How to test a power supply to see if it is dead?


If you’re trying to tell if your power supply is dead, there are a couple of basic methods to follow.  The easiest way to determine whether or not a power supply is working is to use a power supply tester.  A power supply tester is a device that you plug into a power supply to both trigger the ‘ON’ function and to measure the resultant outputs.  Even if your power supply is turning on, that doesn’t mean that everything is functioning properly.  Improper power / voltage / current level outputs could cause damage to your hardware, requiring you to make costly repairs to even more devices.  A PSU tester is designed to work alone with just the power supply so that the remainder of your hardware is not at risk.

Now assuming that you do not have a power supply tester handy, here are some things to look out for and some ways you may be able to determine whether or not you need a new power supply.  This advice is given with ATX Power Supplies in mind, but can be generalized to other applicable forms as well.  First, start by looking for common symptoms of a dead PSU:

1) System doesn’t turn on when the power button is pressed
2) High-pitched noises coming from the power supply when in operation
3) Random resets – especially during or shortly after booting up
4) Burn smell coming from the power supply unit itself
5) Loud ‘pop’ sound heard once prior to system failure.

Those are some of the most common signs of a power supply that has gone bad or is going bad.  If you feel like any of those are in play and you want to get down and dirty with testing, try the ever-popular power supply paperclip test! By using just a paperclip you can trigger the ‘ON’ function of an ATX power supply and see if it is powering up or not.  Remember to always exercise caution when dealing with power supplies and powered devices – proper grounding, proper dress, isolation from any external dangers, and the one-hand rule are critical for your safety.

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