18
\$\begingroup\$

I have an ATX PSU that has two 6pin connectors for PCI Express power. Both have Gnd on the lock bar side, and +12V on the opposite side. I lost modular cables that came with the PSU, and it made me to start to dig.

According to this answer on our sister site, in 6-pin configuration pin 5 is Sense A. In 8-pin, pin 6 is sense A (same position as Sense A in 6-pin config) and pin 4 is Sense B.

But what are these pins supposed to do? I know that most people just connects Gnd there and calls it a day, and I could too, but I wanted to ask about the meaning behind it. It's called "Sense" for a reason, I suppose. So, what is that reason?

Image that shows pinout

\$\endgroup\$

2 Answers 2

15
\$\begingroup\$

Sense pins are connected to ground at power supply or adapter cable. This allows the PCIE card to detect if a supply cable is connected or not, and whether a 6-pin supply is connected to 8-pin socket to indicate less power is available. It is not used by the power supply for "remote voltage sensing" to compensate for voltage drop over the wiring.

\$\endgroup\$
3
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ OK, now I see two answers that basically oppose each other, and I do not see any source to indicate which one is right. I'm inclined to believe you given that my PSU just connects all 3 pins to the Gnd, but on the other hand, it might be just a lazy PSU design, right? So, do you have any source to back up your answer? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Nov 4, 2019 at 13:18
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot Justme is right. Unfortunately, the PCI express specs are not freely available, but you can check en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PCI_Express#Power \$\endgroup\$
    – dim
    Nov 4, 2019 at 13:30
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @dim well, that's source enough for me. At least until I'll be ready to pay for official documents, and I don't see it happening any time soon. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Nov 4, 2019 at 13:34
5
\$\begingroup\$

The 6 pin PCIe power connector comes in a 6.25A (75W) version and a 12.5A (150W) version. The 6.25A version only requires that two 12V power connections be present, and only two ground connections need to carry current. The 3rd middle ground connection can be used to sense that the connection is plugged in. The 12.5A version uses 3 12V power wires and 3 ground wires to carry current. An additional two groundable sense connections can be added to the side to tell the PCIe device that a 12.5A compliant power connector has been inserted. Many power supplies that are 12.5A compliant have an additional 2 pin ground connector on the side of the 6 pin connector that can be used to make it to an 8 pin connector.

If a 12.5A 6-pin connector on an older power supply is connected to a newer 8-pin PCIe device, the PCIe device should not turn on because it doesn't know if a 12.5A compliant connection has been used. If all 6 wires are present on the 6 pin connector and the power supply can handle the current, then it is safe to get an adapter that will convert the 6 pin connector in to an 8 pin connector simply by grounding the two additional connections on the 8 pin connector.

The 2 sense connections on a 8 pin PCIe board could be permanently connected to the 6 pin ground connections with a little bit of solder and wire. This would convert it in to a 6 pin connection. Just be careful to not use any 6 pin PCIe power connectors that only have 2 12V wires, and thin wires that are smaller than AWG 20. If one fails to connect, all the current will go through the remaining wire and it could melt. If this is bad advice, then online sellers that sell Molex to 8 pin PCIe adapters should stop selling those first. That could easily end up runing everything through one wire.

\$\endgroup\$
1
  • \$\begingroup\$ If I recall, some card manufacturers advised against using molex to PCIe adapters. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Apr 15, 2021 at 16:11

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.