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Convert an ATX Power Supply Into a Regular DC Power Supply!

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Picture of Convert an ATX Power Supply Into a Regular DC Power Supply!
A DC power supply can be hard to find and expensive. With features that are more or less hit or miss for what you need.

In this Instructable, I will show you how to convert a computer power supply into a regular DC power supply with 12, 5 and 3.3 volt outputs. For about $10!

Why use a computer (ATX) power supply? Well, they're available everywhere, and they can output tremendous amounts of power in a small form factor. They have overload protection built right in, and even a 500W model can be reasonably priced with high efficiency. The voltage rails are incredibly stable. Giving nice, clean DC current even at high loads.

Plus, it's likely that many of you simply have an extra one lying around doing nothing. Might as well get the most value for your investment.
 
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Step 1: Getting Started

The first order of business is that of safety. While I'm reasonably sure that there isn't enough residual energy to stop your heart, those capacitors can still bite, and that can cause significant pain and maybe even burns. So be paranoid when getting close to the internal circuitry. It would probably be a good idea to put on some insulating gloves. Also (obviously) make sure the thing is unplugged. You are responsible for your own safety!

Here are the tools/parts needed:

Drill
Needle-nose pliers
Soldering iron
3 x "Banana Jack" Insulated Binding Post sets
1 x bag of "#6" Ring Tongue Terminals (16-14 gauge)
Rubber feet
Small bit of heat shrink.
Screwdriver
Wire strippers

Ok, let's get to voiding some warranties!

Step 2: Opening Up

Picture of Opening Up
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Open the PSU and make an assessment of the space you have to work with. Make sure that there won't be any clearance issues for the binding posts or wires.

Once you have decided how your PSU will be configured, mark with pencil where you want to drill the holes later on. This will help you in cutting the wires to the appropriate length.
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Braden T1 hour ago
You need a high amperage and high voltage resistor on one of the power outputs to have a stable output
JasonO1yesterday
So glad i read this. I was about to order another power supply for my kooltron 12v refrigerator for $50. The amperage requirements are about 5-6 amps. Every time I think I find a nice one on amazon, the reviews scare me off. So many reviews say voltage drops or amperage is nowhere near advertised. I took a power supply out of a junk PC. it's rated 250 watts and sticker says 12v is 14 amps. Should be more than enough for this little refrigerator. I removed red and orange cables since I only want 12v. I then attached yellows and blacks to a cigarette plug. It works awesome.
altricious3 years ago
Depending on your PS, there may be "Power Sensing" wires that also need to be connected. You can tell because there will be two wires to a single terminal on the 2x10 or 2x12 plug. Mine had a brown wire that needed to be tied to the orange otherwise it would not run.

THANK YOU!

I was freaking out why my PSU was not working - especially since it was working before!

I had kept the connectors which I had cut off, and indeed the brown wire is tied to one of the orange wires.

SarahB27 made it!22 days ago

Thanks for this guide. I am getting into combat robots, and didn't realize that battery chargers didn't come with power supplies. Rather than spending $70 on one, I took a spare power supply I'd had for years, and made my own using this guide for about $8 in parts. I only did the 12v plug, partly because I figured I'd never use the others, and partly because it was already a pretty tight fit with the 12v and ground wires (I wanted to make sure I got the full 33A of the 12v rail, so I used all of the yellows).

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Hi there, thanks for the great instructable!

A question for you... my dad and I made this according to your instructions, but with the wires connected to bolts (see photo below). We tested the voltage with our meter (photo below). Our results for the yellow wire were:

black pole on black wire & red poll on yellow wire (would have thought it should be positive) = negative 12 volts!

black pole on yellow wire & red pole on black wire (you would have thought this would give positive 12 volts) = positive 2.85 volts!

Neither of us understood why we got this result. Any suggestions much appreciated.

Also, now I'm using the power supply to electroform a piece of stick (coated in varnish, dried, sprayed with waterproof glue, covered with graphite powder as a conductive medium). It's been in there for more than 24 hours, but I don't see any plating happening (lots of bubbles though!).

If you have any thoughts as to what we could be doing wrong in either part of the procedure, they would be great to know!

Thanks for your help :-)

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You have your red lead plugged into the common port on your meter.

PS and the copper wire connecting the graphite-coated stick to the red alligator clip keeps breaking off. There is something not right here! (louise)

To plate Cu you need low voltage and low pH so that the
water isn’t electrolyzed instead of the Cu.2 volts and a little H2SO4, which also cleans the plating surface, prevent
electrolysis of water.A little HCl will
break the Cu+2 to Cu+1 also.You will
see snowflake like growth of the Cu.Add
a little polyethylene glycol, laxative to prevent the snow.

Andre82693 2 months ago
Hi everyone i'am new to instructable I'm looking to build a power supply out of a computer power supply i need 12v 4amp but the power supply says 12v 12amp for a amplifier please help me thank you

it will work fine as long as the voltage is correct, the unit will only draw what amps it needs

netslayer3 months ago

My goal is to convert a PSU so that I can obtain around 55-60V ~ 10 amps. I'm assuming I can connect a few 12V rails together in series to achieve 48V and then add a 5V and 3.3V to achieve 56V. Do I just need a two rail 12V power supply so it has 2x -12V and a 2x +12V to achieve this or what should I look for?

The line of -12V or 3.3 volts in PSU It does not provide 10amps!!!

Only the lines +12V, or +5V can provive 10 amps.

mijay.petrescu made it!3 months ago

1:30h to build it. Very simple and very usefull, is there when you need to use 3,3 - 5 -12VDC.

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masternater1217 made it!3 months ago
Nice write up, very easy to reproduce! I went with externally routed wires, I like the look better than the on-chassis style. Shown with two 10W resistors hooked up, those things get hot!
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itge135 months ago

What is the difference between 12v and -12v? Also can i connect more Voltages together eg 3.3v and 5v for 8.3v?

Hey! So, in DC we have positive and negative tension, so, -12 would represent negative 12, and 12 is positive 12V, meaning, if you connect 12 to -12 you'd get 24! The voltage is the difference between the two pins you connect, thus, for 8.3V you'd need -5V and 3.3V or 5V and -3.3V.

podarok4 months ago

Good to see conversion to something like 30-60V DC...

bharaths45 months ago

I am going to use only the +12 V line. So is it good if I cut off the remaining wires including the orange, brown, purple and grey wires ?

ant3daly made it!5 months ago
this worked out great.
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selfiboy6 months ago

but how can i get 5v and 1a?

Samadiv selfiboy5 months ago

Voltage is fixed from the power supply, but the device will take as many amps as it needs. So you can use a 1Amp power supply, or a 13Amp power supply to power something that needs only half an amp. It will just take what it needs. MAKE SURE you use the right voltage though. If something needs 5V, DO NOT give it 12V.

GuidoZ5 months ago

Hello there, I've made all those steps, but my PSU don't turn on! Before I did all those things, it started up just hooking up the green and black wires, but when i disassembled it and soldered the green and black wires, it doesn't turn on. Can you help me mate? Thanks!

alkogolikas made it!5 months ago
thank you
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davejavu19696 months ago

Brilliant. Only need 12v at the moment so shortened all the other wires and tucked them of the way for now. Built in less than an hour with bits from the man draw and a couple of terminals that cost about £1 each. Easily saved myself £40 - top marks to the OP. Many thanks.

I made it but problem is that I received 14.3 volts

Is there a way to run a few of these together to increase the amps/volts?

No I don't believe so..each one is independent of each other... Want more power get a bigger transformer

yes if you put each wire color relative to its voltage the more wires together will give you more amperage

what I meant actually was running multiple power supplies together
russ_hensel6 months ago

Just a note to let you know I have added this instructable to the collection:
Encyclopedia of ATX to Bench Power Supply Conversion
>> http://www.instructables.com/id/Encyclopedia-of-ATX-to-Bench-Power-Supply-Conversi/
Take a look at about 70 different approaches to this project.

BarryTrodd9 months ago

Hi,

I have just finished converting a 400watt ATX power supply but unfortunately it does not work. When I switch on the fan turns over a couple of times and then stops. The only signs of any voltages are the lit up Green LED that I have connected between the purple wire and black ground wire. I have tried having a 10 ohm 10 watt resister between the red wire and ground but that does not help, in fact it appears to make it worse as the fan then only turns about 180 degrees and the. Stops. Any suggestions please

Jaapst BarryTrodd7 months ago

I have had the same problem with my power supply. The problem is that there is a shortage somewhere which results in the system shutting down. Try to find the shortage and everything should be allright. Mine was located at the added resistor, it touched the housing of the power supply when closing it. After having added heat shrinking tube, the problem was solved. Good luck

Hello,

I don't mean to butt in but if you have a newer ATX supply (that is one that has most of the current on the 12V rails or one lacking a white wire which IS found on older PSUs) then you will need to put the load resistor between the 12V (usually yellow wire) and Gnd (the black wire). Before you do that though, you might want to test if your PSU is still working.

If you've still have a purple wire, then that usually has a +5 volt continuous output even with the supply off (it's the PSU's standby good switch). Measure the voltage drop of that across a resistor (connect the purple wire to one end of a resistor, connect a black wire to the other end, and measure the voltage across the resistor). If that's about +5volts then that's working and so's your PSU.

Hope that fixes your problem.

You must have a load on the supply, or it will shut itself off. It's a safety feature in power supplies.

I had a 10 ohm 10 watt resister between the red wire and ground. Is that not a LOAD on the supply?
Sorry. I didn't see that part.
Misael Saenz Flores made it!7 months ago
From when I wanted to make one, thank you very much for the tutorial has been my great and works perfectly, proven to 12V, 5V and 3.3V, thank you very much
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Buildkhahh7 months ago

I have a more basic question concerning how a power supply would be used to power a device.

If I have a device that requires 12 volts@3.33 amps (40 watts) and I have a power supply that produces 12 volts@15 amps (180 watts) is it safe to use the larger power supply?

Also is there any way to figure out how a power supply with a larger voltage would impact a device that requires a smaller one?

As an example, I have a device that requires 5 volts at 1 amp, I have an 18 volt power supply rated at 0.5 amp. Is there any way to make the 18 volt power supply fit the requirements of the 5 volt device.

Thanks.

imdiko248 months ago

Hi! If I'm using a 20W, 12V Halogen Bulb as my dummy load, would this also serve as a current limit of 1.6Amps for my circuit?

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