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Take a trip inside Intel’s power supply test lab

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Your PC’s power supply is one of its most crucial components, but most people hardly ever think about it once it’s installed. And that’s kind of weird, considering it’s the one that could basically melt down your car and/or burn down your house if something goes wrong. To understand exactly what it takes to make a power supply, and more importantly, to make it safe, Gordon took a tour of the Intel Folsom campus for a deep dive into ATX power specs.

The ATX specification was actually created by Intel way back in 1995, which is why the company still tests and validates it. (You can see the results at compatible products.intel.com.) To get you started, you can hear from Intel’s Stephen Eastman, the guy who officially maintains the ATX spec. He’ll show you how Intel tests, certifies, and sends results to vendors on virtually every retail PSU. The process takes weeks for each unit.

But what happens when a power supply fails the test? Most manufacturers have boiled this down to a literal science over the last 25 years, so Gordon brought along some “Gordon Special” units, antique, cheap and overused power supplies from days gone by. He had Stephen test them through Intel’s standardized test system… with some interesting results.

Recently, power supplies have undergone their first major change in years thanks to the new ATX 3.0 specification, especially its 12HVPWR connection for new generation graphics cards. If you’re looking for an easy guide on how to pick the right one for your system and parts, check out Gordon’s guide below.

For a more in-depth look at the current state of PC hardware (and some burn and smoke uncontrolled experiments), be sure to subscribe to PCWorld on YouTube.