February 1, 2014
I keep my desktop computers for extended periods, typically four to eight years. So I buy high-end models that will last for a long time. But that means I must deal with typical fatigue failures. That is what I dealt with this week, when the power supply in my 2009 Velocity Micro Z35, which I call Vector, crapped out.
My low teacher salary means I keep cars for even longer periods – Princess the Toyota Camry is over 12 years old with over 225,000 miles on her. I know water pumps wear out and timing belts must not be allowed to break, so I have them periodically replaced. For a computer, the spinning hard drives have a limited lifespan, so I use a mirrored second hard drive in a RAID 1 setup so that I can recover quickly from a drive crash. But the next most common problem with an older computer is a burned-out power supply. That is too infrequent to keep a spare on hand, so when my desktop computer showed absolutely no sign of life last weekend, I knew it would stay out of commission for a few days.
My Velocity Micro system has lots of fans, both in the case and on internal components. That helps it stay cool, but also introduces a lot of dust into the unit, as does it placement on the floor next to my computer desk. My system had overheated and shut itself off a few times, which I temporarily fixed by cleaning it out and keeping an air gap on all sides. But I don’t have a regular cleaning schedule for the unit, and when the power supply went down and I opened up the unit, I discovered the fans and internals were covered in dust. That probably shortened the life of the supply.
I blew out all of the dust and began examining the many power cords from the 550 watt supply. It is a real monster to allow one to outfit the computer with lots of drives and powerful graphic cards, etc. My system didn’t use half of the supply cords, which were tucked away, and had some separate power line splices to hook multiple fans and drives up to a single power supply cord. But that still left several connections to pull apart:
- 20-pin motherboard connector
- 8-pin +12V workstation connector
- 4-pin Molex connector for DVD/CD drive and fans
- SATA connector for hard drives
I pulled all of those out and removed the old supply. I could buy a nice Antec supply of the same power with the various connectors on Amazon for $65 with 2nd-day Prime shipping, but my girlfriend, Wendy, knows how to save a dime and urged me to get a cheaper supply from TigerDirect. I opted for the Ultra LSP550 supply, which cost $35 with a $10 2nd-day-air shipping charge.
I ordered the supply over the weekend and the new unit arrived on Wednesday. There was actually a nice user’s manual with step-by-step illustrated directions for making the various connections. I plugged everything in, put the system back together, and thankfully it booted up like a champ.
I have no immediate plans to retire my system. The Intel i7-920 microprocessor with four 2.66 GHz cores running Windows 7 still meets my needs, although the slow hard drives are a real bottleneck when comparing performance to my old MacBook Air, which is speedy thanks to its solid state drive. I hate Windows 8, so I’ll probably wait for Windows 9 and cheaper large-scale solid state drives before I buy a new desktop system. Hopefully the new power supply will keep Vector running until then.