How to Install a Desktop Power Supply

In this article we discuss how to install a desktop power supply. In learning how to install computer components, this is one of the easier tasks–yet also one of the most dangerous. The power supply delivers juice to your desktop, so follow the safety precautions below before you start.

Also, if you’re building a computer from scratch–as we assume–you’re probably doing a fresh install of your power supply, and not replacing an old one. So we’ll skip any explanations about how to remove an old power supply, although we think you’ll figure that out after completing this lesson.

1. Safety Precautions and Opening Up the Case

Knowing how to properly install computer power supply units begins with a review of safety. Your new power supply has plugs that will power the computer as well as various devices in your desktop. Handle it with care, and be very careful not to poke around in its vents with any objects.

Your power supply also has the ability to retain electric charges even after you’ve unplugged it.
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It’s good to know these things in advance so we don’t make any foolish mistakes.

Now the first order of business is to remove the case. The method for doing this will vary depending on your system. If you have a mini-tower, then unscrew the side panel above the motherboard and slide it off. Set the screws in a safe place. If you have an older model of computer, then you will probably have to unscrew the whole back cover, and completely slide the chassis out.

2. Align and Secure the Power Supply

The next step in learning how to install a desktop power supply is to align it with the case and then secure it properly. This part can be very tricky. Basically, your power supply has four mounting holes that match the four mounting holes on the back of your computer case. You will also notice that the power supply is a somewhat heavy, lumbering unit.

You will need to get the power supply into the computer and align its mounting holes with those of the computer case, and then use a screwdriver to screw it in. Of course, we realize that you won’t be able to do this at the same time. You will probably have to screw the first two top mounts first–making sure to hold the unit steady–and then screw the bottom holes.

Some computer cases have ledges which you can set the power supply on, making the job easier. Learning how to install computer components takes a good bit of patience as well as some dexterity on your part.

3. Set the Voltage Switch and Plug the Power Supply into Your Motherboard

If you’ve ever traveled abroad, you probably realize that some countries use 220v for their outlets–and so do their computers. For this reason, power supplies come with what is known as a voltage switch. Locate it on the back of your power supply. It may be a pink-colored switch–it’s meant to stand out for a reason.

Learning to install computer power supply units correctly means that you can’t ignore this one vital step. You need to set this switch to the correct voltage for the country you’re living in. Now, it may have already come preset to the country you’re living in. If so, fine, just make sure before you continue. Otherwise you will have serious problems.

Next you will plug the power supply into your motherboard. Look for leads from your power supply that will connect to your motherboard. The most common type of these are the ATX connectors; these are the standard 20-pin cables. If you have newer Pentium 4 computers, you may also need to connect a 12v 4 pin connector to the motherboard as well.

4. Connect Power to Internal Devices

It would be useless if you chose to install computer power supply units without connecting them to any of the internal devices of your computer. Your power supply actually powers up several devices in your computer.

You will notice that there still seems to be a lot of loose cables hanging from your power supply, looking for a plug to insert into somewhere. The most common destination for these hanging threads are your optical drives–your CD and/or DVD-ROM drives. The connectors are the four pin-variety, commonly known as the ‘molex’ connectors. Find these connectors and install them into your drives.

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