Has my Power Supply died, or possibly something else?


I have a Dell Inspiron 530s which is 3 1/2 years old. It keeps randomly switching off.

Sometimes it can be on for several hours and can switch off, sometimes after a matter of minutes. When it switches off the PC usually tries to turn itself back on again straight away. When it does so it usually gets to the start up screen and then switches off again (like it doesn't have enough juice) before repeating the process a few more times. I then usually unplug my computer and wait a few hours and then I'll be back to getting several hours or just minutes before the same cycle repeats itself again.

I assume its probably my power supply failing. Is the chance of it being the power supply almost certain or could there be other candidates? If so, what else could it be?

I'm not very technical, but if it is the power supply would that be ok to change myself? The 's' in the 530s stands for slimline and from a quick google search I believe I'd need a TFX one, is that correct? I believe my current power supply is 250w. Could I buy a higher wattage one or would that somehow put a constraint on my system and not be advisable? Can anyone suggest where I might be able to buy a new PSU, is there anywhere on the highstreet or would it have to be online?

Thanks for any advice!
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  1. It sounds more like it's overheating, to be honest. That's what happens - machine shuts itself off to prevent damage, then if you turn it back on (or if it turns itself back on due to BIOS settings) ... it checks the temp and if it's still dangerous, it'll shut itself right back off again. Then you wait a few hours and it works like it did before, because everything's cooled back down. That's really the telltale sign.

    With a machine that age, the likely culprits are 1) excessive dust buildup or 2) CPU thermal heatsink past has gotten old and brittle and needs to be removed/reapplied. But first things first, try blowing out the inside of the case with compressed air and see if that helps. Dust can really gum up the cooling.

    A third thing to look for is whether the CPU fan itself is working. If that burns out, you'll get overheating real quick. Pretty easy to check for that - just start the computer up with the side panel removed and see if it spins. Don't touch anything while you're doing this - I cannot emphasize that enough.
  2. Great suggestions. If the CPU fan is dying a slow death, then it may be operating well sometimes and just not start up at all other times...this could explain why it runs good for a couple of hours sometimes and immediately shuts down other times.
  3. Capacitors on the mother board could be "drying" up/failing. This can random problems before eminent failure. Take a look at the caps on the mobo (cylinders) to see if the tops are bulged.
  4. Thanks guys for taking the time to help! I've already cleaned my computer recently and I have to admit it was the first time I've done it and it was extremely dusty inside. After doing this it stayed on for a bit longer but then just switched off like normal.

    I'll take a look at the CPU fan and the capacitors this weekend.
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