Understanding Your Laptop

Understanding your Laptop (RAM, adapter cards, keyboard, etc.)

Posted on February 12, 2010. Filed under: Understanding Your Laptop |

There are two common types of laptop memory (RAM) packages: SODIMM and MicroDIMM. To see what kind of memory your laptop uses, check either the manual or the manufacturer’s website of your motherboard.

The most common type of memory for laptops is the SODIMM. Just like in desktop computers, you need to know whether your laptop accepts SDRAM (144 pin), DDR(200 pin), DDR2(200 pin), or DDR3 (204 pin). You can purchase these in 32 or 64-bit options. Check out if you have a 32 or 64 bit operating system by typing msinfo32 in your run box. Look for what it says under system type and processor. x86 means 32-bit and x64 means 64 bit. DDR2 and DDR3 can be purchased with 4GB which is on par with desktop DIMMS. A good place to browse for memory is http://www.crucial.com.

The MicroDIMM is newer then the SODIMM. It is smaller and designed for the ultralight and portable subnotebook style of computer. This also comes in DDR and DDR2, etc.

You can expand the capabilities of a laptop (or less commonly in a PC) by purchasing a PC card (CardBus). It supports USB 1.1 and PCI only. It uses Socket Services and Card Services software.PC cards come in the following types:

Type I cards are most commonly used for memory cards (3.3 mm thick).
Type II cards (most common) are mostly used for modems and LAN adapters, but also for sound cards, SCSI controllers and other devices (5mm thick).

You can also purchase ExpressCards to support faster versions of technologies; such as Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire (IEEE 1394b, and eSATA). The standard ExpressCard is known as ExpressCard\34. The ExpressCard\54 supports more applications such as card readers and CompactFlash readers- it also has better heat distribution. Expresscards use USB 2.0 and PCIe (express).

I wrote before about PCI and PCIe slots inside desktops, some laptops have mini PCI slots and/or mini PCIe slots. These cards reside internally in the laptop with their connection ports lining up with the edge of the outside case. Mini PCI cards function just like the PCI version 2.2 which is a 32-bit, 33MHz bus connection. Common Mini PCI cards include, sound, modems, networking, SCSI, ATA and SATA controllers. Common mini PCIe cards are equivalent to ExpressCards and can suppport USB 2.0 and PCIex1 functionality.

Since laptops are so small, many people use external (portable) floppy and/or optical drives (CD/DVD/Blu-ray). These are often attached through a USB port. External optical drive burners are great for backing up files on laptops.

Laptop keyboards can be a little more difficult to use then a standard keyboard due to their small size. Also, some laptop keys are consolidated into special multifunction keys (usually labeled Fn). You press and hold this down and then click on a key to change its function. It is also possible to plug in an external, regular sized keyboard.

Some laptops have a seperate mouse connection, but they also include another way to provide this input. One way is a trackball – you move the ball around with your thumb or finger. Another option is a point stick (or Touchpoint), released with the IBM ThinkPad which uses a small rubber stick to use like a touchscreen giving directions to the computer pointer (curser). Point sticks have some problems like the curser drifting when not in use, easily getting lost or becoming damaged. With the introduction of the Tablet PC, touchscreens are becoming more popular. This is the method used in the new Ipod touches and the Ipad as well.

To learn how to prolong the life of your laptop battery click here.

For help deciding between a laptop or desktop computer click here.

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