A high-quality power supply unit (PSU) is essential for creating a reliable gaming rig that will last. But it's the component that most people don't usually consider when building a computer. Without a good PSU, your build could experience stability problems, or it could even go up in smoke.
A power supply unit needs to provide enough juice for the computer to run.
Using the wrong power supply can not only shorten the lifespan of your components but can also damage them beyond repair. Suppose a power supply can't handle the power load of all the components in your build. In that case, you may experience crashes, freezes, data loss, or component failure. But don't worry! We can prevent this from happening.
In this article, I'll go over the things you should consider when choosing a power supply for your gaming computer.
Check out my Recommended PSUs below.
The main job of a power supply is to convert the alternating current (AC) from your wall outlet into the direct current (DC) needed by the components inside your computer.
An important factor when buying a PSU is the supported number of watts.
You can roughly estimate your power needs by using the following chart.
|Component||Peak Power Usage|
|Mid-Tier CPU||150 W|
|Top-Tier CPU||250 W|
|Mid-Tier Video Card||260 W|
|Top-Tier Video Card||300 W|
|Optical Drive||30 W|
|3.5" Hard Drive||9 W|
|144 mm Case Fan||6 W|
|120 mm Case Fan||6 W|
|80 mm Case Fan||3 W|
By adding up these numbers, you can estimate peak power usage.
With four SSDs and three large case fans, a top-tier gaming computer could see peak usage around 660 W.
It's generally a good idea to add a 100–150 W buffer to your expected usage. This buffer will give you some flexibility in case of miscalculations and will allow you to add more drives, fans, or add-in cards in the future.
In the above top-tier gaming computer example, a 750 W power supply would be a reasonable choice.
In most cases, buying a little more wattage than you need is a safer choice for ensuring system stability.
Don't forget to account for the additional power required for overclocking if you intend to overclock your CPU or GPU. Overclocking could require roughly an extra 50–100 W, depending on how much you overclock these devices.
PSUs with higher efficiency ratings use less energy and produce less heat, improving their reliability and reducing noise.
The 80 PLUS certification program for power supplies helps to promote energy efficiency by indicating its efficiency rating.
Higher efficiency power supplies may have a higher upfront cost. However, they could potentially save you money on electricity in the long run.
Lower wattage PSUs will be more power-efficient even when idle. For this reason, you may be able to save more on electricity by getting the correct wattage of PSU than by getting the one with the best 80 PLUS rating.
|Certification Level||10% Load||20% Load||50% Load||100% Load|
|80 Plus Bronze||82%||85%||82%|
|80 Plus Silver||85%||88%||85%|
|80 Plus Gold||87%||90%||87%|
|80 Plus Platinum||90%||92%||89%|
|80 Plus Titanium||90%||92%||94%||90%|
Make sure your PSU has the correct connectors to support the hardware in your system. Cheaper PSUs may cut costs on connectors and cables by offering fewer options and shorter lengths.
Check with your motherboard and graphics card documentation to determine which connector types are needed. Buy a popular, recently-released PSU; it will likely have the necessary connectors for a new gaming PC build. However, if you use old components or an old power supply, you may find some incompatibilities.
Here are some common connector types that power supplies support:
- 24-pin connector for the motherboard
- 4/8-pin connector for the CPU
- 6/8-pin connector for each graphics card
- SATA Power connector for each SATA HDD or SDD storage device
Typical power supplies come with various cables to connect your components. However, extra unused power cables can work against you by interrupting airflow.
In comparison, modular and semi-modular power supplies allow for attaching only the cables you need. As the name implies, semi-modular power supplies have some wires soldered on, while you can optionally connect others.
Most power supplies will have cables long enough to support mid-sized towers comfortably. If you have a full-size tower, you may want to check reviews and documentation to ensure that the cables are long enough to allow good cable management.
Power Supply Form Factors
Various form factors are available for power supplies, but most PC gamers will want the standard ATX power supply.
Small form factor PSUs allow for usage in many computer case shapes, including mini-PCs.
Power Supply Features
Overvoltage protection and short circuit protection can help to save your components in the case of a surge or accident.
LED lighting is another feature that you might consider, depending on your gaming PC goals.
Perhaps you live in a dorm or your parent's house and don't pay the power bill. Or maybe you don't expect the computer to have heavy daily usage. In those cases, the lower upfront cost of a less efficient PSU may be the better choice.
On the other hand, if you care more about the electric bill or the environment and plan to maintain a higher CPU usage, then a more efficient PSU may be better.
Don't go too far over 150 W above your expected power needs. Rightsizing your power supply will keep electricity costs to a minimum, as higher wattage PSUs will consume some additional power, even when idle.
Recommended PSU: Seasonic Prime Series
- Titanium 80 PLUS efficiency rating means the Seasonic Prime TX is at least 94% efficient at 50% load.
- Fully modular cabling allows you to optimize airflow and minimize clutter.
- Silent during low usage.
- 12-year warranty.
- This series of power supplies comes in power outputs including 750, 850, and 1000 watts.
- It also is available in a Gold rated (GX) version.
Want to brush up on other new technologies to consider when building a computer? Check out these articles:
- CPU Coolers:
- Graphics Cards:
- Power Supplies: