed, with numbers, is how to know if AC electricity is relevant. And that is the point. Useful replies always include numbers. Otherwise just keep shotgunning. Those are your only two choices.

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January 12, 2012 at 19:39:09
Multimeters are only marginally useful. All voltage rails have a tolerance of 5% +/-. This is by design & is written in the ATX standard. For example, the +12v rail acceptable voltage range is 11.4v to 12.6v. Testing with a multimeter is explained here:

But even if the voltages check out within tolerance, it doesn't mean that the power is being delivered "cleanly" or at the needed amperages. There is no easy way to check for those things unless you have access to very expensive equipment such as the SunMoon load tester used by JonnyGuru & other hardware testing sites.

Regardless of all that, you've fried several different PSUs, all different brands, & it appears there were all quality units rather than $20 no-name cheapies. There's nothing about your system specs that make it a power hog so you can probably rule out overloading. That leaves overheating or a problem with the AC power being delivered from the wall outlet.

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January 12, 2012 at 19:41:00
You CAN have a wiring issue in your home or apartment that CAN cause problems with electronic equipment and some may be more susceptible than others. Ground faults, reverse connections (hot and neutral) are the most common, but overloaded circuits, a/c's and refrigerators that are not on their own circuits and other things can also cause problems. You can purchase a plug in tester, probably at a home center that will test ground, hot, and neutral connections as far as the outlet is concerned, but I would suggest a professional, especially to check your breaker panel for overloads and improper wiring in general.

You have to be a little bit crazy to keep you from going insane.

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January 12, 2012 at 20:16:38
You can easily check the polarity of a wall outlet with a multimeter. Assuming you're from the US using 120v, the small slot is hot, the larger slot is neutral, & the round one is ground. Set the multimeter to read in the correct AC voltage range (probably 200v), then put the black probe in the larger slot & the red probe in the small slot. It should read approx 120v. Now move the black probe to the ground. It should still read 120v. If it reads 0, the polarity is wrong. Double check by putting the red probe in the larger slot & the black probe in the ground hole. If it reads 120v, that confirms the polarity is wrong.

If the plug is found to be wired wrong, shut the power off at the main breaker panel. Remove the wall outlet & switch the black & white wires. Black wire (hot) should go to the brass screw (small slot), white wire (neutral) to the silver screw (large slot).

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January 12, 2012 at 20:57:08
First an ideal temperature for any computer is a room at 100 degrees F

I had to read that a few times to make sure I wasn't misunderstanding it. A room at 100 degrees F will have most poeple suffering heat exustion in an hour. When you consider that the human body temperature is on 92.6,F 100 degress is going to casue problems.

Heat is a best tool for finding defective semiconductors before the warranty expires.

Absolute garbage. Heat is the worst enamy of any eletronic componants. The cooler the better, even down to 0 providing condensation doesn't become a problem. The ideal voltage for any computer is the one it is designed to run at, nothing more and nothing less, within 2%.

You need to learn the difference between voltage, amps, resistance and watts. The rest is just drivel.


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January 13, 2012 at 04:54:43
Thank you all for your help. I live in a rental and started having this problem when I moved here so I think your ideas about the electrical in the house are the most likely reason I'm having trouble. The best part is that I just put a work order in to my management company and they are sending out an electrician (not our usual handyman).

On a side note, we burn through light bulbs crazy fast in this house--even compact fluorescents--so, again, I think it might be the electrical in the house. Also, for those interested, our house is 1700 sf, two-story and the entire downstairs, except for the kitchen, is on one breaker. Our previous apartment (900sf, one-level) had 8.

I feel quite naive that I knew the electrical was a little iffy but I thought a surge protector meant my pc was fine.

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January 13, 2012 at 05:44:10
If the electrician reports that the wiring is good then ask him to do a number of voltage tests to see if possibly you are getting short periods of higher than normal voltage. This could mean that the power company's transformer (usually on a pole nearby) is bad and he will need to report that to the power company.
If it is possible, you should have your refrigerator on a separate circuit as well as any air conditioners and the kitchen outlets at least should be on their own circuit. You also should have 100Amp service into the house and a main breaker that is marked as such. An apartment would need less but 60Amp service would be minimum.
When I first got married we lived in an apartment that was the upper floor of a converted house and we had only one 15Amp breaker for the entire apartment (in the basement apartment) and we had to turn off the a/c to run the toaster oven or the hair dryer. At the time the extent of our electronics were an old TV and a stereo (lots of puzzles though). Not great, but we were young.
I would recommend that you purchase a decent UPS rather than just using a surge protector, it will offer you much better, more sophisticated protection and battery back up to give you time to shut down during major power problems.

You have to be a little bit crazy to keep you from going insane.

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January 13, 2012 at 15:08:47
You need more than a simple electrician. A well trained electrician that knows how to look for harmonics with a very special tool may be needed. Modern electronic equipment causes noise on lines that feed back into other equipment. Everything from A/C units to microwaves and refrigerators and phones have all sorts of gizmos in them to save energy and convert to dc. The result is harmonics end up on the line.

Also they need to actually take what is called a megger (megohmmeter) to test for poor grounds and neutral connection faults.

Most electricians don't know what a harmonic is from a megger.

1/3 of highway deaths are caused by drunks. The rest are by people who can't drive any better than a drunk.

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