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Now you’ve put all your bits, bobs, and gizmos together and you’re ready to see what happens when you push the “On” button! You press it — and nothing happened. What the dilly-o?

You still need a power supply. The thing that supplies the juice to all your stuff. Now, I don’t know squat about power supplies. There’s all kinds of jargon that flies around when you’re looking for one: +5, +12, rails, modular. What’s it all mean? I haven’t got a clue so you should probably look them up.

Modular, actually, I kind of know about. Back in the old days pulling a power supply out of a box was like wrestling with an octopus. There’s all kinds of tentacles things waving around everywhere. Those are the bits that plug into the motherboard, the hard drives, the floppy drives and stuff. Basically power plugs. While it’s important to have enough plugs for all the things you have in your case, you usually end up with too many.

Having too many of anything isn’t usually a problem but what do you do with the leftover tentacles? If you leave them hanging they can obstruct air flow (increasing the heat) or flail against any fans you may have, or just looking tacky. Being modular means that most of those tentacles can be plugged into the power supply or removed if you don’t need them. And that’s a good thing, providing you don’t lose them.

Mostly what you’re concerned with, though, is the wattage. And probably the +12 volt rails, but mostly the wattage. If you’re not doing anything heavy-duty like buying an expensive video card to power the newest games you can get along with something like a 350 or 400 watt power supply. If you want one of them new-fangled video cards, which are nearly full computers in their own right,  you’re looking at 550 to 650 watts. More, if you plan on running with two, three, or even four video cards.

In fact, if you’re running the new cards you also need to make sure you’ll have enough of those power tentacles to plug into those cards because they need a lot of juice. A lot.

Other than that, it’s a box. An important box, but still a box. I think you get bonus points for things like LED lights.


As you can see here, the Kingwin LZ-100 not only has an LED for the fan (which, unless you have your computer hanging from a ceiling, you’ll never see) but it also has lights where the tentacle things plug into the power supply (modular!). Why would you want such a thing? Because it’s groovy. That’s why.

We’re nearly done here. Next week will be the video card, which I left for last deliberately. And after that it’ll be the wrap-up.