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[vox-tech] more adventures with power supplies
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[vox-tech] more adventures with power supplies

In my haste to replace my blown computer (http://lugod.org/mailinglists/archives/vox-tech/2007-01/msg00045.html), I bought a no-frills Compaq desktop (Presario SR1917CL) for cheap. I also wanted a Nvidia graphics card to play some games, and chose the PNY GeForce 7600 GS, mainly because it seemed to have the highest performance to power use ratio. The box spec'd a 300 W PSU minimum for the single card. This is what the PC had, and so I thought I would be OK. Although PSU total wattage suggestions of many high-end Nvidia cards aren't too bad (400-500 W) many have 12 V requirements of 20 A or even much higher. Browsing at Frys, I had a hard time finding any reasonably priced PSU that gave more than 18 or 19 A on the 12 V power channel.

I plugged in the graphics card, and everything seemed to be working great, at least in Windows. While installing Linux (Gentoo), however, the SATA hard drive would very occasionally stop communicating. This made me concerned, but memory testing and various hard drive tests all passed. Now the most interesting part: my self-built kernel, without an initrd, would not boot, no matter what I tried! The auto-generated kernel with an initrd would boot OK. Again, the graphics card was operating flawlessly, now in Linux. Finally, suspecting inadequate power, I pulled the graphics card. Sure enough, the hard drive issues went away, and even my self-built kernel would boot! I thought this was quite interesting; somehow the hard drive power needed when booting without an initrd was enough to cause a failure.

I immediately went out and bought a better power supply (Antec 650 W, 19 A on the 12 V loop), and everything is working together just fine now. Hopefully this will help and warn some of you about power requirements of Nvidia graphics cards. While it is tempting to get the latest and greatest card, beware of the cost of replacing your power supply too!

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