Somewhat OT - can underpowered power supplies damage a system?

Gene Heskett gene.heskett at
Wed Aug 18 13:04:22 UTC 2010

On Wednesday, August 18, 2010 08:52:41 am Thomas Cameron did opine:

> Say, hypothetically, I have 8 identical Intel DG45ID motherboard-based
> system with 8GB memory and a single drive with a cheap-o generic 300w
> power supply.  All running Linux, so sorta on-topic.
> Say those systems have been running for over a year, but lately they've
> been really flaky.  Random lockups, sometimes they boot with garbage
> characters on the screen instead of the normal OS boot, sometimes they
> hang at various parts of the boot sequence, spontaneous reboots when
> kickstarting.
> Say the Antec web site says I need more like a 350w power supply, and I
> read somewhere that PSUs tend to age and get less efficient over time,
> so I am guessing that I've been starving these things for juice for
> weeks or maybe months.
> Hypothetically, could I have actually damaged these systems if the PSU
> was under-powered?  Or would a new, higher powered PSU fix the problems
> I've seen?
> I would guess that too much juice might hurt the systems, but would too
> little actually damage anything?
> I know it's not thermal, they're in a very cold room with dedicated HVAC
> and the airflow is great.
But is it clean?  The cpu fan could be full of dust bunnies by now.

> Hoping someone who knows more about electronics can chime in.
> Thanks
> Thomas

As a C.E.T. with 60 years of chasing electrons for a living, I would tend 
to agree with your thoughts, with one exception.  Antec.  I have had, over 
the last decade, much better luck with the PSU's I can get for $20-$40 from 
the importers than I ever had with Antec.  Every Antec I ever bought was in 
the recycle bin by the time the so-called warranty was used up, or within a 
couple of months later from low voltage output.  I have 4 HD's totalling 
3.5TB in this system, and the 350 watt hi-pro brand psu in it is at least 2 
years old & still running great, and its voltages have not faded a bit in 
that 2+ years.

Cheers, Gene
"There are four boxes to be used in defense of liberty:
 soap, ballot, jury, and ammo. Please use in that order."
-Ed Howdershelt (Author)
If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, then
you clearly don't understand the situation.

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