Somewhat OT - can underpowered power supplies damage a system?

Thomas Cameron thomas.cameron at
Wed Aug 18 14:22:54 UTC 2010

On 08/18/2010 08:04 AM, Gene Heskett wrote:
> 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.

Thanks, Gene, much appreciated.  I've upgraded to 500w PSUs.  Do you 
think I did any damage to the system components?

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