Your computer’s power supply is one of the most important components of your PC. It provides your rig with all of the power it needs to operate. But how often should you upgrade or replace your PSU?
Luckily, PSUs are made to withstand heavy use and can be used for many years before they become old or obsolete. This makes PSUs one of the most long-lived components you can buy for your computer. But sometimes, fate may play a factor in how long your PSU will actually hold up.
In this article, we are going to be talking about PSUs and how long you can expect your power supply to last, what causes a PSU to degrade over time, and when you should seriously consider getting a new one.
So, let’s get started, shall we?
How Often Should You Upgrade or Replace Your PSU?
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How Long Will a PSU Last?
Power supply units are made to last for quite a while. They kind of have to due to the constant use they are expected to withstand. Many PSUs are rated for an MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) of 100,000 hours. Which comes out to a little over 11 years. But the actual lifespan of any PSU boils down to a few factors. This is evident by the fact that warranties for most power supplies are typically three to seven years.
One of the biggest deciding factors for your PSU’s lifespan is how much it is used and how hard it’s being pushed. If your power supply is used in a mining rig, it’s going to go out faster than in a gaming computer due to the massive power loads needed in a mining operation.
Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to the lifespan of a PSU is the amount of dust that can accumulate inside. Dust is the enemy of all computers and their components. So, to ensure your PSU runs smoothly for a decade or more, make sure to clean it out regularly with compressed air.
In addition, if you’ve ever shopped around online, you’ve probably seen PSUs with a Titanium, Platinum, Gold, or Bronze rating. These labels tell you the efficiency and overall quality of the power supply.
A Bronze-rated PSU is typically cheaper and overall less reliable than a Gold-rated PSU. Gold PSUs (and higher) use better capacitors and other internals when compared to their bronze and silver counterparts.
This means gold PSUs will almost always outlast a bronze power supply. It’s our recommendation that you always buy at least Gold-rated PSUs; they may be a little more expensive, but are well worth the money for the added peace of mind they offer.
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What Causes a PSU to Degrade Over Time?
Like all components in a computer, a PSU is not immune to deterioration. The main culprit of a failing PSU is heat stress weakening the capacitors. Heat causes the expansion and contraction of vital components, and after years of expanding and contracting due to heating and cooling cycles, capacitors can become leaky and eventually fail. This could be in the form of a small sizzle with blue smoke or a loud pop when the capacitor bursts.
One of the most common failures of a PSU is the fan bearings. You’ll know when the fan starts to go out thanks to a screeching whining sound that can drive anyone mad. Sadly, it’s not as simple as just replacing a worn-out fan like any other in your PC. You never want to dismantle a PSU due to the risk of electrocution. Should you be suffering from a worn-out PSU fan, the best mode of action is to just get a new one.
While dust won’t damage your power supply overnight, if you don’t keep your PSU clean on a regular basis, it will slowly clog up its cooling system. The best way to do this is by using compressed air with the system powered down and unplugged. We recommend cleaning out your entire computer every three to six months to remove any dust, so everything stays clean and running optimally.
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When You Should Consider Replacing Your PSU
PSUs are the backbone of every computer system, so you need to make sure they are up to the task at hand. While power supply units are made to last for many years, they are not infallible.
There are two main things you need to consider when thinking about replacing your PSU:
- Is your PSU dying?
- Have you recently upgraded your GPU?
The primary reason you would replace your PSU is if it’s dying. There are a few telltale signs to help with troubleshooting, however.
One of the biggest is the system will either power on for a few moments and shut back down or just not turn on at all. The computer might stay on, even start up, and work like normal for a while before crashing to a black or blue screen.
If you hear squeaking and/or grinding, it’s not a mouse, it’s a bad fan. The fan going bad is a real bummer because fans are usually easy to replace. But unless you know what you’re doing, we do not recommend trying to repair a PSU fan yourself. All the capacitors and electronics inside a PSU are delicate and can be downright dangerous. Either leave the repairs to the professionals or just buy a new power supply.
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The most worrisome sign of a failing PSU is smoke or a burning smell. If you ever see or smell smoke coming from your computer’s power supply, it needs to be unplugged immediately to reduce the risk of fire or other components being affected.
If your PSU isn’t dead or dying, the only other reason you should consider buying a new one is when you buy a new graphics card. GPUs can take a lot of power to run. This is especially true for cards such as the 3090Ti. That thing almost needs a PSU all to itself.
A new GPU is a lot of money already, and having to tack on another $100 or so for a bigger PSU can be a hassle. But if you don’t, it’s only going to cause problems. Make sure to add up all the wattage in your system and match it with the rated wattage of the PSU.
You want more power than you’re drawing, so if you’re close to the limit, you’re going to need a new power supply. Even if you’re just under the rated watts, that leaves no room for sudden power spikes that can cause your system to crash. So more is always better.
We recommend always getting the best PSU you can afford, even if it’s overkill now. It will help future-proof your system for when you do make a large upgrade.
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There’s no need to worry about replacing a PSU like you would an air filter. They actually have a long lifespan when treated properly and kept clean, but just like any electronics, PSUs will eventually fail.
Other than your PSU dying, the only other reason you should even consider replacing yours is due to a new powerful GPU. Check your system’s total wattage and compare it to your PSU before powering on. That way, you can prevent any crashes or damage caused by the lack of power.
If you found this article helpful, please spread the word by sharing it on social media. That way, we can help out more people. If you have any questions or need help troubleshooting a problem with your PSU, leave us a comment down below and we’ll be more than happy to help you out. We love hearing from you!