The power supply unit is an indispensible part of a computer, without which a PC would simply be a lifeless box made of metal and plastic. A power supply breathes life into the device and makes it suitable for performing a wide range of complicated tasks. It is also responsible for transforming a simple PC into a powerful machine that supports high-end games.
So, what’s the role of a power supply?
It is responsible for converting the standard alternating current (AC) line available in your home into a direct current (DC) line required by the computer. In this article we will discuss what is the use of the power supply in a computer.
If you ever seen the components inside a computer case, you might have noticed a metal box placed at the corner with several cables jutting out of it. This is known as the power supply and it won’t be wrong to say that it is the heart of your computer.
In several PCs, the power supply can be seen at the back because it includes the cooling fan andpower-cord repository.
The power supply, also known as the switching power supply, is used to switch the AC input to lower DC voltages. Besides converting the voltages, they are also used to prevent overheating by regulating the voltage levels which might suddenly go up or fall down depending upon the power supply. The PSU is a crucial piece of hardware because the rest of the internal hardware cannot function without it.
The typical voltages supplied in households are 3.3 volts, 5 volts and 12 volts. While digital circuits mostly use 3.3 to 5-volts, the 12-volt is used to run motors in fans and drives.
If you have been using computers for several years, you will remember that the earlier versions of PCs came with large sized red toggle switches. These switches were capable of regulating the flow of current to the power supply.
Technology has advanced at a rapid pace and today you can switch on a computer with a small push of a button and switching off can be done from the menu options. These advanced capabilities were included in the standard power supplies several years ago.
When a user pushes the button, it sends a 5-volt signal to the power supply telling it to switch on the device. Similarly when you select the ‘shut down computer’ option from the menu, it signals the power supply to turn off.
The power supplies available in the market before the 1980s were heavy and bulky like the computers of that era. They were comprised of huge capacitors and heavy transformers to switch the voltage from 120 volts and 60 hertz AC line into 5 volts and 12 volts DC.
Just as modern computers have become sleeker and lighter, switching power supplies used today are also comparatively much smaller than their older versions. Their capabilities have also increased and modern PSUs are capable of converting the 60-Hertzcurrent to a much higher level of frequency.
So, what we have today is a smaller and lighter transformer used in the power supply to step-down the voltage from 110 volts to 220 volts as needed by the computer component.
A typical power supply will include a fan that expels air out of the computer case to reduce heat and keep it cool. At the side you will find a three-pronged port to connect it to a power source using a cable. You may find two switches – a power supply voltage switch and a power switch.
There will be large bundles of colored wires jutting out from the opposite side of the unit and going into the computer. The connecters at the ends of the wires supply power to the several components within a computer such as hard drives, floppy drives, optical drives, fans and video cards. If you don’t like seeing so many cables dangling, consider buying a modular power supply that has the cables neatly arranged in a designer frame.
Switching power supplies are often victims of sudden power spikes or surges, so we would recommend that you plug it into a UPS or surge protector.