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I've got a Vista Media Center PC, it's about 5 years old and has been running in the living room pretty much constantly. For specs, it's got I think an old AMD64 processor, a DVDROM, a 20GB IDE drive for the OS and a 300GB IDE drive for the recordings. There's also a dual tuner Hauppage card and I think an old FX5200 video card. The PSU is a Silverstone 360W model. It's been running like a champ as long as I remember.

We use it a lot. Sometime a few days ago it apparently shut off; when I try and power it on it powers up for a split second and then shuts right off again.

I opened it up and started trying to diagnose the problem. I narrowed it down to the 300GB drive. If I disconnected it, the whole thing would boot up normal. But as soon as I connected the drive to power it would instantly shut off after trying to start it up. I tried different power plugs on the same PSU with the same result.

I took the drive out, ran checkdisk on it on another PC (the other PC booted just fine with that drive as a slave) and it came up clean. But I was back to my original problem as soon as I tried to add the drive back into the original HTPC.

I want to say it's a power supply problem, but wouldn't I see other problems, or it wouldn't power up at all no matter what? Is the second drive drawing that much power that it would make the difference? Could the PSU be "going" and it's just a matter of time until it dies altogether? Is there something else I may have missed or should try? I'm probably looking at building a new HTPC altogether, but if I could get a new power supply in the meantime to limp along I'd look at that. The drive seems fine - but could that be causing a problem?

Thanks for any help or advice!

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Did you try booting it with the drive connected, but without power to the video card or tuner? What happens if you disconnect the 20GB drive, connect the 300GB drive, and try to boot? You won't be able to fully boot, obviously, but if the problem isn't the drive you should at least get "no OS found" –  Velociraptors Oct 11 '10 at 1:03
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2 Answers

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The capacitors in power supplies "age", and the older they are, the lower the power rating gets. Also, Poorer quality PSUs age more poorly than higher quality units with better parts. Usually most people don't notice this because there is enough buffer room between the power rating and what the hardware requires, but if you're right on the threshold to begin with, yes, it would be entirely conceivable that a single device pushes the limit of what the PSU can currently handle.

So, take a look here to calculate what power rating you need for your HTPC: http://extreme.outervision.com/psucalculatorlite.jsp

And take a look here for a listing of reliable/unreliable brands: http://www.pcmech.com/forum/computer-hardware/208143-what-power-supply-should-i-get-how-many-watts-who-made-guide-inside.html#brand_list

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Have you tried using other spare power connectors on the power supply to connect the hard drive?

Sounds like a failing PSU.

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yes, he did: "I narrowed it down to the 300GB drive. If I disconnected it, the whole thing would boot up normal. But as soon as I connected the drive to power it would instantly shut off after trying to start it up. I tried different power plugs on the same PSU with the same result." –  Force Flow Oct 11 '10 at 0:37
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