Silane and hydrogen discharges are widely used for the deposition of silicon thin film solar cells in large area plasmaenhanced chemical vapor deposition reactors. In the case of microcrystalline silicon thin film solar cells, it is of crucial importance to increase the deposition rate in order to reduce the manufacturing costs. This can be performed by using high silane concentration, and usually high RF power and high pressure, all favorable to powder formation in the discharge that generally reduces the deposition rate as well as the deposited material quality. This work presents a study of powder formation using time-resolved optical emission spectroscopy. It is shown that this technique is suitable to detect different regimes in powder formation ranging from powder free discharge to discharge producing large dust particles. Intermediate powder formation regimes include the formation of small silicon clusters at plasma ignition as well as cycle of powder growth and ejection out of the discharge, and both are observable by this low-cost and experimentally simple technique.