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Computer Basics

10 - What You See: Intro

If you've gone through the previous lessons, you know a lot about
computers.
But are you ready to be a Computer User now?

What do you really need to know to operate and manage a computer?

[If you are taking this course at a school, what your teacher will talk
about here is the specifics of how to use the classroom's computers. You need to know the
special characteristics of the hardware, the network, and the software. You need to know how
to get to the software used in the hands-on part of the course and how to print and save your
work. ]

Each of you reading this has a different hardware setup and different software. There is no way
for me to give you instructions specific to what you have. So this lesson will have to stick to
common characteristics and general principles. Actually, this may be even better since over
time you will no doubt have to deal with different systems. You'll need to know more than just
what works for one particular setup. Plus, most systems are updated rather frequently. So, all
in all, you may learn more about the actual operating of computer systems in this lesson than
some students do in a live class! Congratulations.

We'll start looking now at the practical matters:

What You See - How the computer's parts all hook together.
Hands On! - Working with files and networks
On Your Own - Buying and managing your own computer

Along the way you'll get some pointers, both of the "Tips and Tricks" variety and the "Watch
Out!" type.

Indicates a user tip, something that may be useful to know.

Indicates a warning about potential hazards.

10 - What You See: On the Front

When you look at the front of your computer, you will probably see something a little different
from the diagram to the left. There are a huge number of variations on the market. However,
certain features are either standard or at least very common. Check out the marked parts by
clicking on them.

To see the lesson menu, click on "Lesson Menu" in the logo above.
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10 - What You See: On the Back

External devices connect to the computer on the back. The diagram on the left shows the most
common connections. The arrangement of these is quite varied from machine to machine. The
name-brand computers often have unique designs with special connectors for the peripherals
that are sold with the computer. There is a standard color scheme for ports and connectors, but
not all manufacturers used it.

Connectors come in two types: male and female. The male has pins while the female has holes.

Male Female

Back of Computer

10 - What You See: On the Inside

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While you may not often tinker with the insides of your computer, it is a good idea to know a
little about what it is like in there. The diagram at the left shows a basic arrangement.
(This tower case is taller than normal and has wide feet for balance.)

The first task is to remove the case so we can see what's inside.

Then you can click on the inside parts for a description, which will show up right here.

Removing the Case

To look at the inside of your computer, you must first remove the outer casing.

First unplug everything from the back. Then remove the 4 or more screws on the back that hold
the case on. There are lots of other screws visible, so be careful to get just the ones that hold the
case together.

[Some cases do not have screws. The side panels slide and then lift off. It can be hard to tell
what slides which way.]

You'll likely need a Phillips-head screwdriver for this. That's the kind with the X-shaped tip.
Put the screws where you can find them again when you're done and where you won't step or
kneel on one. They do hurt!

Once the screws are out, the case should slide off. Some cases need to be lifted up in the back a
little so you can pull a lip loose at the front edge.

Now you can look around inside.


Ground yourself by touching something metal like the power supply or metal parts of the

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case before touching ANYTHING inside the computer. Static electricity kills computer parts!!!
Some people wear a special wristband to discharge static as they work on computers.

Computer Basics
10 - What You See: Power Protection

It is obvious from the number of cables running around that there is a


lot of electricity involved in a computer system. The power in electrical
lines is not as steady as you might think. It varies as demand peaks and
wanes, as lightning strikes near power lines, as equipment is brought on
line or taken off.

This exposes the system to three kinds of damage:

Fried Parts A power spike is a huge jump that lasts for fractions of a second.
One large spike can destroy the CPU and other chips on the motherboard.

To block these fluctuations, a computer and all it's accessories should be


plugged into a surge protector. These come with different protection levels
for different loads, and so different prices. You'll have to decide how much
protection you are willing to pay for.

Not all devices that look alike actually are alike. Power outlet strips look
very much like the strip-style surge protectors but give no surge protection at
all. They are just a way to connect multiple devices to a single wall outlet.

Under-the-monitor styles also can be merely a convenient way to plug


everything in, with no protection. So check carefully that you are buying what
you think you are buying!

Accelerated A power surge sends more electricity through the line than normal for
Aging several seconds. A brownout is a period of lower voltage. It causes lights to
dim but it may not be low enough for devices to shut down.
When the voltage fluctuates in your power line, over time the repeated
small peaks and dips shorten the life span for computer parts. They wear out
sooner. So, in addition to blocking high voltages, you need the ability to
smooth out these variations by pumping up the voltage when it drops and

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stepping it down when it's too high. This is called conditioning.

Most protection devices also have noise filters to remove the interference
caused by the magnetic fields of nearby devices. You may have seen the
speckles and lines in a TV picture when a vacuum cleaner or refrigerator
motor starts up. All electrical devices have magnetic fields. Electric motors,
sound speakers, and low-flying airplanes are among the worst offenders at
generating interference.

Dead Data If the voltage drops too low, the computer shuts down
without warning. A voltage drop that makes your lights
blink and the TV flicker can make the computer stop in
its tracks.
All unsaved changes to your documents and data are
lost. You can actually damage, or corrupt, files this way.
If the computer was in the act of saving data to the hard
drive, the hard drive may be ruined.

You need a guaranteed source of power. An Uninterruptible Power


Supply (UPS) is a combination of surge protector, power line conditioner,
and battery power supply.

The least expensive ones will power your computer for 5 or 10 minutes. So in
a power outage you have the time to save your work and close everything
down properly. A much more expensive UPS setup can keep your network
running all day when the power is completely out. If there is a brownout, the
UPS cuts on instantly and keeps the computer running as if nothing had
happened. When the power is stable again, it cuts itself off.

You must plug all the computer's devices into the back of the UPS,
including the phone line going to your modem. Otherwise you are leaving a
back door open for disaster to walk

Computer Basics
10 - What You See: Quiz

For each question, click on the radio button beside your answer. You will be
notified immediately whether your choice is correct or not. Double-clicking may
work better in some browsers.

1. Pushing the Reset button on the front of a computer will _____.

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cold boot the computer

warm boot the computer

reset the computer to the original settings

nothing as this feature is outmoded

2. A parallel port is most often used by a ______.

printer

mouse

monitor

external storage devices

3. To remove static before touching the inside of a computer, you should _____.

touch something metal

touch something wooden

wash your hands

unplug the computer

4. A device that provides emergency power to your computer, conditions the voltage, and protects
against powers surges is called a _____.

PSU = Power Supply Unit

USP = Universal Surge Protector

UPPS = Universal Power Protection and Supply

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UPS = Uninterruptible Power Supply

5. The drive that receives a diskette is the _____ drive.

floppy

CD-ROM

zip

hard

6. The computer must be off to connect or disconnect a _____ port.

parallel

serial

USB

PS/2

7. The cable connecting the hard drive to the motherboard _____.

is a ribbon cable

has a single prong

has angles sides to prevent plugging in upside down.

is color-coded to prevent misconnection

8. A period of low voltage on your electric power lines is a _____.

power surge

power spike

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blackout

brownout

9. A device that is connected to the motherboard is _____.

called an external device

called an adjunct device

must connect using ribbon cable

called a peripheral device

10. The device that converts power from a wall outlet to the type that the computer needs is the _____

power source

power converter

power supply

UPS

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