Why Every Computer Should Have An External Power Supply

Written by Jeremy Lesniak

Our Jeremy Lesniak explains why every computer should have an external power supply — convenience be damned.

aNewDomain.net – I’ve spent more than a decade repairing computers. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the most important component in a computer is its external power supply. So why isn’t this equipment standard-issue with most desktops?

The typical laptop contains everything you’d find in a standard desktop computer — keyboard, screen and internal storage. The components are substantially smaller, of course, as they’re neatly packed into a single, integrated unit. The only thing missing is that most essential element — the power supply.

I suppose it’s possible, but I’ve never heard of a laptop with internal power. Probably because it would add unnecessary weight, and more importantly, heat.

Manufacturers carefully consider temperature and air flow — especially when designing laptops, which generate a lot of heat. Desktops, on the other hand, have more open space and better internal airflow. But still — why introduce more heat than necessary?


Image Credit: Jeremy Lesniak

Most likely it’s a matter of space. Even desktops are cleaner and more compact when power supply is relegated to the inside. It also makes for a smaller and simpler power connection. In the battle between heat and convenience, the latter seems to be winning.

Nevertheless, there are significant advantages with an external power supply — not in spite of convenience, but because of it. For starters, with a standard connection between the desktop and external power supply, upgrades become as simple as disconnecting one and connecting another. This would be ideal for users who decide to add new components like graphic cards, which require 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, users should also be able to change important components as their needs change — in this case 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.

Based in Vermont, Jeremy Lesniak is managing editor at aNewDomain.net and founder of Vermont Computing and whistlekick.com. Follow him @jlesniak and email him at jeremy@anewdomain.net