Yet Another ATX Lab Bench Power Supply Conversion

This project builds upon the ideas of a previous instructables project:
The big difference is that I decided I didn't want to destroy my ATX power supply in the conversion. Another advantage is that you can just plug in a new power supply if the old one goes caput.

Drill and bits
Screwdriver ( for taking project box apart)
Soldering iron
Desoldering iron (optional)
Label maker (optional)

Banana jacks
Project box
A lighted 12V switch
3/4" strain relief
ATX connector (purchased or scavanged)
Miscellaneous heat shrink tubing sizes
Some wire 14-20 Ga (colors matching standard ATX if possible)

Step 1: Obtain an ATX Motherboard Connector

For my power supply I desoldered an ATX motherboard connector from a fried motherboard. An easier, less time consuming, but more expensive solution would be to buy an ATX extension cable or an ATX 20 to 24 pin adapter for about $10.

Desoldering components can be tricky, so take your time. The easiest way I have found is to first flood all the pads with as much solder as they'll hold. This allows me to heat the entire pad and pin evenly with the desoldering iron. I use a simple Radio shack model with a squeeze blub.

Step 2: Connect the Neccessary Wires to the Connector.

Again if you bought an extension or converter cable you need just to cut off the opposite end.

Pinouts for the ATX connector can be found at:

The pinout is a little wierd, I think it was dreamed up by somebody who wasn't very familiar with electronics. Pin 1 and 11 are at the same end. Ditto for pins 10 and 20.
What I did to avoid confusion was to plug the connector into the power supply and note the color of the wires . Then I soldered wires to the following pins

Pin Standard Color My Color Use
1) Orange Orange +3.3V
7) Black Black GND
10) Yellow Yellow +12V ( I solderd two wires to this pin)
12) Blue Solid Grey -12V
13) Black Black GND
14) Green Green Switch on
18) White Grey/Red -5V
20) Red Red +5V

To finish off the connector I bundled the wires with some heat shrink tubing.

Step 3: Layout the Front Panel

I used a small project box that I had lying around. I wanted the spacing of the holes such that I could use standard dual banana plugs, so I laid out the hole patterns so I could have one plug in ground and the other in the desired voltage. You can see from all the pictures how this works.

I also had to drill an additional hole for the lighted switch. The beauty of using the lighted switch is that it can be both a power indicator and the load to keep the power supply on.

Step 4: Drill Cable Strain Relief Hole

Next I drilled out the back to accept a standard 3/4" strain relief.

Step 5: Assemble Hardware

I put all the hardware in the box. That should be pretty self explanitory from the pictures.

I then soldered the leads to the posts. Looking from the front:
The center post is ground.
The leftmost posts is -5V.
The rightmost post is +5V.
The bottom post is 3.3V.
The top left post is -12V.
The top right post is +12V.

The switch has 3 terminals: +12V, GND, and the switched contact. When the switch is off, the switched contact will be open and the light will be off. When the switch is on, the switched contact will be grounded and the light will be on.

The other yellow wire goes to the +12V of the switch.
The second black goes to the switch ground.
Finally the power supply switch wire goes to the switched contact.

Step 6: Apply the Finishing Touches

I used my cheap Casio label printer to make some labels to remind me what terminal is what.

One notable flaw with my design is that it relies on the overload circuitry of the power supply. It's hard to add a fuse without cracking open the power supply, and to fuse each output would have been more work. ATX power supplies are cheap. Some may have internal overload protection and some may not. I'll take my chances. That's the beauty of my design, I can just plug in another ATX power supply if the first one fails.

Another problem may be that the lighted switch won't pull enough current to keep the power supply running. If it didn't, you would have to add a load resistor to one of the outputs, or in series with the power to the lighted switch.



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    46 Discussions

    Sorry, I didn't reply sooner. Instructables just notified me today there was a question.

    Since the part is plastic I couldn't use a heat gun so I had to do it the old fashioned sweat and tears way.

    I have a radio shack desoldering iron that I use. It has a hole in the tip that you place over the the soldered lead. When the solder starts to flow you let go of the bulb you were holding and it sucks the solder off the board. At least that's how it's supposed to work. It usually gets about 80% of the solder, leaving that really hard stuff in the hole. About 1 out of 3 times it leaves a clean hole. The rest I usually clean up with a desoldeing braid. Usually there are about one or two leads I can't get and just heat that lead while I pull up on the part. Hopefully most of the other leads are desoldered and it'll lift out. Sometimes you have to add solder back to the joint to get it to flow well, and then you try to suck it out again.

    You were insanely lucky to accomplish this! I tried powerful soldering iron, solder pump, heat gun, hollow needle (which frustrated me a lot since the pins are not round) and a "large blob of solder" methods for nothing. Braid and Rose's alloy methods are uneconomical since the materials are not reusable (my task is to disassemble failed MBs for parts).

    Will probably try milling the PCB under each pair of pins to desolder them separately.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    how did you desolder the 24 pin atx connector from the motherboard?


    6 years ago on Introduction

    So how does 5v and 3.3 give 1.7? I thought it would give 8.3? Same as how does -5 and +5 give 10? I'm a bit confused lol but it would be good if I could get other voltages by using different combos.

    2 replies

    Voltage is analogous to pressure difference. Image you have two sealed adjoining rooms with a connecting window: one at 1 atm (14.7psi) and another at 2 atm. If you'd open the window between the rooms the wind (or current) would be driven by the pressure difference between the rooms or 1 atm.

    We usually think about measuring voltage with respect to ground (0V), but it doesn't have to be so. Voltage is the difference in potential between two points. It is only in the special case of using ground where you can just look at one of the points and call that the voltage. So to find the voltage you take the difference of the two points whether it be 12V - 0V = 12V or 7V- 5V = 2V or 5V - (-5V) = 10V.

    This only works with DC voltages. AC voltages are much more complicated because you need to take phase into account -- assuming the AC voltages are even the same frequency -- and whether you are measuring RMS or peak.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    How did ya get the -3.3v? So goin by what volts are available, just mix and match according to what ya need? Like +5 and +5 for 10v?

    1 reply

    I'm not sure where you see -3.3V (Maybe where I say 5V - 3.3V = 1.7V). I only have +3.3V. I just pulled all the voltages right from the power supply connector.

    Also, I'm sure you just mistyped it, but you'd need -5V and +5V to get 10V


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nice! Could also be a handy tool for testing PSU's.

    Depending on what you use externally and what your computer is running, you might not have enough power to do both :P

    But I do have 7V. I also have 1.7V and 24V. You can access all of these voltages with paired banana plugs too. You just have to be careful that the circuit you're connecting isn't tied to ground.


    Hi, is it safe to use 24 V with this project? Would the regulator take a beating? If it is safe id be interested to know how to do it. Do i just connect -12 and +12 together? Thx for the great tutorial !

    I have to admit that my first thought was to say "Hey dummy, take another look and do some math!'" But it was only a few years ago that I had heard of the 12V -5V = 7V trick, so that seemed a little hypocritical.

    But the more I thought about it the more I realized that your comment was a good opportunity to add information that might not be immediately obvious to everybody .

    12V - (-12V) = 24V
    5V - 3.3V =1.7V
    you can't use paired plugs but
    12V - 3.3V = 8.7V

    Just be careful using pulling any of these non-rated voltages out of the supply, it wasn't designed from it and there's no guarantee that the voltage will remain stable if you pull any sort of current doing so. I would recommend piggybacking a voltmeter to watch the voltage if you're going to use this trick.