Below is the Difference between Switch Mode (Switching / Regulated) and Linear (Unregulated) Power Supplies.
Switch Mode (Regulated)
A switched-mode power supply (SMPS) works on a different principle. AC mains input is directly rectified without the use of a transformer, to obtain a DC voltage. This voltage is then sliced into small pieces by a high-speed electronic switch. The size of these slices grows larger as power output requirements increase.
The input power slicing occurs at a very high speed (typically 10 kHz - 1 MHz). High frequency and high voltages in this first stage permit much smaller step down transformers than are in a linear power supply. After the transformer secondary, the AC is again rectified to DC. To keep output voltage constant, the power supply needs a sophisticated feedback controller to monitor current draw by the load.
Modern switched-mode power supplies often include additional safety features such as the crowbar circuit to help protect the device and the user from harm.<Actinic:Variable Name = '1'/> In the event that an abnormal high amperage power draw is detected, the switched-mode supply can assume this is a direct short and will shut itself down before damage is done. For decades PC computer power supplies have also provided a power good signal to the motherboard which prevents operation when abnormal supply voltages are present.
Switched mode power supplies have an absolute limit on their minimum amperage output. They are only able to output above a certain wattage and cannot function below that point. In a no-load condition the frequency of the power slicing circuit increases to great speed, causing the isolation transformer to act as a tesla coil, causing damage due to the resulting very high voltage power spikes. Switched-mode supplies with protection circuits may briefly turn on but then shut down when no load has been detected. A very small low-wattage dummy load such as a ceramic power resistor or 10 watt light bulb can be attached to the supply to allow it to run with no primary load attached.
Power factor has become a recent issue of concern for computer manufacturers. Switched mode power supplies have traditionally been a source of power line harmonics and have a very poor power factor. Many computer power supplies built in the last few years now include power factor correction built right into the switched-mode supply, and may advertise the fact that they offer 1.0 power factor.
By slicing up the sinousoidal AC wave into very small discrete pieces, the portion of the AC current not used stays in the power line as very small spikes of power that cannot be utilized by AC motors and results in waste heating of power line transformers. Hundreds of switched mode power supplies in a building can result in poor power quality for other customers surrounding that building, and high electric bills for the company if they are billed according to their power factor in addition to the kilowatts used. Filtering capacitor banks may be needed on the building power mains to suppress and absorb these negative power factor effects.
An AC powered linear power supply usually uses a transformer to convert the voltage from the wall outlet (mains) to a different, usually a lower voltage. If it is used to produce DC, a rectifier is used. A capacitor is used to smooth the pulsating current from the rectifier. Some small periodic deviations from smooth direct current will remain, which is known as ripple. These pulsations occur at a frequency related to the AC power frequency (for example, a multiple of 50 or 60 Hz).
The voltage produced by an unregulated power supply will vary depending on the load and on variations in the AC supply voltage. For critical electronics applications a linear regulator will be used to stabilize and adjust the voltage. This regulator will also greatly reduce the ripple and noise in the output DC current. Linear regulators often provide current limiting, protecting the power supply and attached circuit from overcurrent.
Adjustable linear power supplies are common laboratory and service shop test equipment, allowing the output voltage to be set over a wide range. For example, a bench power supply used by circuit designers may be adjustable up to 30 volts and up to 5 amperes output. Some can be driven by an external signal, for example, for applications requiring a pulsed output.
The simplest DC power supply circuit consists of a single diode and resistor in series with the AC supply. This circuit is common in rechargeable flashlights.