aNewDomain.net – I’ve been repairing computers for well over a decade. In that time, I’ve learned through some hard lessons that the most important component in a computer is the power supply. Only the power supply, or PSU, can cause so much intermittent mayhem and long-term destruction.
Yet, an external power supply is not standard equipment on desktop computers.
In a typical laptop, you can see all the standard desktop components, substantially smaller, are packed tightly inside. There’s a keyboard, a screen, internal storage and other peripherals. All components are integrated into one nice, neat package. Well, all but one component – the power supply. I’ve never heard of a laptop with an internal power supply. I suppose it would be possible to have one, but there are none because it adds unnecessary weight and, more importantly, heat.
Laptop manufacturers are careful to consider both temperature and air flow, and power supplies generate a significant amount of heat. The owners of some laptops have experienced the heat generated by their “power bricks” when picking them up after a few hours use. Yet, in a desktop, we introduce that heat directly to the computer. True, desktops have more open space and better airflow than laptops, but why introduce more heat than necessary?
The practice of placing desktop power supplies internally shows no signs of abating. It’s most likely done for space considerations. It’s cleaner to have things hidden away. Also, by keeping the power supply internal, it allows for a smaller and simpler power connection.
Yet, this is more than a battle between heat and convenience. There would be significant advantages to having an external power supply, not in spite of the convenience but because of it. For starters, with a standard interconnect between the desktop and external power supply (this is a challenge, but can be achieved. Historically manufacturers have developed numerous industry-wide standards in the past.), a power supply upgrade would simply require disconnecting one power supply and connecting a new one. This would be ideal for users as they add on new graphics cards or other components that need more juice.
Secondly, poor quality power supplies can have substantial and detrimental long-term effects on the computers they power. I often tell people that if there’s one component not to buy solely on price, it’s the power supply. With an external power supply and standard interface, customers can buy quality external power supplies and keep them longer than the life of a single computer. This is the case with monitors and keyboards. As computer components change constantly, so should users be able to change an important component as their needs change: the power supply.
I’ve considered designing an external power supply myself. I’ve even considered building an extension cable so I can reroute an internal power supply. I’ll leave this to someone else, though, as my soldering iron skills are beginner-grade.
If someone does build such a device, I’d certainly buy one.