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robdamel's avatar

Stuck my 110 volt computer into 220 volt! Did only the PSU burn?

Asked by robdamel (791points) July 27th, 2011

I accidentally stuck my computer into 220 volts. There was a loud click with a flash behind it and of course, the computer no longer works. Did only my power supply break? Or did the other things go down with it?

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17 Answers

The_Idler's avatar

I would think probably only the PSU.
If any of your components are fried, the PSU was probs designed badly.

Zaku's avatar

Could be ok or not. You may have blown a fuse, or any system in the computer.

I did that once and the computer itself was a little bit wonky after that, but it still basically worked.

The_Idler's avatar

Revising that, I just asked my father, an electrical engineer, and he reckons the PSU would probably just be a straight transformer with no protection, so you’d have double voltage on all the rails. Not healthy.

So you may have wrecked any of the components before the PSU went out (which is what stopped the current, in the end). You just gotta hope the PSU was the weakest link.

If it is a dual voltage PSU (is there a switch on the back?), it probably wouldnt be, as all the (PSU) components would be rated for 240V, meaning something else probably snapped too. But if the PSU is only rated for 110V, then that probably went bang straight off.

Saying that, either way, it wouldn’t take long for double voltage to fuck anything up, so you really don’t know til you test…. ={

robdamel's avatar

@The_Idler Wait a minute- Behind my pc there is the switch between voltage (110–220), and there is a switch to allow the eletrical current to pass through or not. Its true that it took about 5 seconds before I heard the snap- So you are telling me there is a chance that within those 5 seconds, my other pc parts could have been fried also?

Bagardbilla's avatar

If it’s a Mac, most are dual voltage to begin with… So you should be ok. If it’s a PC, it’s probably 110 and you fried the PSU, rest should be fine, especially your HD.
Let us know the final outcome.

robdamel's avatar

@Bagardbilla Its a PC. I do hope you are right! I will buy a PSU today and replace it tomorrow- I will post the results here afterwards.

dabbler's avatar

@The_Idler I think your father is not correct about this one. Just about all computers have switching power supplies and there is not just a transformer. And on the plus side it’s more likely to contain the damage to the PSU because it might blow some regulators and other semiconductors before anything bad got out to the system power buses.

@robdamel good luck with the new PSU !

robdamel's avatar

@dabbler Thanks, I hope you and Bagard are right!

jerv's avatar

I haven’t seen a PSU with a manual switch in quite a while. However, I have seen quite a few dual-voltage ones. And since transformers are so retro (as @dabbler points out, they use switching PSUs nowadays, as they have for years) I would say that you probably only fried the PSU.

The flash tells me that something on the high voltage side opened up, so unless your PSU is the cheapest of the cheap, you shouldn’t have sent anything too bad to the rest of the system.

The_Idler's avatar

Yeah good point about the flash @jerv

Obviously power supplies all do still have transformers in, but I haven’t opened one up for years… I know they’re supposed to have over-voltage protection on the rails, but is it standard now to have a kinda single-use surge-protection on the supply side of the transformer?

Either way, it doesn’t mean they’re actually configured properly. You can get some real cheap (and dangerous) control gear nowadays.

@dabbler but if it is rated for 110–230V, and it is a manual switch for that, anything on the supply side of the frequency-upping inverter (ie supply rectifier&filters) must be rated for 230V anyway, but I suppose the subsequent transformers and rectifier&filters may not be able to sustain double their rated voltage, although that doesn’t mean they’d fail quickly enough to prevent damage further on…

I must admit, I don’t know much about electronics, but unless they have in-built surge protection, I can’t see what would fail quickly enough in a 110V/220V PSU to prevent component damage, but that’s assuming the over-voltage protection on the rails doesn’t work (which does happen sometimes). I think over-voltage protection is done with control gear though, and simply shuts off the rail, rather than letting something in the PSU explode, which makes it seem to me like the output was over-voltage for that five seconds…

Unless… maybe the filters provide a suitable voltage right until their capacitors fail,
but I don’t really know how they work…


jerv's avatar

@The_Idler I’ve had a few power supplies with their own built-in fuses, though not always ones that are accessible without warranty-voiding disassembly. I will say that I generally stick with quality power supplies because I like the protective features and the decreased likelihood of smelling burning.

@robdamel On that note, do not buy a no-name PSU. At best, it will provide ⅔ the power it’s rated for. More likely, it will provide “dirty” power of unsteady voltage, which may break things in the long run. Sure, a good PSU like my 650W Cooler Master or the old 450W Thermaltake I had may cost twice as much, but compare a new BMW to that of a Yugo and you’ll see that sometimes paying more really is worthwhile. Hell, the first thing I did when I got my new Gateway was to replace their Brand X PSU just to avoid future problems in what really is the most failure-prone component of a PC.

robdamel's avatar

Hey guys, happy to say after changing the PSU the computer booted up fine. Sad to say that it was only displaying video when it felt like it- on 70% of the boots there would be no video. I solved this by connecting the computer directly to the onboard video input, so i`m guessing I damaged my Nvidia graphics card? Do you think that is a possibility?

jerv's avatar

Yes, it is very possible :(

dabbler's avatar

Glad that boots up now!
Maybe try unseating the vid card & cleaning the connectors on the board, you may have done that already anyway, and you probably reseated the video cable to the monitor.

The_Idler's avatar

I agree with @jerv that PSU is the last place to scrimp when building a PC, however tempting it seems.

However complete or incomplete our technical understanding of the mechanics, it is now evident, in accordance with my own experiences, that the over-voltage protection (whatever and wherever that may be) is in some cases insufficient, with expensive and disappointing consequences.

robdamel's avatar

@dabbler nope will do that when i can. The computer is in another town actually, I will be going back in two or three weeks. Will remember to post back when I check it out. damn, i hope i didnt lose it…

jerv's avatar

I think my PSU is the most expensive part of my rig!

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