Help me fix a poor student's computer
February 7, 2007 6:33 AM   Subscribe

Please help me fix a poor college student’s Dell Dimension E310 desktop PC. I need to know whether they use an industry standard power supply unit or a proprietary Dell unit.

My understanding is that Dell used to use proprietary power supplies but they’ve stopped doing that in recent years I’ve also heard that if you plug the wrong kind of PSU into the motherboard it will fry the rest of the computer; and I’ve also read that you really can’t tell the difference between the two types of supplies because they use the same kind of connectors.

I have lots of experience building my own computers. It seems likely that the power supply is causing this PC’s problem and I can get a standard PSU easily and fairly cheaply, so I’d like to try that first. I’ve looked inside the case, nothing is obviously wrong and I’ve tried reseating the cards and memory boards.

The computer is a hand-me-down from another relative. It is probably only three or four years old and it was working fine. They just turned it off and when they tried to turn it back on a couple of hours later nothing happened (there are no fans or hard drives spinning) and power button is blinking orange, instead of the usual steady green.

I’ve done a lot of Googling but I can’t find a definitive answer to my question.
posted by 14580 to Computers & Internet (3 answers total)
Looks like you can get a substitute power supply for that exact model for about $50.

Most likely, another similar PSU would do the trick just as well. It might be helpful to match the stats of the PSU you can acquire to the table in the link above.
posted by grabbingsand at 6:57 AM on February 7, 2007

Go to this page:
and have a look at the photo there, and compare it to your motherboard.

Dell used standard ATXes, then went to proprietary supplies, and then apparently went back to ATX for some P4 models. The "proprietary" versions use an ATX connector, and an additional six-pin connector nearby. (And naturally they mix up the pins on the ATX part so that you can't use a regular supply.)

If your motherboard JUST has an ATX connector, you're probably good to go with a standard PS. But if you have the weird 6-pin connector as well, then you'll need a standard PS+Adapter, or buy the OEM part.

FYI - The list on that page of Dell models that DON'T use the adapter (that have standard ATX PSes) is not complete. Just last month I swapped out a bad PS in a Dimension 4600 and it was bog-standard ATX.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:15 AM on February 7, 2007

Response by poster: I went back and took another look and I didn't see the additional six-pin connector that Kadin2048 said is a tip-off for a proprietary power supply (it just had a 24 pin main connector). However, I still didn't feel comfortable plugging a standard PSU into it either.

I then considered the PSU that grabbingsand found because the vendor claimed it was an exact replacement. However, when I checked them out at, along with a couple of other vendors, I didn't exactly get a warm fuzzy feeling about doing business with any of them.

So I went back to eBay and this time I found a brand new exact replacement at half the price from a very highly rated seller.

Our poor student is going to have to be patient and use the school library computers for a week or so while it's being delivered, but it's the cheapest and least risky solution. Neither he nor I can afford to pay the consequences for plugging the wrong kind of PSU into the MB.

Hopefully the new unit will fix it, otherwise my next guess is a bad MB or CPU. Thanks for your time and advice.
posted by 14580 at 4:59 PM on February 7, 2007

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