How Many Watts Should a Gaming PC Have?
It’s no fun to play a game when you don’t have high-quality graphics and deal with lags and potential random shutdowns.
The obvious solution then is to buy the most powerful power supply unit on the market, right? Not necessarily.
A gaming PC should have between 500 and 550 watts, but it will still depend on how you will use your gaming PC. Instead of getting the most power available, it’s better to buy a power supply unit that aligns with your needs to lower overall costs and improve efficiency.
For this article, I’ll talk about determining how much power gaming PCs actually need, how much electricity they use, and how to select the correct power source for a gaming setup. I’ll also touch on some of the problems people run into when they don’t have the appropriate power system.
How much wattage should a gaming PC have?
The exact amount of Wattage a person needs for a gaming PC will depend on a variety of factors, including:
- The type of overall setup.
- The games being played.
- Level of intensity and time spent in playing.
- The kind of CPU, hard drive, and graphics processing used.
- The motherboard.
- The number of users simultaneously playing.
Even considering all those various factors, most people are fine with between 500 and 550 Watt power supply units.
Some can do just fine, dropping down to 450 watts, and others need to go a bit higher to between 600 and 650 Watts, but it seems as though 500 and 550 watts is the sweet spot for most hardcore gamers.
That’s enough to keep everything functioning correctly without having to worry about crashes, stalls, lags, or shutdowns due to overheating.
No matter what kind of hardcore multiplayer gaming someone is doing, there’s rarely a need to go above 850 watts.
How much electricity does a gaming PC use?
There’s no single answer to this question. The answer depends entirely on the PC’s overall setup, how much time users spend on it each day, what kind of games they’re running, and more.
I have written another article going into this topic more in-depth if you would like to read more over here.
Luckily, it isn’t hard for people to determine exactly how much power their specific PCs are using. They need the right tool for the job, and that tool is a home energy monitor.
Home energy monitors are small devices that help people track how much energy they’re using in their homes. Some of them hook directly to the breakers in the fuse box and monitor power consumption that way.
Others hook into outlets. They have outlets on their faces, and users plug their PCs (or any other electrical device) into the energy monitor’s outlet face. The energy monitor keeps track of how many watts of electricity that particular device is using.
When it comes to home energy monitors, the Emporia Smart Plug with Energy Monitor is my favorite.
I like the Emporia because it’s relatively inexpensive, unbelievably easy to use, and it’s also a smart plug, not just a kilowatt reader. That means it connects via apps to your phone or tablet; it’s also compatible with Amazon Alexa.
Users can set timers to turn off certain things when they aren’t in use, use Alexa to toggle things on and off, and monitor how much electricity their appliances and electronics are using, all with the same convenient plug.
This video tells you all about how this smart plug works:
Another good option for energy usage monitoring is the Kill-A-Watt Electricity Usage Monitor. Although it doesn’t connect to apps and cool, up-to-date things like that, it’s a tried and true usage monitor that’s been around for years.
It can measure power, voltage, and amperage consumption accurately, with only a 0.2 – 2.0% discrepancy margin.
These Kill-A-Watt monitors also give users the ability to control their electricity consumption. People can do everything they need to do on the monitors themselves.
Even the readout appears on the monitor’s screen, which means users don’t have to download any more apps to their already overloaded phones.
What happens if gaming PCs don’t get enough power?
There are many signs and symptoms that could indicate that a video game system isn’t receiving enough power, either because of an insufficient power source or because the gamer is running too much off one particular circuit.
If you want a quick overview of some of the things that can happen when PCs don’t have adequate power sources, check out this video:
The PC won’t start
One of the most distressing problems associated with a lack of power is when PCs won’t start. This can be particularly frustrating because the gamer can’t be sure what’s going on.
Did the cooling fan overheat and fry the system? Is something wrong with one of the connector cables? Is the PC simply not getting enough power to turn it on?
It’s hard to know without running some diagnostics and DIY troubleshooting. I have written a troubleshooting guide to help you if you are in this position.
Users get lucky occasionally, and the computer decides to power down while they’re using it.
While this isn’t a fortunate thing in terms of its potential effect on the game or the computer, it’s lucky in that it’ll sometimes provide the user with a glimpse of the boot screen first, which is a hint that it might be a power supply problem.
Another indication that lack of power might be the problem is if the PC doesn’t come on after a recent upgrade. If this happens, users can remove the upgrade and see if the PC works again.
If so, the problem is almost certainly a lack of power unless the upgrade itself isn’t working properly.
The blue screen of death
The blue screen of death and forced shutdowns are other symptoms of a PC’s lack of power. Some PCs have enough power to turn on and even work for short periods, but then they blue screen or forcibly shut themselves down because they can’t do anything else.
When a PC senses it isn’t getting enough power, it reducing non-essential processes, leaving them with less power. This causes them to function at less than peak performance.
One of the first places PCs pull power from is the graphics card. A person can have an amazing, top-of-the-line graphics card, but graphics will still be subpar if the power supply is lacking.
If the system starts pulling power away from graphics, an error message will typically appear, letting the user know that there’s a problem.
Many people maintain that inefficient power supply units can’t cause PCs to freeze. They claim that computers only shut down or fail to turn on when the power supply is an issue.
This isn’t strictly true. When people don’t have the right amount of wattage to run their PCs, voltage spikes can occur.
If voltage spikes are extreme enough, they can do all the things I’ve already mentioned, such as preventing the PC from turning on, forcibly shutting it down, etc.
Small voltage spikes, though, are less dramatic. They cause computers to freeze. Sometimes the PC recovers and starts working again on its own, and sometimes these freezes require mandatory user shutdowns.
Either way, they’re an inconvenience, especially if someone is in the middle of a game.
You can read my other article over here, helping you overcome freezing in Windows 10 if you need more information about that.
Excessive lagging is another thing many people insist can’t occur because of a faulty power supply. They’re both right and wrong about that.
Lagging can occur if a computer isn’t receiving enough power, but it isn’t directly related to the lack of power. It’s more tied in with the failure of the graphics card.
Anyone who’s ever seen a computer experience bad graphics has also seen the point when the graphics card totally fails, and things start pixelating and lagging. Occasionally this can be accompanied by a breaking robot voice. However, that has nothing to do with the graphics card; it results from the whole system malfunctioning due to the underlying lack of power.
Strange occurrences in the display can also mean there’s something wonky going on with the power supply. For example, users who see vertical or horizontal lines running through their screens, pixels changing colors without cause, or icons blinking when they should be stationary may be experiencing issues with their power supply units.
Note: It’s important to realize that none of these problems are exclusive to a faulty power supply. Many different issues can cause each of them.
That’s why it’s so important to perform a detailed troubleshooting session to figure out exactly what’s going on with a PC before “diagnosing” it.
Why not buy the most powerful unit?
Insufficient power to a PC can result in many problems, so the easy solution should be to buy the most powerful power supply unit possible and use that, right? Not exactly.
While doing that would solve a gamer’s insufficient power problems, it also creates new problems, usually in the gamer’s bank account. The more wattage a power supply unit is capable of providing, the more that unit costs.
Why waste all that extra money on power no one needs? That money is better spent on further upgrades, games, or anything else! A video by Linus Tech Tips pretty much sums it up in the title: “Why High Wattage Power Supplies Are Stupid.” Watch it here:
Aside from all the wasted money, there’s no real disadvantage to buying a higher kilowatt power system.
It isn’t going to fry the computer or anything like that, but why waste money on something that’s not necessary for an optimum gaming experience, especially when someone can quickly determine just how much power he’ll need to run his setup.
How to pick the right power supply unit
The best way for any gamer to pick the right power supply unit for his needs is to estimate how much power he’ll need to run his system while also taking future upgrades into account.
Luckily, the big brains at Newegg Insider developed a Power Supply Calculator for just this purpose.
The Newegg Power Supply Calculator asks tons of questions about a gamer’s setup, including:
- The central processing unit (CPU) brand and series.
- The type of motherboard in the system.
- The type and series of the graphics processing unit (GPU).
- How much random access memory (RAM) the system has available.
- The size of the solid-state drive (SSD).
- The size/speed of the hard drive.
- The type of optical drive used in the system (CD/DVD/Blu-ray/Combination).
Once a user enters all those specifications, the calculator will tell him exactly how many watts he’ll need to operate his gaming PC.
Users should take that number and add 50 to 100 Watts to it to account for future upgrades. Another option is to enter the specs in the calculator as if he already has his intended updates in place. That should give him a more accurate representation than just guessing.
Another reason for buying a power supply slightly more powerful than required is the percentage of total load over extended periods.
With some extra headroom in the power supply’s Wattage, the power supply runs less close to 100% capacity and will be able to run your system with great ease.
This means less heat inside the power supply when operating making it more likely for your power supply to have a longer lifespan.
Either way, that’s all it takes to figure out what kind of power supply unit he needs, and not having to go out and buy the mega 1,500-watt one will save him a ton of cash.
Other factors when considering a power supply unit
Finding the appropriate wattage is paramount when considering which power supply unit to purchase. However, there are other things that users must consider when trying to find the best unit for their needs.
The number of connectors
A power supply connects to more than just the CPU; users also have to hook it up to their graphics processing units, their motherboards, and more.
A power supply unit that doesn’t have an appropriate number of connectors will be entirely useless.
This is a mistake users don’t want to make because having enough connectors is essential to ensuring the PC works correctly.
Some considerations are less important; if gamers make the wrong decision on those, it won’t destroy the system’s overall efficiency.
Determining the correct number of connectors isn’t one of them. That’s one thing that users should try to get right.
Opting for a power modular supply is more desirable. This means that you only plug in the power cable you need for each component.
The physical size of the power supply unit
Power supply units come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes a gamer finds one that he loves only to get home and find out it doesn’t fit inside his case.
It’s also essential for gamers to remember that it isn’t just the power supply unit that must fit inside the case. All the connector cables will be in there as well.
How the inside of the case is packed can play a vital role in how well the PC performs. For example, if the power supply unit fits but is slightly too large to fit comfortably, and all the cables are shoved in any way they can fit, that will seriously restrict the airflow inside the case.
Restricted airflow can lead to overheating and other problems, so it’s best avoided if at all possible.
The types of cables
There are three types of cables, these are:
- Modular cables.
- Non-modular cables.
- Semi-modular cables.
This video tells users everything they need to know about modularity, and it tells it way better than I ever could, so I suggest checking it out:
The types of cables a gamer’s system will play a large part in determining what type of power system he needs. That’s why it’s important to know the modularity of the cables upfront.
This consideration is another one that users can’t overlook. Without adequate protection, one lightning strike or power surge can trash an entire PC, and that’s a lot of wasted money down the drain.
Most high-quality power source units now come with built-in protection, but there are still a few off-brands that don’t.
I can simplify this decision for users by saying one simple thing: Buy a power supply unit with built-in protection. Period!
People invest too much time and money into building their gaming PCs to have them destroyed because they had no protection.
A PC’s power supply is centrally located; it connects to every single piece of hardware used in the whole setup. That makes it the natural choice to protect everything.
Users should look for power supply units with built-in over-voltage protection, short circuit protection, and surge protection.
Potential buyers shouldn’t seriously consider any power supply units that don’t have these features.
Gamers should check the ratings on any power supply units they’re considering buying. They need to look at both the positive and negative reviews, especially the negative ones.
They should see what others are saying about how these units performed once installed.
Recommended Power Supply
Here is my recommendation for the best all round power supply that should perform well in most builds.
Coming in at great value for the Dollar, this power supply will have enough grunt to power most medium to high-performance gaming rigs with some headroom to spare.
It offers extremely quiet operation, so it won’t add extra noise to your computer making it ideal for most use situations.
Made with durable components, this power supply will go the distance as it’s made by Seasonic, which is the best of best on the market.
A gaming PC should have enough watts to run everything smoothly and account for any future upgrades to the system. For most people, that means somewhere between 500 and 550 kilowatts. For others, it could mean as few as 450 or as many as 600.
It’s also best if users don’t buy power supply units that are too powerful because they will be a big waste of money.
Users can estimate how much power they’ll need using Newegg’s Power Supply Calculator before buying anything. That’s the best way to ensure they get the power supply unit they need.