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My computer is crashing and having troubles, is it time to replace the power supply?

We have a 400w power supply in our 80G computer and lately it
crashes and tries to continually restart when I have appliances
connected, ie printer, video machine for copying dvd’s, speakers etc. I
can only run the screen and hard drive at present and the noises coming
from the hard drive sound to me like it is really struggling. We have a
lot of software loaded and our problems really started when I loaded
the last software for my new samsung phone and a new digital camera.
I’ve been to a computer shop and other than costing a small fortune,
told me there was nothing wrong with my computer. I’ve had an
electrician in and he’s checked everything is okay but asked about the
power for the computer. What I would like to know is what would be the
best size wattage to upgrade to, ie would 500 or 550 watts be
sufficient or try to go bigger. And finally, is this a job easy enough
to do ourselves or do we need a computer tech to do it for us. Finding
a decent computer tech is not easy! Another problem seems to be turbo
lister (ebay software) – when I go into turbo lister that’s when I also
encounter problems, ie my computer seems to freeze – could this also be
related to insufficient power?

You’ve got a lot going on, and unfortunately that means that the
answers aren’t going to be clear. Yes, it all might be power supply
related, but in all honesty that’s not where I’d start.

I’d start with a concept called “software rot”.

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In a perfect world, we could all add and remove software, add more
software, make configuration changes and undo those changes and all
would be well.

This is not a perfect world.

After a while, where “a while” depends on how you use your computer
and what kinds of software we’re talking about, computers get unstable.
It just happens. It shouldn’t, but years of experience show that, in
practice is just does. It’s come to be known as “software rot”.

Typically, for average users that time is measured in years. In fact,
it’s often long enough that the computer has been replaced or repaired
for some other reason before it really becomes a problem, so you’d
never notice.

“After a while … computers get unstable. It
just happens.”

In my case, each of my more heavily used machines lasts about two
years before I have to deal with it.

Given how you’ve described your computer and it’s age as implied by
the 80gig hard drive, it’s the first thing that came to mind. In
particular, the fact that things seemed to get worse when some software
was installed really points to a software, not a hardware, related
problem.

The solution? Some very simple steps that turn into a lot of work,
but it’s work that you can do:

Reformat and Reinstall

  • Back up. Back up your computer. That means making a
    backup copy of all your data, all the programs, everything. Back it up
    to an external hard drive, DVDs, CDs or even another computer on a
    local network, but back it up.

  • Reformat. This erases everything on the
    hard drive. Typically, it’s most easily done as part of the next
    step.

  • Reinstall Windows. Using your original install CDs,
    reinstall Windows from scratch. The installation program should offer
    you the option of reformatting the hard disk prior to installing, which
    is my suggestion.

  • Update Windows. Windows Update should be the first
    place you visit. (I highly recommend you get behind a router prior to
    connecting to the internet, or at a minimum make sure that the Windows
    firewall is enabled.

  • Reinstall all your programs. Reinstall every
    application you use, from scratch, from its original distribution
    media. If they offer updates, take them. (As part of this
    reformat-and-reinstall process I typically install applications as I
    need them, rather than all at once up front. That ensures I actually
    only install applications that I use.)

  • Restore data. This depends on how you use your
    computer, but copy off your data files – documents, pictures, what have
    you – from wherever else they are stored, or copy them from the backup
    you took in the first step.

Yes, this is painful, but it’s by far the best way to make sure that
you have a clean and healthy system. As I said, I find myself doing it
every couple of years. Your timing will most certainly vary.

Other Possibilities and non-Possibilities

Let’s look at some of the other items from the original
question.

“…crashes and tries to continually restart when I have
appliances connected, ie printer, video machine…”
this actually
points away from the power supply. Most of these types of devices
supply their own power; you’ll know, because you had to plug them in
separately. This actually points more towards software, as in problems
caused by the drivers or software attempting to control these devices,
even when not actively in use.

“…noises coming from the hard drive sound to me like it is
really struggling…”
It’s hard to know exactly what kinds of
noises you might mean, but I’ll throw them into two buckets: good and
bad. In this context “good” noises are simply the drive being active –
that would be normal whirs and clicks as the drive does its job. If
you’re hearing a lot of them – as in the drive seems to be working
constantly even when you’re doing nothing, or out of proportion to the
task at hand, once again this points to software. Chances are you’ve
run out of memory, are swapping out to disk constantly, or there’s
other software or even spyware that’s constantly hitting your disk. On
the other hand if the noises are loud, obnoxious grindy type noises,
that would be “bad”. Backup NOW – as your hard disk is
about to die. (And yes, that, too, can cause the problems you’re
discussing.)

“… what would be the best size wattage to upgrade to?”
I’m not saying that this is, or is not the problem. My initial gut feeling
is that the problem is elsewhere, but even so a faulty or dying power
supply can also manifest with symptoms similar to what you describe.
Exactly what you need depends on exactly what’s installed in the
computer itself (not connected to, but actually installed inside). If
you haven’t added any hardware to the computer itself, in all honesty
400 watts could be plenty. However, there’s no harm in having more, so
when replacing a power supply I typically suggest getting the next step
up. 500 watts is good. If you plan to add more hardware (like internal
disk drives and the like) feel free to go bigger if you like.

“… is this a job easy enough to do ourselves …” That’s
a loaded question, because of course I think it’s easy for most people
to do so, but about that time someone comes along, takes that advice
and completely messes it up. Smile So if the thought of opening your computer, disconnecting
some plugs, unscrewing the box that is the power supply, and then
reversing that process exactly sounds OK to you, then it may well be.
If you’re comfortable replacing a power outlet or light switch in your
home, then I think a power supply is within your reach. But only you
can decide if you’re “most people”.

But absolutely, positively – backup your machine first.

Do this:

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5 comments on “My computer is crashing and having troubles, is it time to replace the power supply?”

  1. Referring to your advice/answers/suggestions on the topic of “Crashing and the Replacement of Power Supply…..”. I have re-installed OS a number of times and mostly follow your list, but I do have a question here.
    If you are doing a complete back-up (e.g. settings, programs, data, etc) why should you need to install apps from original source? With my last Recovery, I did not restore the complete backup, but only the BU of files and folders overlaying that with a few changed and new files in the time interval just after BU but before Recovery. This leads to my second question; In your topics to do after Recovery you state to copy specific files from the BU. I believe in the program I’m using (A Sonic/Roxio) I’m under the obligation that I can only Restore what was backed-up and can’t pick and choose. Am I wrong?

    I’m not sure I clearly understand your comments, but…

    If you do a complete, full, backup and restore of everything, then you are correct, you need not reinstall anything. Just remember that if your problem is software, not hardware, related, then the problem may be in your backups as well.

    I’m not familiar with the backup program you’re using, but most allow you to pick and choose individual files from a backed up image. In fact, I wouldn’t use a backup program that didn’t allow me to do that.

    – Leo
    22-Oct-2008
    Reply
  2. YES!!! it IS the power supply but not necessarily a faulty one. Unfortunately you may have a power supply that DOES NOT put out the rated [ stated ] power. HD’s have a habit of struggling with power supply’s that are pushing themselves to the limit. If you have several HD’s and only ONE falters,[ not just the boot drive ] that can cause a reboot since the system is monitoring all drives and thinks something has failed. I solved this problem [ 12 HD’s running ] by connecting another PS outside the box and powering half the drives with it. Problem solved.

    Reply
  3. I started having the same problem earlier this year — I couldn’t plug either my digital camera or my iPod (both USB) without my computer rebooting. If I didn’t remove the USB, it would boot only so far before rebooting again.

    I took it in to MicroCenter and they were thinking it was the motherboard. I asked them to check the power supply, and they plugged in a test power supply. My problems stopped. So they installed a new, more powerful, power supply. No problems since then.

    Reply
  4. Having a similar? problem. My PC with a Soltek MB and P4 CPU began not to boot, no beep. Some times resetting helped plus “load previous settings” in BIOS. Replacing the battery (which was low, 1.13V) plus resetting CMOS by jumper helped for a while, but the troubles kept on. At last no beep at all, no video output.
    I have been told: MB- or power sply-failure.
    Trying another power sup. did not help, so I say MB-failure, sounds reasonable?
    From the beginning the MB has suffered from an unusual behaviour: when turned on, it stopped for a couple of seconds, then woke up and went on. So maybe replacing some capacitors might cure it?
    Wish some advice before throwing it out.

    Reply
  5. To see if a mother board can be causing a problem that looks as if a power supply is causing the problem. look at the capacitors on the mother board the tops of them should be FLAT and not bulged. if caps are bulged that will cause the mother board to act as if it is not getting required power from the mother board. this is a common problem in older mother boards, replace them.

    Just a tip from the past

    Reply

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