The Power Supply Paperclip Test

How to do the Power Supply Paper Clip Test

When a computer system won’t turn on, the issue almost always resides in one of two places, the motherboard or the power supply. While neither of these problems are good news for your system, a burnt-out power supply is neither too difficult nor too expensive to replace, whereas a motherboard may be both. Checking your power supply then, is the first thing you’ll want to try when your computer system won’t turn on, as it’s the more common and ultimately more preferable of the two possibilities. Plus checking a power supply is really easy. All you need is a couple of minutes and a paper clip!

Step 1: Unplug everything from your power supply

Unplug your power supply from the wall and remove its connectors from all other components in the computer case. This ensures that no other faulty hardware can fudge your test results.

Step 2: Get yourself a paperclip, and bend it

Any standard metal paperclip will do the trick, just make sure it’s not one that has any sentimental value, because you’re about to destroy it. You’ll need to bend the paper clip into a U shape, so it looks like this:

Step 3: Find the Main ATX power connector

Paperclip Test

Use the pin that connects to the green wire

The biggest connector that you unplugged from your computer in step one is called the ATX or P1 connector. This will either be a 20 or 24 pin connector and provides the general power to your motherboard and all its components. Each of the 20 or 24 pins will have a wire running from it which comes in all different colors. Each color represents a different voltage rail or ground cable. For example, red is +5V, yellow is +12V, orange is +3.3V. These are the different voltages that different parts of the motherboard require to power the DC circuitry on the motherboard. For the paper clip test, you will only need the green (there is only one) and one of the black wires. Green is ignition and all of the black cables are grounds.

Step 4: Plug in your paper clip

You will enter one end of the paper clip into the green wire and one end into any of the black wires, they are all the same. Once these two pins are connected by the paper clip, it sends a signal to the power supply to turn on once the power supply is plugged back into the wall. Please take time to ensure that the paper clip is safely plugged into the correct pins, one green and one black. You can now let go of the paper clip and plug the power supply back into the wall. If your power supply has an On/Off switch, make sure it is in the On setting.

How to do the Power Supply Paper Clip Test

The paper clip doesn’t have to be inserted completely, just enough to make contact to the black and green pins.

If your power supply powers on, meaning your fan starts spinning, you’re good to go (which means you’re not good to go because your motherboard may be shot). Either way, for good or ill, you’ve completed the paper clip test! How’d it go? How do you FEEL?

Like leaving a comment below about how great this guide was I hope! (wink, wink)

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5 thoughts on “The Power Supply Paperclip Test

  1. Hello, and thanks for your article. I am familiar with the paper clip test. However my latest test, on an HP s5000 slimline, turned the power supply fan, but only momentarily. About 3 seconds, and shuts off. I jostled the paper clip thinking it was a bad connection, but its consistent… only on for a couple of seconds. This is a no-load test. Power supply only. No motherboard connected etc. My guess is it may be to protect the PSU from burning out.

    Any thoughts?

    1. The power supply may have a minimum load requirement – so it comes up briefly. Then it senses no load and shuts down again to prevent damage to the power supply.

      Try hooking up a (external) case cooling fan (12 Volt) – that should give minimal load to keep the power supply happy and keep it on.

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