Archive for January, 2010

The Best Computer Monitor For You (Plus the Settings To Make It Shine)

Posted on January 28, 2010. Filed under: The Best Computer Monitor For You |

Which monitor you choose will make a difference in terms of the picture you will see on your screen, but your video graphics card (or lack of one) also plays a role.

It also matters whether or not your adapter card is analog or digital (sharper) and if you have a CRT or LCD display screen.

Note that you must use a video card that supports the type of monitor you are using.

Computer monitors today are either CRT or LCD screens.

CRT (cathode ray tube) display monitor: This is the same kind of technology as old TVs.  CRT monitors are often huge, but the newer ones are flatter and more compact.  There are two ways to measure a CRT monitor’s image quality: dot pitch and resolution.

  • Dot pitch is expressed in dots per inch- it tells how sharp the picture is. The higher the number of dots per inch, the closer together the phosphor dots are, resulting in a sharper image. An average dot pitch is 0.28mm -0.32mm (the lower the mm, the higher the dot pitch).
  • Resolution is defined by how many pixels are used to draw the screen. Higher resolutions means that more inforamtion can be displayed on the screen, but the objects and text will appear smaller . Resolution can be configured through the operating system.  Your graphics card controls what options are available on your resolution settings in your operating system.

LCD (liquid crystal displays) monitor: Like CRT, LCD accepts analog or digital graphics cards, but LCD displays a better digital image and does not require analog modulation. LCD monitors use either active matrix or passive-matrix technology. Thin LCD flat screen monitors are very popular today.

  • Active-matrix screens are made up of several individual LCD pixels, backlit by electrodes through crystals. This type of display is very crisp and easy to look at and does not require constant refreshing, but it requires large amounts of power. Even with the backlight turned off, the screen still consumes a lot of battery power. Laptops with active-matrix screens can’t operate on a battery for more than two hours. However, most LCDs today are based on this active-matrix technology.
  • Passive-matrix screens are made up of transistors that form an x and y graph. When the display is instructed to change a pixel it sends a signal to the x and y coordinates. Voltage lines from each axis intersect at the desired coordinates to find the right pixel. Because the computer takes a millisecond or two to light the coordinates the response of the screen to rapid changes is poor. This type of screen is not as sharp, so has waned in popularity as active-matrix screens got less expensive. Dual scan screens, a variation of passive-matrix is split in half to implement a dual scan display. Each half of the display is refreshed separately, leading to increased quality. However, it is still not as sharp as the active-matrix screen. Also, if you move to the side of a passive-matrix LCD screen the display will look dark to you. Active-matrix screens have a much wider viewing screen.

This is the standard VGA (Video Graphics Array) analog port that can be used with CRT or LCD monitors. This typical video/ monitor port is the DE-15 female port with the DE-15 male plug (pictured above). The VGA (analog) connection converts digital signals received from the graphics card into analog signals which it sends to the monitor. This conversion to analog creates distortions in the integrity of the signal.

Most video cards today have the superior (digital) DVI ports built into them. With only the standard VGA connection,  image quality is subpar. With a DVI interface on the video or graphics card, pure digital output can be achieved using DVI cables, resulting in a sharper picture.  To best support this superior digital DVI port on your video card your monitor needs to have either a DVI or HDMI (with DVI adapter) port, but those who do not have monitors that support DVI or HDMI can still utilize the DVI port on your video card with the right cable.

Refer to the cable descriptions below to see which one you will need for your computer and monitor:

  • DVI-D (Digital, for use with digital displays):  This cable is for LCD monitors that have DVI or HDMI ports (needs DVI adapter). These cables link DVI-graphics cards to digital displays. They transfer digital-to-digital signals, eliminate analog conversion and cannot accommodate CRT displays.
  • DVI-A (Analog, for use with analog displays): These DVI cables run from the DVI graphics card to an analog CRT display, converting digital-to-analog. Although some purity is lost in the conversion from digital to analog, using a DVI card and DVI-A cable with a CRT monitor delivers superior performance to using a VGA interface.
  • DVI-DL (Dual Link): DVI cables can be single link, or dual link. Dual link cables have the ability to provide greater speed, greater signal quality and extremely high resolutions by utilizing an additional “pipeline” when the first line has been maximized. This is especially relevant in very large-screen displays requiring high resolutions of over 2.3 million pixels. By comparison, most 17-inch to 19-inch digital displays have a native resolution of about 1.3 million pixels.
  • DVI-I (Integrated, for use with either display): These cables work as digital-to-digital or analog-to-analog, hence their designation as “integrated.” They do not convert digital-to-analog or analog-to-digital. These DVI cables can be used to connect a DVI graphics card to a digital display, or a DVI card’s VGA interface to an analog display (The picture below is a DVI-I port).

If your monitor has an HDMI (High-definition multimedia interface)  port you can connect to an HDMI-enabled video card or a DVI-enabled video card with an adapter. HDMI is an all digital technology that advances the work of DVI with higher motion-picture frame rates and digital audio on the same connector. It also supports remote control and dual-link capabilities. It is compatible with HD DVD and Blu-ray. It is not the same connector as the DVI, but they are electronically compatible. You will need to purchase a DVI to HDMI converter (adapter) to use this port with a DVI port on your PC. Make sure you get the correct DVI cable for the DVI end of the cable. HDMI are compatible with DVI-D and DVI-I cables through proper adapters, but unlike the others, only single-link is supported, and the audio and remote control features are lost (HMDI type A is standard, type B is superior and type C is for mobile devices).

Note that audio cannot be converted by a HDMI to DVI converter because DVI does not carry audio. Therefore audio will need to be carried through another connector such as TOSLINK (Optical Audio Cables) if available. If TOSLINK is not available, audio can be connected using the audio connectors from a composite or component connection.

The following are video standard terms you will come upon when shopping for a monitor and video graphics card:

VGA : These adapters (video cards or already integrated into motherboard) offer 256 colors with a resolution of 320X200 pixels. You can see VGA in action when your computer goes into Safe Mode.

SVGA (Super VGA): These adapters have a default resolution of 16 colors at resolution 800X600, but now offer 256 colors at a resolution of 1,024X768 pixels.

XGA (Extended): These adapters offer 256 colors at a resolution of 1,024X768 pixels or 65,536 colors at 800X600 pixels.

Todays video standards are  extensions of SVGA or XGA. UXGA has a standard resolution of 1600X1200. Whenever the name is preceded by the letter W it will have the same vertical resolution, but a wider horizontal resolution (for wide screens)- an example is WXSGA. If  Q is first in the name this means that the horizontal and vertical resolution are each doubled, making a final resolution four times the original (example: QXGA).

Name and Resolution

WXGA= 1680X1050

UXGA = 1600X1200

WUXGA = 1920X1200

QXGA = 2048X1536

WQXGA = 2560X1600

WQUXGA = 3840X2400

WHUXGA= 7680X4800

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There are four types of standard video connections: coaxial, composite, S-video and component that can be used on your TV and/or computer.

Coaxial (worst) can often be found on the back of old TVs for the antenna cable.

Composite (good) is a single yellow RCA jack. It is at the bottom of the analog-video barrel. If you have a three-connector cable on your home video equipment, such as a DVD player connected to a TV, odds are the tips will be yellow, red and white. The red and white are for left and right stereo audio; the yellow lead is your composite video.

S-video (better) is a component video technology. This port is usually black and looks similar to the traditional keyboard and mouse connectors (round with holes and notches). The video signal is split into two signals, giving you a better quality picture. For example, text displayed on-screen using this connection is noticeably sharper than composite or coaxial (RF).

Component (best)- This video signal is split into three signals, two color and one black and white, giving you the best picture. Use component video to take advantage of the superior picture. The component ports on your monitor may be labeled Y(green) Pb(blue) Pr(red) with a red and white R/L audio ports. That is the analog version. The digital version replaces the analog and is labeled Y Cb Cr.

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Now that you have chosen a monitor and a video graphics card, you want to know what settings to use to make the monitor work it’s best.

The first thing to know about is the refresh rate.

The larger a monitor gets, the higher the refresh rate needs to be. A small 14-16 in. screen will do well in the 60-72Hz range. Larger monitors can be set up to 85Hz or higher. This is necessary to reduce eye strain in CRT monitors. For LCD monitors, pixels are set and do not need to be refreshed, but higher refresh rates allow LCD screens to have more fluid video motion. If you are using an LCD monitor you should use the native resolution of that monitor for best results.

Be careful changing the refresh rate if using an old CRT monitor as you could damage it, but if it is fairly new you don’t need to worry because the monitor won’t operate at a rate that is too high for it or will warn you that it is the wrong setting. Your refresh rate must be supported by your graphics adapter and your monitor to work correctly. Also, be aware that raising the refresh rate might lower the monitors resolution.

Here is how to change the refresh rate in Windows Vista: Right-click in the center of the Desktop> click Personalize>click Display Settings>click Advanced Settings> click Monitor (Tab)> select the desired refresh rate.

The resolution is the next setting we will discuss. CRT monitors can display a crisp image at many resolutions within a supported range, LCD monitors can not. They have a single fixed (native) resolution. The monitor settings should reflect this resolution only, unless you have an LCD monitor laptop which can be adjusted somewhat.

Here is how to change the resolution in Windows Vista: Right-click in the center of the Desktop> click Personalize>click Display Settings> move the resolution slider to the right for higher resolutions.

Be aware that some adapter cards come with their own utilities for changing settings.

Multimonitors– Having two monitors side by side that act like one large monitor is a very cool trick.  You can drag things across to each screen like magic. You don’t have to have a special computer to do this. All you need is a video graphics card(s) that supports multimonitors and 2 monitor cables or one that splits into 2.  Microsoft calls their multimonitor feature Dual View. You can either extend your Desktop onto the second monitor or clone it onto the second monitor.  In Windows XP and Vista-  if you have more than one video graphics card they all have to use the same driver. In Windows 7 that is not necessarily the case.

Once you have the cards and cables plugged in you simply Right click in the middle of your Desktop>click on the picture of the monitor that says #2> check Extend The Desktop Onto This Monitor box> Click and drag the second monitor to the desired virtual position around the primary monitor>change the refresh rate and resolution of the 2nd monitor as desired. You are done.

What to do if your older CRT monitor has image discoloration (the rainbow effect)

You need to degauss your monitor which will reduce its magnetic field. Repeated degaussing of a monitor is not advised and can damage your monitor. Just do it periodically and not a whole bunch of times in a row. It is also not advisable to use external degaussing devices.  This is a typical way to degauss your computer:

If you don’t have a degaussing button right on your monitor, press the menu button on the front panel of your monitors display. This will give you options to adjust the screen’s orientation, brightness, etc. Using the up and down arrow keys select the Extra Controls (or something similar) menu item. Go to the submenu until you see the Deguass option and select it. You should hear a distinctive noise and the image will distort during the process.

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What Kind of Adapter Cards Should I Buy (Video Graphics, Multimedia Sound, TV, I/O)?

Posted on January 27, 2010. Filed under: The Best Adapter Cards For You |

An adapter card (expansion card) is a small circuitboard card you install into a computer to increase the capabilities of your computer.

Before you can buy any new cards you need to know what kind of expansion slots your motherboard has.

This is because your card needs to be compatible with your expansion slots. For example, you can only install a PCI network card into a PCI expansion slot.

Your motherboards documentation (online or in print) will tell you what kind of slots you have, or you can open your computer and look for yourself.

You can also download CPUZ: http://www.cpuid.com/cpuz.php . CPUZ is a small utility which gives information about your CPU (Processor), Cache, Mainboard, Memory, SPD etc.

These are the type of expansion slots you might find inside your computer:

The PCI slot is short (3 in.) and white .  A 32-bit card works fine in a 64 bit slot but it will work at a 32-bit capacity (slower).

The AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port)  is supposed to be faster than the PCI, but in truth it is almost the same. It is usually brown and shorter than the neighboring PCI slots. However, be careful here- an older AGP card may not work in a new AGP expansion slot.

The PCIe (PCI Express) slot is faster than AGP.   The PCIe is replacing AGP and PCI. The fastest possible multimedia card requirements would be a PCIe  3.0 version x32.

You can google PCI, PCIe (express) and AGP in the search engine under images. This will show you a picture of what they look like.

Tip for gamers: if you have an SLI-ready mother board you can link together (preferably) identical  PCIe cards (also called graphic adapters) using a bridge to create the best results. You need to use NVIDIA’s Scalable Link Interface or something similar. You can combine up to four PCIe graphic adapters together to pool their power to a single monitor attached to the SLI master adapter. This creates the best graphics.

Video adapter (video card or graphics card) allows your monitor to display graphics. Most operating systems come with default graphics mode which is usually  subpar to the ones you can purchase separately.

Sound cards are usually a huge improvement on the default sound mode on your computer. They usually come with  small, round jacks for microphones, headphones, and speakers as well as other sound equipment. It might come with an S/PDIF port (Sony/Philips Digital Interface) that allows you to transmit excellent audio in digital clarity.

Video Capture card is often used to save a video stream to the computer for later editing. This is useful with video sharing sites on the Internet.

TV Tuner card combines internal and external devices so you can connect to a TV signal or cable TV. They come in analog, digital and hybrid. They may also include the capabilities of a video capture card.

I/O card is any adapter card that adds more ports to your computer. It could add serial ports or USB ports or parallerl ports or Sata ports or a FireWire port or a game port, etc.

There are also Network Interface Cards to help you connect to the Internet, but I will discuss those in a later port.

Adapter Card Speeeds (FYI):

PCI cards operate at (most commonly) 33MHz clock = 133MBps data rate or 66MHz clock = 266 MBps data rate using a 32-bit slot or (less commonly )a 64 bit slot which doubles the data rate).
AGP 1x operates at 66 MHz clock = 266.67 MBps data rate using a 32-bit slot, so AGP 2x, 4x and 8x cards multiplies the data rate by that number).
PCIe (express) can be anywhere from x1 to x32, with the higher number being  the faster card, but a slower card can work inside a slot for faster cards, although it won’t work any faster. The PCIe comes in 3 versions (1.x, 2.0 and 3.0) A 1.1 x1 card will produce a data rate of 250 MBps, a 2.0×1 card will produce a data rate of 500 MBps and a 3.0 MBps x1 will produce a data rate of 1GBps. However, a 1.1×16 card (in a x16 card slot) will produce a data rate x16 which is 4GBps.
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Build Your Own Computer at Home

Posted on January 27, 2010. Filed under: Build Your Own Computer at Home |

Congratulations on deciding to build a computer on your own. It isn’t as difficult as you might think.  If you can do a puzzle, you can do it.

If you know of a good computer parts store, you should go there directly (a physical store means you can return, exchange or ask questions easier), or you can order parts (compare prices) online at www.newegg.com, www.amazon.com and www.crucial.com.

You may or may not be able to build your computer for less money than if you were to buy one pre-built, but the main advantage is that you can put the exact components in that you choose, rather then just taking anything that happens to be bundled at your local computer store. You will also become so familar with your computer that you will easily be able to upgrade components as technology progresses- rather than purchasing an all new computer- this will save a lot of money in the end.

To begin, you might want to take a look inside your old computer to just get a feel for what it will look like.

Next, you need to pick out your processor (CPU). Read this article to help you make an informed choice about your processor.

After your processor is chosen you need to choose your motherboard based on the requirements of your processor which will indicate the type of motherboard slot. The motherboard will be named by its processor slot or socket (see chart below).

Make sure your motherboard has all of the ports (plugs) you want- if you need a FireWire port or the newer USB 2.0 port make sure it is there before you buy it. If you want the newer Sata hard drive- make sure your motherboard supports it (the old kind uses IDE) . Note however, that regardless of the motherboard’s native support, additional ports of all kinds as well as a card to connect a Sata hard drive can always be added via aPCI or PCIe (express)  adapter card.

If you want PCIe (express) slots instead of PCI or AGP slots, make sure your motherboard has those. The best expansion slot for a video card is a PCI-Express 3.0 X32 slot. It is the fastest video card slot.

For memory (RAM), you may prefer the faster dual-channel kind or the faster DDR3 memory modules. Whatever you think you might want or need- make sure your motherboard has it or that you can purchase a card for it.

At this point you will need to obtain the

hard drive(s) (with at least 160-300GB capacity),

the power supply (make sure the power supply is the right voltage for your country or has a voltage switch- and also (important!) the amount of wattage you need (250-500-watts).  Higher wattage power supplies might be required for more advanced systems that employ power-hungry graphics or multiple disk drives, for example.)

the computer shell,

the correct RAM  (memory)

operating system software (probably Windows Vista or Windows 7)

a monitor,

printer,

keyboard and mouse,

speakers,

CD/DVD drive  (i.e. RW, RE, RAM or DL,  Blu-ray?)

adapter cards for graphics and sound (or you can use the default, but if you buy adapter cards make sure they are compatible with your motherboards expansion slots- i.e. PCIe, PCI, AGP- note: higher end sound cards have a FireWire port)

Ethernet card and modem (for Internet).

Please click on the links to get more information about each component.

At home, take everything out on a large table.

Look at the computer shell and see if you need to add or remove any metal around the holes in the back. If you do, it will be clear what to do and any metal pieces will come with it. Remove one side of the computer shell.

Make sure that the computer shell has at least one fan attached to the back- if not you will need to buy a fan. Your rear chassis fan(s) should always be installed in the same orientation as the power supply fan- the front chassis fan should be installed in the reverse orientation.

The next thing to do is to attach the processor (CPU) to the motherboard. Do not force it- it should go in smoothly and firmly. A large fan will sit on top of the processor and is essential. Open and read the full-on manual that comes in the box- no skimming. For CPU heat sinks- you should buy a small tube of thermal transfer compound or paste to help with the cooling of the CPU. Apply the compound the size of a grain of rice in the center of the heat sink, not on the CPU, then attach the heat sink to the CPU. If the compound has been pre-applied then don’t add more.

Now you can screw the motherboard onto the computer shell through the holes provided. The screws should come with it. Following this you can install the power supply. Everything is pretty straight-forward until it comes to plugging cables into the motherboard. However, you should receive good instructions- a large map of the motherboard with directions as to what plugs go where.

Next, you can screw in the CD/DVD drive (only 2 screws on each side are necessary) and then the  hard drive – consult the map as to what plugs go where.

After everything is plugged in you can add the memory (RAM cards) and the graphic adapter and sound cards in the appropriate slots.

After making sure the fan is plugged into the motherboard correctly, put the computer shell back together, and set up the computer. Plug in the computer, printer and monitor and attach the monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers and printer to the computer.

If you have purchased a graphics card make sure your monitor is plugged into it and not the onboard, integrated port on the motherboard.

Once the computer is switched on you must listen to make sure that you can hear the whirring of the fans- it is vital that the fans are working or your computer will destroy itself in a short period of time. At this point the BIOS system should start up on the screen and simply run without you having to do anything.

After it runs its course you can install your operating system- which will probably be some version of Windows. This full version operating system will come with two disks- one that is 32-bit and one that is 64-bit. Which one should you use?

Your processor box and information should say whether or not it is 32-bit or 64- bit compatible.

If your processor is only 32-bit compatible than you must install the 32-bit operating system. If your processor is 64-bit compatible then you have a choice. You can install either the 32-bit or the 64- bit. The following are some things to consider when making this choice:

In order for a 64-bit version of Windows to work, not only do you need a 64-bit processor you also need 64-bit versions of the software you want to use.

A 64-bit operating system is twice the size of a 32-bit operating system. This means that your computer can process twice as much simultaneous data with a 64-bit OS. It is like the difference between a 32-lane highway and a 64-lane highway. A 64-lane highway avoids those traffic bottlenecks that causes a computer to slow down.

The 64-bit version of Windows is faster because it can address more physical memory (RAM) and can avoid using the much slower hard drive (referred to as the swap file) for active memory needs.

The 32-bit limitation for RAM access is 4 GB. To take full advantage of a 64-bit system, you should install 8 GB or more of RAM. This will super-speed your computer. However, before installing a 64-bit operating system- you need to make sure your software, digital camera, printer, etc. are all 64 -bit compatible- if in doubt use the 32- bit operating system.

Now it is time to install Windows. Put it in the drive and let it go on its own until it gets to the part that asks you to partition the hard drive.  You can always change this later, but for now you should allocate at least 200-300 GB (about 200,00 – 300,000 MB) to drive C (your system hard drive) depending on the capacity of your hard drive. Later (optional) you can change, create, format and partition drives  (ie. A:/, E:/, F:/- whatever you choose).  Just follow the onscreen instructions for the rest of the set up of Windows.

Next you will need to install the drivers for your software and printer. These probably come with a CD, if not you might be able to download the driver from the Internet once you have that up and running.

Congratulations on Building Your Own Computer!

Reference Chart: Match your processor (CPU)  with the correct motherboard slot.

Slot 1     Pentium II, Pentium III, Celeron and all SECC and SECC2

Slot 2      Pentium II Xeon, Pentium III Xeon (sever) – replaced by Socket 370

Slot A     Early AMD Athlon, replaced by Socket A

Sockets 1,2,3,6     486 and Pentium Overdrive

Socket 4     Pentium 60/66, Pentium 60/66 Overdrive

Socket 5     Pentium 75-133, Pentium 75+ OverDrive, AMD K5

Socet 7       Pentium 75-200, Pentium 75+ OverDrive, Pentium MMX, AMD K6

Super Socket 7     AMD K6-2, K6-111

Socket 8      Pentium Pro, replaced by Slot 1

Socket 370     Plastic PGA processors (Pentium III, Celeron)

Socket 423     Early Pentium 4

Socket A (462)     AMD Athlon, Athlon SP, Athlon XP-M, Athlon MP, Thunderbirtd, Duron, Sempron

Socket 478     Pentium 4, Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, Celeron

Socket 479     Laptop Pentium M, Celeron M

Socket 563     AMD low-power movile Atholon XP-M

Socket 603     Intel Xenon

Socket 604     Intel Xeon with Micro Flip chip PGA (FCPGA) package

Socket 754     Athlon 64, Sempron, Turnion 64

Socket P     Core 2 Duo, Deleron M, and Pentium Dual Core

Socket T (LGA 775)     Pentium 4, Pentium D, Celeron D, Pentium Extreme Edition, Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Extreme, Core 2 Quad

Socket J (LGA 771)     Dual-Core Xeoon (Server version of LGA 775)

Socket B (LGA 1366)     Intel Core i7

Socket 939      Athlon 64, Athlon 64 FX, Athlon 64 X2, Opteron 100 series

Socket 940 Athlong 64 FX, Opteron (servers)

Socket F (1207)    Opteron multiprocessor system, replaces socket 940

Socket AM2     AMD singl-processor system, replaces socket 754 and 939

Socket AM3     Athlon X2, Sempron LE, Opteron (DDR3 capable)

Socket S1     AMD-based movile platforms, replaces socket 754

PAC418     Itanium

PAC611     Itanium2

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The Best Computer Storage Options —— (CD, DVD, Blu-ray, Flash, External Hard disk drives)

Posted on January 27, 2010. Filed under: The Best Computer Storage For You |

If you are wondering  what your current computer’s optical drive will support (CD, DVD and/or Blu-ray) or the computer you have been eyeing at the store….you need to look no further then the front of the computer.

Usually you will see logos over the optical disk drive that specify what the drive(s) can support.

Whether you want to understand what you have or are thinking of buying new storage solutions  you need to understand what the possibilities are.

CD-ROM (single sided) As most people know, when you buy pre-recorded music CDs or software – they are CD-ROMs.  They can not be erased or written to. A single sided CD can hold about 650MB-900MB (700MB are the most common).

Compact disc Recordable (CD-R) The CD-R capable drive with corresponding disc allows users to create (or burn) their own CD-ROMs. A user can write (record) to the CD only once. The CD-R  is rated by its transfer speed, so the higher the number the faster the write transfer to the disc- up to 52X.  A faster speed is preferable, so you don’t have to sit around forever waiting for your data to record onto the disc. A single sided CD can hold about 650MB-900MB (700MB are the most common).

Compact disc ReWritable (CD-RW) Just like the CD-R, the CD-RW capable  drive with corresponding disc allows users to create (or burn) their own CD-ROMs. The difference is that CD-RW discs can be erased and rewritten to multiple times. CD-RW discs are rated according to their write, rewrite and read times, so they would be rated like this: 52X-32X-52X which means it writes at 52X, rewrites at 32X and reads at 52X. A single sided CD can hold about 650MB-900MB (700MB are the most common).

DVD-ROM (single sided) When you rent or purchase a movie it is usually on a DVD-ROM.  It can not be written to or erased after purchase. A single sided, single layered DVD can hold about 4.7GB .

DVD-R/DVD+R This DVD can be labeled either DVD+R or DVD-R, most newer hard drives accept either kind and there is very little difference. These DVDs are purchased blank. They can be written to once and then treated like a DVD-ROM. A single sided, single layered DVD-R or DVD+R can hold about 4.7GB. A double sided (DS), single layered DVD-R can hold about 9.4 GB. A single sided, double layered (DL) DVD-R can hold about 8.54 GB. A double sided, double layered (DS, DL) DVD-R can hold about 17.1 GB.  Make sure your optical drive can accept the type of DVDs you want to use.

DVD-RW/DVD+RW This DVD can be labeled either DVD+RW or DVD-RW, most newer hard drives accept either kind and there is very little difference. These DVDs are purchased blank. They can be written to and erased multiple times; sessions usually must be closed for subsequent access to stored data. A single sided, single layered DVD-RW or DVD+RW can hold about 4.7GB.

DVD-RAM The disc is purchased blank. It can be written to and erased just like a hard drive disc; no session to close before subsequent access to stored data.

Blu-ray disc These discs are the same size as CDs and DVDs, but a single sided, single layered blu-ray disc has a huge capacity of 25GB.  It givers users a modern, high-definition picture. Some optical disc drives can play and burn writable blu-ray discs at fast transfer speeds. These disc drives are also compatible with DVDs and CDs.

Other storage media includes:

Hard disk drive This  is probably your C:/ drive and is used for permanent, long-term storage. Most computers can allow for 2 internal hard drives and some even more.

External hard disk drives More common for home users then adding an extra internal hard disk drive is purchasing an external (removable) hard disk drive that can hold a lot more information than other forms of storage. It is a good idea to have one of these in order to schedule regular back up sessions of your computer’s hard drive files. With an external hard drive and this free back up tool: SyncBack Freeware V3.2.20.0 you can schedule regular back ups of your hard drive. Remember that it is not if your hard drive will fail, it is when (you don’t want to lose all of those music files do you?).  Some external hard disk drives don’t require a power connection- the USB or FireWire attachment gives it all the power it needs, but the more powerful ones have a separate power attachment to plug into the wall. The next generation of External hard disks will use eSata instead of USB or FireWire connections.

Flash Memory can come in different forms: Secure Digital (SD) cards, memory cards, and USB thumb drives. All of these different versions of flash memory come in a small size, but can store a large amount of data.  SD cards are usually used in digital video recorders, digital cameras, and mobile phones. Thumb drives can be attached to key chains or held around your neck for easy mobility. The next generation of hard drives (called solid-state drives or SSD) will use the technology found in flash memory. USB thumb drives are compact and easy to use. They connect with your USB port and show up in Windows as a seperate drive letter. This allows for drag-and-drop copying and most of the other Explorer functions performed on standard drives. Note: If, for some reason, your thumb drive fails to acquire a new drive letter by itself you can assign one to it in the Disk Management utility. Please note that, like external hard drives,  USB thumb drives are warm-swappable. This means that they must be turned off inside Windows before being unplugged. You can do this by clicking on the Safely Remove Hardware icon in the right bottom corner of your screen.


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So You Want To Sound More Intelligent Than The Best Buy Salesman… (Finding the right computer cable)

Posted on January 22, 2010. Filed under: So You Want To Sound More Intelligent Than The Best Buy Salesman... (Finding the right computer cable) |

When you go  to Best Buy looking for a specific cable for your computer you can feel like an idiot with your lack of knowledge… here is help…

First, you should know that a port is a generic name for any hole(s) (sometimes with pins sticking out) on a computer into which a cable can be plugged.

The gender of a port is determined by whether or not it has pins sticking out or hole(s). As you would expect, the males have the pins, the females have the holes. The cable plug that fits in it will be the opposite gender.

Here are some common ports:

D-sub ports on the back of your computer are shaped like rectangles (technically trapezoids) with soft edges.

These include parallel (multiple lane data transfer) and serial (single lane data transfer) connections.

Parallel ports and cables (mainly for printers) use the DB-25F female port on the computer and the DB-25M male plug on the cable. The best parallel port is the enhanced IEEE 1284. It is is bidirectional, fast, and backward compatible. The IEEE 1284 is available in either the EPP (600KBps-1.5MBps) or ECP (2 MBps) ports. The cable must also have full support for IEEE 1284 in order for it to work to its potential.

Serial ports and cables are the standard connections. There is always at least one serial port on every computer. It has either a DE-9M male port with a DE-9F female plug or a DB-25M male port with a DB-25F female plug (max speed is 57Kbps ). These are often used for printers or modems. If you have a null modem serial cable you can hook together two computers that work as if connected with a modem, without one. Serial ports and cables also include USB and FireWire. They use increased signaling and frequencies to overcome their single-file-data-transfer slowness.

Universal Serial Bus (USB) are serial ports and cables and are used for everything nowadays from keyboards and mice to digital cameras and printers to external hard drives.  They usually have the typical Type A plug on one side and then either a standard mini-B (i.e. digital camera) or a Type B (i.e. printer) or some variation of the two plugs on the other side of the cable. The best USB port is called USB 2.0 and is labeled with the “High Speed USB” graphic. Not all USB cables work with the USB 2.0 port- Look for the cables that are transparent with a view to the silver metallic shilding within. The 2.0 USB can support data rates as high as 480Mbps- 40 times that of its predecessor.  Note: You can buy a hub for USBs if you need to where multiple connections (up to 127) can be plugged into one (like an extension cord, but for USBs)).

IEEE 1394 FireWire (400 Mbps transmission rate) is used primarily for getting digital video into a PC for editing, but it is also used for hard drives, optical drives, and digital video editing equipment. The next generation of FireWire (IEEE 1394b) promises to speed up to 800Mbps. The IEEE 1394c proposes to use the same infrastructure that supports Ethernet (your Internet or Network connection). FireWire can also connect computers together- networking them so that they can communicate directly with one another instead of communicating through a host computer.

Other ports and cables in the D-sub category include:

Game /MIDI ports are the DA-15 female port with a DA-15 male plug.

Video/ Monitor ports are the DE-15 female port with the DE-15 male plug. This is the standard Video Graphics the Array (VGA) analog port that can be used with CRT or LCD monitors.

However, a better port for the digital LCD monitor is the DVI port that are found on some LCD monitors.

To get a DVI port on your computer you need to purchase a DVI-enabled graphics card (video card) and DVI cable.   The traditional VGA  interface (port) was designed for use with analog CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors. It converts digital signals received from the graphics card into analog signals which it sends to the monitor. This conversion to analog creates minute distortions in the integrity of the signal. While necessary for CRT monitors, LCD displays are themselves digital. With a DVI interface on the video or graphics card, pure digital output can be achieved using DVI cables, resulting in a sharper picture.
The main types of DVI cables are:
DVI-D (Digital, for use with digital displays): These cables link DVI-graphics cards to digital displays. They transfer digital-to-digital signals, eliminate analog conversion and cannot accommodate CRT displays.
DVI-A (Analog, for use with analog displays): These DVI cables run from the DVI graphics card to an analog CRT display, converting digital-to-analog. Although some purity is lost in the conversion from digital to analog, using a DVI card and DVI-A cable with a CRT monitor delivers superior performance to using a VGA interface.
DVI-DL (Dual Link): DVI cables can be single link, or dual link. Dual link cables have the ability to provide greater speed, greater signal quality and extremely high resolutions by utilizing an additional “pipeline” when the first line has been maximized. This is especially relevant in very large-screen displays requiring high resolutions of over 2.3 million pixels. By comparison, most 17-inch to 19-inch digital displays have a native resolution of about 1.3 million pixels.
DVI-I (Integrated, for use with either display): These cables work as digital-to-digital or analog-to-analog, hence their designation as “integrated.” They do not convert digital-to-analog or analog-to-digital. These DVI cables can be used to connect a DVI graphics card to a digital display, or a DVI card’s VGA interface to an analog display (The picture below is a DVI-I port).

If your monitor has an HDMI (High-definition multimedia interface)  port you can connect to an HDMI-enabled video card or a DVI-enabled video card with an adapter. HDMI is an all digital technology that advances the work of DVI with higher motion-picture frame rates and digital audio on the same connector. It also supports remote control and dual-link capabilities. It is compatible with HD DVD and Blu-ray. It is not the same connector as the DVI, but they are electronically compatible. You will need to purchase a DVI to HDMI converter (adapter) to use this port with a DVI port on your PC. Make sure you get the correct DVI cable for the DVI end of the cable. HDMI are compatible with DVI-D and DVI-I cables through proper adapters, but unlike the others, only single-link is supported, and the audio and remote control features are lost (HMDI type A is standard, type B is superior and type C is for mobile devices).

Other ports include:

Infrared (IR) These ports are often found on laptops and PDAs- they are dark small squares of plastic on the front or side that receive and transfer data wirelessly. They are slow (less than 4Mbps) and can only be used within very short distances, but cool nonetheless.

RJ-11 (phone jack) This is the port you plug your telephone cable in to.

RJ-45 (Ethernet jack) This is the port for your network or Internet connection and looks like a giant phone jack.

Audio jacks Everyone knows about the small typical RCA audio jack. RCA jacks can transmit either audio or video information.

PS/2 (mini-Din 6) is the port for your keyboard and mouse if you don’t have USB ports for these. They are roundish and the keyboard port is usually purple and the mouse port usually green. The plugs are always PS/2 male mini-DIN 6 connectors.

That was your crash course in ports and cables. Now you can go in confidence to Best Buy…

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What Type of RAM (memory) Should I Buy For My Computer?

Posted on January 21, 2010. Filed under: What Type of RAM (memory) Should I Buy For My Computer? |

Memory is one of the most popular, easy and inexpensive ways to upgrade a computer. Within limits, it affords the greatest performance increase.

First you need to know how much memory you have already by clicking on Start>right clicking on My Computer or Computer> clicking Properties> From here you should be able to see how much RAM you have installed.

The next step is to open your computer and look at the RAM (memory module(s)  that are already installed. It is easy to identify- look for a long circuit board card(s) installed in expansion slot(s).  Count how many free slots you have that are identical in size and orientation to the one with the installed memory. Write down the exact kind of memory that is installed already.

When you are purchasing RAM for a memory upgrade, you need to pick the right kind.  You must match the RAM to the motherboard’s memory expansion slots.

If you know what motherboard you have you may not have to open your computer just yet- simply read the motherboard’s documentation in print or online to find out what kind and how much memory your computer will support.  If you don’t know what it is; however, it will require you to open your computer up and see what you have already got in there. You need to simply purchase the exact same kind- preferably, the same manufacturer. If you don’t have any installed yet, see if you can identify your motherboard by looking for the name of the motherboard stamped on it somewhere. Then google that name or code to get more information. You can also figure out what kind of RAM to buy by counting the number of pins in the expansion slot. See the descriptions below. However, you need to be careful with this because DDR2 and DDR3 DIMMS both have 240 pins, but they have a little notch that is in different positions and they are not cross compatible.

You can also download CPUZ: http://www.cpuid.com/cpuz.php . CPUZ is a small utility which gives information about your CPU (Processor), Cache, Mainboard, Memory, SPD etc.

You need to understand that at least one of your motherboard’s  memory banks (composed of one or more slots) have to be completely filled for your memory to work.

You should not install disparate memory (cards) modules (speeds, capacities and sides) in your memory slots on your motherboard- even two different manufacturers can cause problems. Get all the same kind.

Usually each RAM slot on the motherboard is a complete memory bank which is filled up when you put the correct card in, but sometimes a motherboard may combine one or more RAM slots into one bank. Remember that the bank has to be filled to work, so this may require you to fill one or all of the slots.

Usually RAM slots on your motherboard are black and close together, but if they are color-coded it means that you need to fill the matching colors together to complete a bank or it could be because you have dual-channel memory.

Dual-channel memory is when the memory controllers (on the motherboard) uses  two memory banks at the same time that work together synchronously, freeing up the bottleneck that can occur between the CPU and the memory making your computer faster. This requires pairs of memory to be installed at the same time.

Single-channel memory- which is more typical- only requires one card to fill the slot/bank and is slower.

Your motherboard documentation will explain what your motherboard’s needs are. It will list which type(s) of memory it supports as well as its maximum speeds and required pairings. If  your motherboard’s FSB is rated at a maximum speed of 533MHz, and you install memory that is rated at 300MHz, the memory will operate at only 300 MHz, if it works at all.

You also need to understand that RAM can be single-sided (SS) or double-sided. Double-sided RAM cards are equivalent to 2 single-sided cards. This has nothing to do with dual or single channel memory as just explained. It just means that double sided cards are useful because they free up space inside your computer. They don’t create more memory capacity. Your computer has a limit and you can’t push it by putting in a lot of double-sided RAM.

For example, lets say that your motherboard’s memory controller supports a total of four memory modules. If you are using double-sided memory cards, you can only use 2 cards (modules) even though you have 4 slots. Also, you can’t fill the 3 slots with single-sided cards (modules) and then try to add a double-sided card in the last slot! It will only take 4 single sided or 2 double-sided.

Motherboard documentation will tell you the quantity and type of memory cards (modules) that it can support.  If you try to get the latest and greatest RAM out there- be careful- your motherboard may not recognize them! It has to be the right kind.

You need to know that SDRAM is what people mean when they say RAM. SDRAM  means synchronous dynamic random access memory. All of the different types of RAM correspond with your motherboard’s expansion slots (which corresponds with its clock signal).  None of the memory module cards are cross- compatible. For example- you can’t use DDR3 memory in a motherboard that only accepts DDR- it won’t work physically or electronically!)

SDRAM includes the following (I am calculating this assuming a 64-bit processor (versus a 32-bit) because that is the most common):

SDR (single-data rate SDRAM) If the the motherboard’s clock signal is 100MHz than you would have an FSB of 100 and need an SDR SDRAM PC100 memory module (card) which produces 800 MBps (megabytes) output. If your FSB is 133MHz than you will need a PC 133 memory module card which produces 1067 MBps output.

DDR doubles the data rate, so if the clock signal is 100MHz then the FSB is advertised as 200MHz and you will need the DDR-200 SDRAM PC1600 memory modules which produce 1600MBps output. If the clock signal was 200MHz, then the FSB would be 400MHz and you will need the DDR-200 SDRAM PC 3200 memory module. You might have to round up. For example, a clock signal of 166MHz, with an FSB speed of 333MHz might lead you to look for a hard to find PC2667 memory module- instead of a more common PC2700 which will do just fine.

DDR2 quadruples the data rate, so if the clock signal is 100 MHz then the FSB is advertised as 400MHz and you will need the DDR2-400 SDRAM PC2-3200MBps memory modules. If the FSB advertised for your motherboard is higher than 1333MHz you can assume that you need to use DDR3 memory modules.

DDR3 doubles the quadruple data rate (x8), theoretically  if the clock signal is 100 MHz then the FSB is advertised as 800MHz and you will need the DDR3-PC3-6400, but actual clock speeds for DDR3 tend to be from 133MHz at their lowest to 250MHz.  So if you have a clock speed of 200, then the FSB is 1600 and you will need the DDR3-1600 SDRAM PC3-12800.

DRDRAM doubles the data rate (like DDR) and is proprietary memory. This means it is specific memory for specific motherboards. If you have a clock speed of 400 you will have an FSB of 800 and purchase PC800 DRDRAM. The name reflects the FSB speed instead of the output. Newer modules do reflect the output, rather the FSB in the name, such as the 32-bit RIMM 6400.

Your CPU (processor) is going to support one kind of memory packaging and it will be one of the following:

DIMM (memory cards (modules) that are used as a package for the SDRAM family: SDR, DDR (184 pins), DDR2 (240 pins), DDR3 (240 pins) None of them are cross-compatible.

RIMM carries DRDRAM and varies whether it is a 16-bit (184 pins) or 32-bit module (232 pins) . Dual-channel memory is required using either two 16-bit RIMMS or one 32-bit RIMM. RIMM modules must have every memory slot occupied or the computer won’t work. So if you have four slots and 2 are filled with 32-bit RIMMS and that is your max, you need to fill the other two with inexpensive blank cards.

SODIMM’s are for notebook or small computers. They include their own version of DDR, DDR2, etc. They are not interchangeable with the DIMM version.

MicroDIMM (64-bit data rate memory cards)  are 50% smaller than SODIMMs and are often used in laptop computers.

You should now be well equipped to understand what RAM to purchase for your computer.

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What Is The Best CPU (Computer Processor) ?

Posted on January 20, 2010. Filed under: What Is The Best CPU (Computer Processor)? |

Before you can know which PC you should purchase, you need to figure out what processor you want.

Everything else will depend upon this decision. The role of the CPU is to direct all of the activities of the computer.

Intel and AMD processors are the most popular for PCs.

It is important to note that your CPU (processor) has to match up with a specific motherboard.  This motherboard must have the specific slot or socket that is compatible with your chosen CPU. The motherboard and CPU together determine the overall performance of your computer and what kind and quality of graphics and memory cards you can utilize.

Let’s figure out what kind of processor you have right now. Once you know what you have you can better determine what you want or need in a new PC or upgrade. Click on Start and then Right-click on Computer or My Computer and select Properties. The General Tab will tell you what kind of processor you have.  To get more information click on Start> Help and Support and find System Information in Windows Vista or System Information>Tools>Advanced System Info in Windows XP. You can get even more information by typing in msinfo32.exe in the run command.

To find out more information you can download CPUZ: http://www.cpuid.com/cpuz.php

CPUZ is a small utility which gives information about your CPU (Processor), Cache, Mainboard, Memory, SPD etc.

When looking at processors you are going to see a lot of numbers in the description. Here is how to interpret a processors description (example)

Intel Pentium 4 3.2GHz LGA775 FSB800 HT L2-2MB

This means:

Model: Intel Pentium 4
Clock Speed: 3.2GHz (=3200MHz)
Requirements: Motherboard with an LGA 775 slot
Frontside Bus: 800 Mhz
Other Spec: HyperThreading technology
L2-Cache: 2MB (=2048 kB)
While a 3.2 GHz is a very fast clock speed, this processor might not be as fast as a processor with a 4 megabyte L2 cache, a 1066 Mhz front side bus and two cores, even if that processor runs at a slower clock speed.

Now lets learn about some CPU features before you actually look at the different processors-

1. Hyperthreading or Intel’s Hyper-threading Technology (HTT) will make the operating system think it has two processors because it allows multiple instructions operating on separate data at the same time. So the operating system can schedule two processes at the same time. If one process stalls the other process won’t be affected.

2. Multicore architecture makes the operating system and other software applications think there are many processors. Dual- Core and Quad-Core processors commonly have this feature. This allows for multiple activities to go on at the same time with relative ease.

3. Throttling reduces the operating frequency to let the computer cool off a bit and conserves the battery- it occurs when the CPU is in less demand or when the computer is being powered by a battery. It is common in mobile devices.

4. Microcode and multimedia extensions- an example of this is the Multimedia Extensions (MMX) microcode that is incorporated into most modern CPUs from Intel and others. It instructs the computer in multimedia processing, freeing up the processor to handle other things. This feature is basically a set of instructions that makes up various programs to help the processor perform better.

5. Cache is part of every processor and is important because it affects its speed. It is a very fast memory chip that holds data that is most likely to be requested next by the CPU. The cache on the CPU is called L1  and is smaller than the L2 which is located on the motherboard.  For the most part, the bigger your cache size, the better (faster).

6. Speed – this is the MHz or GHz that everyone brags about their processor, ” My Processor has 1 million GHz speed!”. The truth is that there can be a discrepancy between the advertised frequency and what you really get.  CPU speed is not a reliable indicator of CPU performance. There are many other factors involved, such as the size of your cache and how much and what kind of memory (RAM) you have . The FSB (Front Side Bus) speed is a better indicator then the advertised clock speed- the faster the data speed of the FSB, the better the performance of the CPU.

Now that we have gone over the basics you should look over some processors to contrast and compare.

I recommend: http://www.newegg.com/Store/SubCategory.aspx?SubCategory=343&name=Processors-Desktops

(Here are some descriptions of various Intel processors. Source: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/How_To_Assemble_A_Desktop_PC/Printable_version)

Intel Desktop CPUs:

Intel Celeron (Single and Dual core) The Celeron series is a range of CPUs for budget computers and typicallyfeature just one core.

Intel Pentium (Single and Dual core) The Pentium series was part of Intel’s most popular CPUs. Earlier Intels all featured just one core, although the newer Pentiums feature dual-core support, such as the Pentium D and the Pentium Dual-Core processors Intel Core 2 Duo (Dual core) An extremely popular brand of Intel chips, the Core 2 Duo processors all support dual-core technology while fitting in to Intel’s most common socket type, LGA 775 (Land Grid Array 775). Many new desktop computers will tend to use this CPU or another processor in the Core 2 series.

Intel Core 2 Quad (Quad core) The Core 2 Quad range of processors feature 4 processing cores and have been made for both gaming (although gamers should be aware of the lack of multi-core support for games released before 2006) and professional 3D graphics design, video editing, etc. Keep in mind that the hardware level the Core 2 Quad processors implement may cause bottlenecking, but usually most Core 2 Quad users would not have to worry about that.

Intel Core 2 Extreme (Dual and Quad core) This range of CPUs tends to be directed at enthusiasts and are basically improved versions of Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad processors.

Intel Xeon (Single, Dual, Quad, and Hexa core)- The Xeon brand was a brand of Intel x86 processors for workstations,servers, and embedded systems.

Intel Core i7 (Quad core) Intel’s newest line of consumer microprocessors, these CPUs are all have 4 cores and feature higher amounts of cache and Intel’s new “Turbo Boost” technology, which allows all cores to automatically clock themselves to appropriate frequencies in intervals of 133 MHz without stressing the processor and risking overheating. The drawbacks? it’s not compatible with Intel’s de facto socket standard of LGA 775. Rather, it utilizes a newer socket – LGA 1366. It also is only compatible with DDR3 memory and does not use a FSB (Front Side Bus), but rather uses an Intel QuickPath interface.

Newegg.com is the most popular computer store for building computers from scratch, but you can simply use it as a resource for information. Good luck!

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Understand Your Computer: Open it and Look Inside

Posted on January 20, 2010. Filed under: Understand Your Computer: Open it and Look Inside |

Go ahead and open up your computer- I am not talking about opening the box your computer came in and looking at your computers shell or at your keyboard or monitor.

I am talking about (unplugging it first!) unscrewing the shell and actually looking at the inner mechanics of your machine. (Hopefully you won’t have a snake living in there like the one in the photo.)

It is strange to me that there are so many people who have never even looked inside their computer. In order to truly understand it, you need to see it. So if your computer isn’t new (this might void a new warranty) open your computer up and look inside.

Note: Don’t open your laptop! This is for desktop computers only.

Try to determine what you have in there by understanding each component (hardware):

Motherboard (or system board): The motherboard is the large brown or green board  that lines the bottom or side of your computer and is covered with circuits and chips. The most important part on the motherboard is the CPU (example: I have an Intel Core 2 Dual Processor).  You will also see the expansion and memory slots (RAM) attached to the board.  These slots probably have memory and video graphic cards already inside the slots, some slots may be vacant. Sometimes the card strips are integrated (not-removable), but most of the time you can remove the cards (non-integrated).

You probably have an ATX, Micro ATX, NLX  or BTX motherboard. Most people have the ATX design. This is an improved design that runs cooler than pre-ATX designs, putting the processor and memory in line with the fan. The Micro ATX is similar, but smaller. It has few available slots and works with power supplies of lower wattages, but is compact for smaller computers. The NLX motherboard puts the explansion slots sideways on a special riser card to use the vertical space better. The BTX uses a heat sink ( a block of metal, with veins that sits on top of the CPU drawing out heat). This means less need for fans and a quieter computer. The BTX is a great motherboard (best!) design, but expensive! Can you tell what kind you have?

You will also see where your hard drive connects to the motherboard (sometimes there is space for 2 hard drives but you probably only have one installed right now) and you can see your CD/DVD drives and connections, notice where the fan connects, where the power supply connects, where the floppy drive connects (if you have one).   It might also be useful to locate the CMOS jumper button on your mother board (in case you need to clear the CMOS memory when an unknown password is keeping you out of the BIOS configuration utility). The BIOS is what is necessary to start your computer up, but I will talk more about that later.

The CPU (computer processor) is easy to identify. It has a fan or a heat sink or both on top of it and sits somewhere in the middle of the motherboard. If it weren’t for that fan the CPU would burn itself up in a few minutes.

Expansion slots are long plastic slots for cards of various functions. You will see the slots for your memory cards (RAM) and other adapter card (expansion card) slots (PCI, ISA). For your video graphics you may have PCI slots and AGP slots, or if your computer is newer you will have the PCIe (PCI Express) slots which have replaced the other two (if you still have the old ISA slots it might be time to get a new computer). Read more about expansion cards and slots here.

You might see a short plastic AMR slot for removable modem and analog audio cards if they aren’t already integrated into your board, but the slot has  probably been replaced by a CNR slot for audio/modem enhancement cards (example: for adding Dolby Digital Surround). If you don’t want the CNR enhancements the slot can be used as a PCI slot.

RAM slots (Memory slots) are the ones most people know about already. These slots are usually black or color-coded and close together. Pairs of slots must be filled together for best performance or to work. I will talk more about RAM later. While your computer is open- take note of the type of RAM you have installed in there in case you want to buy more (write it down).

Your computer’s ports are the holes (with or without pins) in the back of the computer where your keyboard, speakers, monitor, etc.  plug in. Take note of where and how your keyboard and mouse connect to your computer, your USB connector slots, your audio jacks, and your MIDI/game  port connector (if you have one). Look at the shape of the port slot and the shape of the connectors that fits there.

Thats all for now- you can put your computer back together and get ready to learn some more as we go along.  Remember to never open your computer while it is still plugged in!

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