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Dirge
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Old PSUs

Sun Jul 17, 2016 8:34 pm

Just curious, if an old PSU popped its clogs what are the chances of it taking other hardware with it? Does anyone have an opinion on proactively replacing the PSU after X number of years?

I have a six year old Corsair 650W in an old desktop system, which I have kept relatively dust free. I would like to turn it into a file server with new drives, and keep it humming for as long as possible.
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bthylafh
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Re: Old PSUs

Sun Jul 17, 2016 8:39 pm

Don't know about chances, but I've seen a bad PSU* take out about half of a system.

* It was a Deer. Old hands know.
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Re: Old PSUs

Sun Jul 17, 2016 8:58 pm

I've had a number of PSUs die over the years, and none of them have taken out other hardware when they went. It does happen though, as bthylafh notes.
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Dirge
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Re: Old PSUs

Sun Jul 17, 2016 9:16 pm

Interesting, sounds like you could toss a coin on that one. Does anyone pro-actively replace their PSU after say 5 years? Its mostly a question of cost and keeping old hardware running. Ideally replacing everything as new would be more power efficient.
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Re: Old PSUs

Sun Jul 17, 2016 9:29 pm

A good HQ PSU like SeaSonic if you can keep it dust free, should last a long time. Yeah I had a cheap ass PSU die on me with my first build. As long as you stay away from cheap PSUs you should be fine.
 
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Re: Old PSUs

Sun Jul 17, 2016 9:48 pm

Not proactively, but I have replaced PSUs out of sync with system rebuilds either because the unit was underpowered (wouldn't supply enough 12V for all my drives) or I wanted something that was more efficient. I'm not planning on replacing this 750W Corsair I have for a good long time; in any case it's thoroughly overpowered for my needs, so I've got plenty of margin and it's a good brand besides.
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Re: Old PSUs

Sun Jul 17, 2016 10:07 pm

Run it until it dies unless you've just got money to burn.

12 and 5 volts is the same now as in 2011, so no need for a change. And if you leave it powered on all the time it should continue just fine. I have seen less problems with old 24/7 devices than those powered on after sitting a while.

As far as damage to other components that is pretty unlikely. When your supply fails it will likely quit putting out enough power not spit too much.

As to the other comment, I had an old Deer supply that lasted quite a while. So, each person's experience may vary. I would argue that replacing on condition when things finally fail is the most economical choice. The hardware manufacturers would like you to replace as often as possible for their benefit.
 
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Re: Old PSUs

Sun Jul 17, 2016 10:24 pm

in my experience higher quality PSU's usually die gracefully without damaging anything else

but i have seen $20 PSU's take out motherboards with a loud POP
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Re: Old PSUs

Sun Jul 17, 2016 10:55 pm

I've had an Enermax in use for about 10 years. One day, while using the computer, the PSU flashed/popped and the computer turned off.
Nothing other than the PSU was damaged, but I was unhappy with how it ended.
 
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Re: Old PSUs

Sun Jul 17, 2016 11:18 pm

Same sentiment as others...if the quality is good it shouldn't take anything else with it. Monitors and PSU's are what I always see people cheap out on and I never understood it. A good monitor and a good PSU can actually last through several builds, yet most people usually skimp on them on them. :(

I had a Sparkle power supply pop once...sucked because it was in the middle of a LAN party and it was in the server hosting all of the games. Fortunately, we had a spare so we put it in and were back up an running within an hour. :)
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Re: Old PSUs

Mon Jul 18, 2016 12:03 am

curtisb wrote:
Same sentiment as others...if the quality is good it shouldn't take anything else with it. Monitors and PSU's are what I always see people cheap out on and I never understood it. A good monitor and a good PSU can actually last through several builds, yet most people usually skimp on them . :(


My pet hate-When cheap PSU's are recommended.

That corsair is most likely a Seasonic-should be good for a while yet.
As to your question-With that PSU probably wouldn't be a bad idea to consider changing it around 10 to 12 year mark.
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Re: Old PSUs

Mon Jul 18, 2016 12:26 am

tl;dr: 5-10 years in the absence of other info. Less if you need top reliability or are tough on hardware, more if you're buying top-quality gear and not stressing it much. How heavily and at what duty cycle has your PSU been loaded, and do you know the model?

The main wear component in a PSU should be capacitors, which are mainly worn out by heat (including heat created inside the caps due to ripple current). A high-quality, efficient design that's usually run at low load on cool air should last all but indefinitely. Cheap capacitors, more heat, and more power each result in a lot more wear.1 A good PSU should be decent for 5-10 years in a gaming machine, even if heavily loaded. 24/7 use could burn up caps much quicker, though.

In a well-engineered PSU, everything else should easily outlast the caps, but in a world where 5 cents on a bill of materials matters, things don't always work out that way. These failures will be much tougher to predict, but most probably still have some dependence on heat and power.

There are a lot of parts in a PSU that could theoretically break some other part of a computer if they failed. Most often they don't, and I find that a small miracle. I doubt that old PSUs going out with a bang are much more likely to take anything with them than new ones, but with that said, older PSUs with worn caps will be noisier and more stressful on components in normal operation.

To answer the original question, yeah I would consider PSUs to have an expiration date, but it's tough to say what it is without more info. There are rigs I'd be comfortable with pretty much indefinitely, and there are rigs I'd feel iffy about at two years.

1 Page 5 of this has an example of how heat and power affect caps. The stuff in that datasheet could be used as a main APFC cap in a computer PSU. The usual rule of thumb is that a 10C increase halves the life of a cap.
 
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Re: Old PSUs

Mon Jul 18, 2016 6:20 am

I generally run them until they die, unless I've had trouble with a particular model, in which case I may replace proactively.

Not sure I agree that caps are the most common point of failure; I've probably had about as many with bad fans as with failing caps.

Worst offenders in terms of failure rate have been the infamous Deer (back in the day), Antec (circa early 2000s), Chieftec, and Thermaltake. I've had good luck with Seasonic, Corsair, and Ultra (go figure on that last one, a lot of Ultra's other stuff sucks).
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Re: Old PSUs

Mon Jul 18, 2016 6:43 am

Cheap PSUs usually skimp on the protection circuits, and when they go they'll take out anything directly connected: Motherboard, drives, GPU (if using a PCIe direct power connector). I've seen this happen to two or three dozen machines in the past (often nasty OEM units from Dell/HP).

I haven't seen it in years though, mainly because it's so much easier to buy a good quality PSU since the 80+ standard became a commodity certification.
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Re: Old PSUs

Mon Jul 18, 2016 7:49 am

I've seen it a few times, but it's not common IME. I still replaced a nearly 6 year old Seasonic X-650 last month, though, on age grounds. That said, if it tests okay when I get around to it, it will go into the parts box.
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Re: Old PSUs

Mon Jul 18, 2016 8:17 am

bthylafh wrote:
Don't know about chances, but I've seen a bad PSU* take out about half of a system.

* It was a Deer. Old hands know.


Christ, yes, we certainly do. Taking a shotgun to a Deer PSU would be too kind. Heck, the Antec model with capacitor plague that came with my original Sonata tripped the breaker in my house when it finally died, but it didn't hurt any of the components in the process.

As for modern power supplies of reasonable quality manufactured well after the capacitor plague? Yeah, run 'em 'til they die peacefully of old age.
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Re: Old PSUs

Mon Jul 18, 2016 11:19 am

just brew it! wrote:
Not sure I agree that caps are the most common point of failure; I've probably had about as many with bad fans as with failing caps.

synthtel2 wrote:
In a well-engineered PSU, everything else should easily outlast the caps, but in a world where 5 cents on a bill of materials matters, things don't always work out that way.

Unfortunately, fans are a handy thing to cheap out on. Fortunately, they're usually easy enough to replace.
 
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Re: Old PSUs

Mon Jul 18, 2016 11:33 am

The last time I had a PSU fan fail, the PSU got VERY hot. Cooked electronics smell, and even the exterior of the system case (above the PSU) was hot to the touch. Though I could have replaced the fan, I no longer trusted the PSU even though it appeared to still be functional.
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Re: Old PSUs

Mon Jul 18, 2016 12:13 pm

Is it ok to open up an old PSU and vacuum it? Looking at one of mine and I see dust bunnies stuck the cooling fins and there is just no way to blow it out with the fan in the way. Maybe need to discharge it overnight just to be safe. Don't want the PSU to zap and take out half of me.
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Re: Old PSUs

Mon Jul 18, 2016 12:39 pm

I've had two PSU failures, one of which was a cheap CompUSA store-brand from waaaayyy-back-when that emitted loud *SNAP* and never breathed again, and the other was an Antec that began emitting the noises and odors of corona discharge and was pulled out of service immediately. Both were replaced under warranty and there was no further damage to the respective computer systems.

However, a failing switchmode power supply can send its output voltages wildly out of spec or begin passing AC voltages into the DC output, and either condition is capable of destroying everything downstream if the output protection circuitry is inadequate. Not common, but possible.
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Re: Old PSUs

Mon Jul 18, 2016 12:53 pm

I had a PSU die in spectacular fashion (M80-sized bang, smoke out the back) on a Pentium II-266 system, while my friend happened to be playing a game on it. He jumped about a foot straight up in his seat, and I did my best Tommy Boy "what'd ja do?!?"

I don't remember the brand of PSU, but I know it was a generic that came with a common (and fairly heavily built) ATX case of the time period (98-00'ish). Brand of the case started with an A. No damage to other components.
 
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Re: Old PSUs

Mon Jul 18, 2016 12:57 pm

The Egg wrote:
I had a PSU die in spectacular fashion (M80-sized bang, smoke out the back) on a Pentium II-266 system, while my friend happened to be playing a game on it. He jumped about a foot straight up in his seat, and I did my best Tommy Boy "what'd ja do?!?"

I don't remember the brand of PSU, but I know it was a generic that came with a common (and fairly heavily built) ATX case of the time period (98-00'ish). Brand of the case started with an A. No damage to other components.


Maybe an Antec KS-288? That was a sturdy old steel monstrosity with a power supply that fits the bill... I owned one, but knock on wood, its power supply was fine.

I remember someone telling a story about a friend whose system was close to the wall when the power supply died, failing catastrophically and scorching the wall a good six inches above the top of the case in the process. Somehow it didn't take out the rest of the system in the process, but it's hard to imagine.
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Re: Old PSUs

Mon Jul 18, 2016 1:16 pm

ThatStupidCat wrote:
Is it ok to open up an old PSU and vacuum it? Looking at one of mine and I see dust bunnies stuck the cooling fins and there is just no way to blow it out with the fan in the way. Maybe need to discharge it overnight just to be safe. Don't want the PSU to zap and take out half of me.

Yes, you could; but I would recommend just using a "canned air" type duster and a vacuum cleaner to catch the dust that spews out (or do it outdoors). You can poke the nozzle of the duster past the fan blades, to help dislodge the dust bunnies.

I generally caution people against opening up PSUs, due to the shock hazard. If you're really determined to get inside, you can help the PSU discharge quicker by disconnecting it from AC line power and hitting the PC's power button. This will cause the PSU to try to start up using just the stored charge on the capacitors, which should drain off a fair bit of the residual charge in one go. Then let it sit for a while, and follow high voltage safety procedures when opening it up (rubber sole shoes, tools with insulated handles, and one hand behind your back once the internal circuitry is exposed).

Concupiscence wrote:
I remember someone telling a story about a friend whose system was close to the wall when the power supply died, failing catastrophically and scorching the wall a good six inches above the top of the case in the process. Somehow it didn't take out the rest of the system in the process, but it's hard to imagine.

Sounds like he was lucky it didn't take out his *house*!
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Re: Old PSUs

Mon Jul 18, 2016 1:30 pm

I would not worry much, my 850w TT is about 8 years old its working fine as long as i don't try to suck too much power which can easily happen with a fx8350 and r9 290 oc (its probably got to do with the fact that it is an old quad rail design back then they were still strong...) at which point it just shuts down plainly :)
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Re: Old PSUs

Mon Jul 18, 2016 1:33 pm

Concupiscence wrote:
The Egg wrote:
I don't remember the brand of PSU, but I know it was a generic that came with a common (and fairly heavily built) ATX case of the time period (98-00'ish). Brand of the case started with an A. No damage to other components.

Maybe an Antec KS-288?

No....it wasn't a brand name like Antec, but it was very common among white-box PC builders at the time. Started with an A, an early true ATX case, and used relatively heavy-gauge steel (compared to the others).

Ugh, this is going to kill me all day until I remember it....


Edit: The voices in my head are telling me it might've been an E, not an A. Ugh.
Last edited by The Egg on Mon Jul 18, 2016 1:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
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Re: Old PSUs

Mon Jul 18, 2016 1:40 pm

Aspire?
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Re: Old PSUs

Mon Jul 18, 2016 2:16 pm

Image
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Re: Old PSUs

Mon Jul 18, 2016 2:18 pm

Sounds like you may be talking about the old Inwin A500 cases.
 
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Re: Old PSUs

Mon Jul 18, 2016 2:18 pm

The Egg wrote:
Image
Enlight! *does a dance*


Aww, nostalgia! The main system used in my university's radio station for music storage and playback ran in one of those. <3
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Re: Old PSUs

Mon Jul 18, 2016 2:22 pm

I owned two of that exact case. One of them still houses the web server. My oldest daughter has the other one; it was her desktop PC through most of high school and college, and for a couple of years after she found a job and moved out. IIRC they originally came with Deer PSUs pre-installed, which got replaced fairly early on.
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