Power Flicker

I negligently went 3 years without removing the dust inside my computer. About 18 months ago, an unknown computer hardware malfunction caused my Windows XP session to be interrupted by a momentary loss of electrical power (a "flicker"). The screen went blank and then the computer started to reboot.

Over time, I noticed that this flicker occurred if the computer had been on too long. The max session time before the flicker would occur has been steadily decreasing, from 3.5 hours to 2.3 hours to 1.7 hours. When the computer was on but inactive, the internal temperature hovered at 53 degrees Celsius. Recently, I removed the dust inside my computer, and the (inactive) internal temperature began hovering at 50 degrees. Subsequently, the computer flickered after 1.4 hours, and the next day the computer would not turn on at all. When I attempt a cold boot, I apparently get no electrical connection and no hard disk activity lights. What is the most likely cause?

a) power supply failure
b) motherboard failure
c) CPU failure
d) other

Hardware is a self-built 7-8 year old 3GHz P-4, with a PSU probably around 500-600 watts (as best as I can remember; actual specs are unavailable). Assuming that I remove the PSU, is there a way of independently testing it with household appliances? Alternatively, is there a cheap way of testing it at a computer hardware retail store (e.g. Fry Electronics)?

If the PSU has failed, is it advisable to try paying for its repair? Alternatively, will a new PSU necessarily be compatible with my old hardware?
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  1. Sounds like a psu failure to me most likely the caps are done.That would explain the decreasing run time.
    Any quality Antec,Corsair,Seasonic,OZC should do the job provided you have SATA hardware if it's old IDE stuff you'll have to hunt around for ATX12V 2.0

    ATX12V 2.x PSUs have power distribution designed for late P4/XP PCs and for Athlon 64 and Core Duo PCs. They can be used with earlier P4/XP PCs, but the power distribution will be significantly suboptimal, so a more powerful ATX12V 2.0 PSU should be used to compensate for that discrepancy. ATX12V 2.x PSUs can also be used with pre-P4/XP systems, but the power distribution will be greatly suboptimal (12 V rails will be mostly unused, while the 3.3 V/5 V rails will be overloaded), so this is not recommended.
  2. In order most likely, PSU, motherboard and CPU very unlikely. There is a paper clip method used to test PSU's it will reveal if they are totally dead http://www.overclock.net/faqs/96712-how-jump-start-power-supply-psu.html
    I have done this and it past but still it would not turn on connected to a system. PSU's are inexpensive enough not to bother repairing them a quality 500 watt unit can be had for give or take $50.
  3. are you sure the unit you bought for that pc is high quality? if not, the capacitors failed (bloated)...thats why the issue got worse over time.
  4. Thanks for all of these replies: very informative.
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