How to turn on the PC power supply without a motherboard

Written by dustin thornton
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How to turn on the PC power supply without a motherboard
Computers use standard ATX power supplies. (computer power image by robert mobley from

You can turn on your PC power supply without the use of the motherboard by creating a jumper between the appropriate wires on the power supply plug. This can be beneficial if you want to add a second power supply to your computer of simply if you need to test the power supply without a computer. Dubbed the "paper clip trick," this task is one you can perform in only a few minutes.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Paper clip
  • Electrical tape
  • Wire cutters (optional)

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  1. 1

    Turn off your computer and disconnect all cables from the back of your system.

  2. 2

    Turn the switch on the back of the power supply (back of the computer) to the "O" or "Off" setting. Note that "I" is the "On" setting.

  3. 3

    Open the computer case and unplug the ATX power connector that runs from the power supply to the motherboard. You can easily recognise the ATX power connector by the many coloured wires connected to a large plastic 20 or 24 pin connector.

  4. 4

    Bend a normal paper clip into a "U" shape. Do not use an insulated paper clip.

  5. 5

    Locate the green and black wires that run to the plastic ATX power connector. Insert one end of the paper clip into the green wire connector and the other into the black wire next to it. Note that your power supply might have two black wires. These are ground wires and you should connect the paper clip to the black wire immediately next to the green wire.

  6. 6

    Wrap the end of the power connector, including the paper clip, in electrical tape. Ensure that you cover the entire paper clip and power connector, as they will conduct electricity when you switch the power supply on.

  7. 7

    Plug the power supply back into the wall outlet. Turn the switch on the back of the power supply to the "I" or "On" setting and the power supply will power on and run until you turn the switch on the back of the unit off again.

Tips and warnings

  • Shorten the length of the paper clip with wire cutters if you plan on leaving it on indefinitely.
  • Do not touch the paper clip or power supply connector while the power supply is running, for risk of electrical shock.
  • As with any electrical components, take proper precautions when working with electronics.

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