A+ Certification: Part 1 - Computer Hardware, System Boards, and Storage Devices by Jeremy Reis on Wednesday, June 22, 2005 Course

Overview The A+ Hardware Service Technician exam will cover in detail the different hardware components and peripheral components you may experience in a normal technician’s daily job. Though you may have extensive experience with troubleshooting computer problems or issues, there are many “details” that the exam covers which you may not have experienced yet or may need to refresh your knowledge on. This courses will give a broad overview of computer hardware, provide detailed information into the System Board, and provide a detailed look into storage devices. Throughout the course, you may be stopped at different points to be given a "pop" quiz about details in the section you have just learned. You can skip these quizzes and return to them later if you wish to continue studying. In addition, the links on the right can lead you to more study destinations for the exams. Throughout the exam you may see icons which indicate something you need to know for the exam or something from the author's life experience:

When you see this icon, study the topic thoroughly, there is material in this section with specific questions on the exam.

Indicates an example from the Author's experience in the IT world. Course Outline I. Introduction to the Computer Hardware, System Boards, and Storage Devices Course Section 1 II. Types of Computers III. PDAs IV. Types of PC Cases V. Safety and Care and ESD VI. Parts of a PC

Section 1 Review Section 2 VII. System Board Overview VIII. Expansion Bus Section 2 Review Section 3 IX. Storage Devices X. SCSI XI. Preparing Your Hard Drive XII. CD-ROMs XIII. Tape Backup Devices XIV. Floppy Drives

ype of Computers There are four basic types of computers: PC (Personal Computer), Workstations, Laptops, Servers. The PC, or Personal Computer, is the most common category of computers. This category would include your home PCs and most of your business class PCs. A workstation is a breed of computer which is a high performance version of the PC. Workstation manufacturers took many of the high speed and high availability components normally found in servers and created a workstation PC which is a high performance version of the original. Throughout the rest of this tutorial, you will find the word PC and the word workstation used interchangeably, while technically there is a difference, we will begin using “workstation” now as a word to describe a PC since the two are in the same basic category.

Laptops are portable computers. Originally, laptops were large, heavy, short battery life beasts. Nowadays, laptops (also referred to as notebooks) are light, powerful, have good battery life, and serve as a desktop replacement for many individuals (including myself). A server is a machine developed to allow for file or print serving, application hosting, or some other task usually involving many simultaneous connections. Common features of servers include redundancy, multiple drives, large amounts of memory, multiple pro cessors.

PDAs A Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) is a commonplace item in many businesses and homes. Spurred by the success of Palm Pilots, the PDA industry has had tremendous growth in the past few years. A PDA is a device which allows an individual to keep their notes, email, schedule, small documents, and other information with them at all times. It is a useful device for record keeping and usually syncs with your computer to allow your contact list and emails to be "in sync" with each other in your handheld and normal computers. Palm Pilots are the most prevalent PDAs on the market, with a market share of about 30%. Most PDAs are based on either the Palm operating system or the Microsoft PocketPC operating system. Palm Pilots present an interesting challenge to IT staff who are trying to support it. At one firm I worked at, we went through several different policies in regards to supporting PDAs. Originally, we would not support any PDA, though if a member of management were to purchase one, we would support them individually. Eventually, we decided on a standard and if anyone were to buy the standard PDA we would support it. This allowed us to designate an expert (which coincidentally happened to be me) on PDAs and be able to develop support procedures for the specific PDA we would support.

Types of PCs
There are several types of Personal Computers you should be aware of: small form factor, minitower, midtower, full tower, desktop.

A small form factor is the smallest of the non-portable PCs. Typically lacking in many expansion options, SFF computers are useful for situations which require the smallest desktop style PC possible. A minitower PC is a common household and business PC. It usually has some expansion slots available (1-3) and one hard drive slot available. A typical minitower PC has all of the ports built in to allow for more expansion cards. A midtower PC is also a common business class machine. A midtower has more expansion room than a typical minitower machine. A full tower has the most expansion room and usually several hard drive bays open for additional storage drives. A desktop has probably been the most popular type of machine over the years. A typical desktop machine is designed to lay flat on a desk or stand and contains 1-3 additional drive bays and 2-7 additional expansion slots available.

Small Form Factor Computer

Minitower Computer

Midtower Computer

Full Size Tower

Safety and Care
Before we launch into a lengthy tutorial on the insides of a computer we should discuss care and safety when working inside a computer. I know you’re itching to jump right in and start taking apart a computer at your desk but without the right precautions, you can easily break your computer or worse, hurt yourself. Luckily for you – not only do you get to learn about safety and the precautions to take when dealing with electronic equipment – but you also get to learn something useful as these items are a portion of the CompTIA hardware service technician exam. Electro-Static Discharge

Electro-static discharge can cause damage to electronic components as you work on them. Note: ESD may be in several questions on the exam. ESD can be caused by static electricity your body picks up as you move, rub against your clothing, or can be picked up by things you touch.

While working on a computer or any components, you should always wear an ESD wrist strap which grounds you. Also, it is recommended that you do not wear synthetic clothing. Synthetic clothing can cause a buildup of static electricity as your body rubs against it. You should also always touch the case of the computer prior to touching components inside, this will help to ground you. The ESD wrist strap should not be used when working on monitors though, the stored voltage can kill you. When shipping or storing electronic components, you should send them in antistatic bags. Antistatic bags do not conduct electricity and can be reused. Generally speaking, if you are disassembling computers, the environment you are in should be relatively dust free. It is also not recommended you work on electronic devices in a room which is carpeted.

Parts of a PC
There are basic parts common to all PCs. Though they may look different, most of these components function similarly among different brands, shapes, and sizes of computers. This is a broad overview of the elements that makeup a PC, the System Architecture course goes into much greater detail. The Case Typically, there are 5 types of cases for computers (from smallest to largest): small form factor, minitower, midtower, desktop, full tower. Depending on your use for the computer, different sizes serve different needs. A full tower has the advantage of a large amount of expansion space. A small form factor, on the other hand, does not have much expansion room, but does fit quite nicely in a small office or area. The case is built to hold all of the components of a computer and protect from the normal elements inside an office. If you pour coffee into your computer, the case will not be able to protect it all that much, though from the normal every day occurrences, a case does

provide some protection. A case also is developed to allow for easy cooling of the devices inside. Many elements of a computer become extremely hot when operating and a case must be designed to handle airflow effectively to reduce the temperature of its components. The Power Supply The power supply has the responsibility of converting power and providing it to the components in the computer. The power supply converts 110 volt AC into four voltages: +5 volts DC, -5 volts DC, +12 volts DC, -12 volts DC (ground). The Motherboard The Motherboard, sometimes referred to as the system board or main board, is the central piece of all computers. The motherboard contains the processor, the RAM, and the expansion devices. Storage Devices A computer is not an effective tool if it doesn’t have a method to run software or store data. Storage devices come in all shapes, sizes, and types. The purpose for a storage device is to store and retrieve data. Expansion Cards Expansion cards allow you to expand the computer to add peripherals, communication devices, or other functionality. Monitor/Display The monitor or display device is used to view the software which is running on the computer. CRT – Cathode Ray Tube. Most monitors built over the years are CRT monitors. CRT is the standard in most televisions as well. LCD – Liquid Crystal Display. LCD monitors have been widely used in laptops and notebooks. Due to their high cost, they have mostly stayed off the desktop until recently. With dropping LCD costs, more people are moving to LCD monitors with the advantages of smaller occupied space, lower power requirements, and what many believe is a higher quality picture (or possibly just easier on the eyes).

After studying this section, you should:

Understand the different types of computers. The difference between a laptop, desktop, and server. Understand what a PDA is. Define the purpose of a PDA and define what PDA represents (Personal Digital Assistant). Understand the different types of PCs. Understand the general differences between a small form factor, a minitower, midtower, full tower, and desktop computer. Understand basic safety procedures when working with electronic components. Understand what ESD is and what device you should use to protect yourself. Understand the basic parts of PCs. A general understanding of the components which are in a PC.

If there is a section you feel you need more studying in, feel free to click on the next to the topic to return and reread that section.

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System Board Overview
The system board, also referred to as the “main board” or “motherboard” contains all of the elements that are central to the operation of the computer including the CPU, expansion slots, memory, and components which connect to other devices. System Board Components The CPU (Central Processing Unit) is the central chip to the operation of the computer. The CPU processes the instructions from the software. A CPU can be from several different manufacturers, examples include a Pentium II, an AMD Athlon, or a PowerPC. CPU speeds are measured in Megahertz. The higher the Megahertz, the faster the chip (generally speaking, CPUs are also measured in how many instructions per second it can perform and so a chip with a lower MHz could work much faster than one with a higher MHz, though on the Intel-compatible side of computing, the higher the

MHz number, the faster the chip). For example, a Pentium III running at 800 MHz is faster than a Pentium III running at 700 MHz. Newer chips are measured in GHz (Gigahertz), which is simply 1000 MHz. A 1.2 GHz chip is 1,200 MHz. The expansion bus allows the computer to be upgraded using different modules. Expansion buses are made up with copper slots where a circuit board can plug into it. The motherboard contains a bus clock which controls how fast information flows to the expansion boards and back. Memory, or more specifically RAM (Random Access Memory), is the place for storages of software, computer instructions, and operations while the computer is operating. RAM is a very fast storage location; though it loses all of its information with a loss of power.

he System Board
The System Board, or Motherboard, is discussed in great detail in the System Architecture course. For the exam, you need to know the general layout of a motherboard. Become familiar with the general layout of the system board. Here is an example of a motherboard with common components referenced:

A+ Certification: Computer Hardware, System Boards, and Storage Devices by Jeremy Reis on Wednesday, June 29, 2005 8-bit The 8-bit expansion bus operates at a maximum of 4.77 MHz (approx. 5 MHz), has eight interrupts, four DMA Channels, and one large 62 slot card.

8-bit Bus
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ISA Bus The ISA (Industry Standard Architecture) bus is a 16-bit bus with a card slightly larger than the 8-bit. The 16-bit cards have an extra piece extending beyond the 8-bit card length. This bus has 16 interrupts and 8 DMA channels. ISA also runs at 8 MHz. ISA buses are backwards compatible with the 8-bit cards.

ISA Bus
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MCA Bus The MCA (Micro Channel Architecture) bus was a proprietary bus designed by IBM. It is a 16-bit or 32-bit bus and it’s clock speed is 10 MHz. It also offered software configuration instead of dip switches and jumper settings. EISA EISA (Extended ISA) bus borrowed a lot of features from the MCA bus and expanded on them. It has a 32-bit bus and has more I/O addresses (Input/Output addresses or memory addresses). It also still uses the 8 MHz of the ISA bus to allow for backwards compatibility.

EISA Bus
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VLBus
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Vesa Local Bus

The VESA Local Bus (VLB) is a local bus type, meaning it is a bus which runs at the same speed as the processor. Typically, it is used for video to gain the advantage of the high speed of transfer of the processor. It is backwards compatible with the ISA, but has an extra slot to make it 32-bits.

PCI Bus PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) Bus is the newest and most advantageous type of all of the buses. It supports both 32-bit and 64-bit data paths to be compatible with 486 and Pentium class processors. PCI is also processor independent, allowing it to operate in Macintosh, PC, and RISC computers. PCI runs at 33 MHz and has a maximum throughput of 256 megabytes per second.

PCI Bus
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AGP Bus AGP, or Accelerated Graphics Port, is a bus technology developed by Intel to support high speed video cards. The AGP interface uses the RAM in your computer to generate 3-D images and video very quickly.

AGP Bus
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PCMCIA Bus PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card Association) is the last type of bus we will discuss. It is mainly used in laptops or other small computers and in some digital cameras. PCMCIA comes in three types, cleverly called Type I, Type II, and Type III. Type I cards are 3.3 mm thick. Type II cards are the most common type and are 5 mm thick. Type III cards are mainly used for hard drives and are 10.5 mm thick. A+ Certification: Computer Hardware, System Boards, and Storage Devices

by Jeremy Reis on Wednesday, June 29, 2005 Summary of Expansion Busses Bus Type 8-bit ISA MCA EISA VESA Local PCI PCMCIA Card Bus Size 8-bit 16-bit 16-bit or 32-bit 32-bit 32-bit 64-bit 16-bit Speed (MHz) 4.77 8 (10 in turbo mode) 10 8 Processor Speed Processor Speed 33 MHz

After studying this section you should:
Understand the components on the system board. Understand what the CPU is, what an expansion bus is, and what memory is. Understand the different expansion bus types. Understand the differences between 8-bit, ISA, MCA, EISA, VLBus, PCI, AGP and PCMCIA. Understand the interrupts and DMA in relation to expansion busses. Understand what an interrupt is and what DMA allows a device to do.

A+ Certification: Computer Hardware, System Boards, and Storage Devices by Jeremy Reis on Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Storage Devices
There are several types of storage devices you should be aware of for the exam. Hard Drives

There are three main types of hard drives (more specifically hard drive connection types): IDE, EIDE, and SCSI. IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) is the original standard for hard drives for PCs. IDE is the interface between the bus and the hard drive, based on the ISA 16-bit bus. Originally, it was designed as a separate interface, but currently most computers support EIDE with a built-in interface on the motherboard. A standard IDE drive supports up to 528 MB of space. The EIDE (Enhanced IDE) interface was developed to overcome the 528 MB limit on hard drive size. The most common type of connector, EIDE also supports faster access, DMA, AT Attachment Packet Interface (ATAPI) for CD-ROM and tape drives, and support for additional drives. EIDE can be added as an expansion board to older systems. Most newer systems come with EIDE functionality built-in to the motherboard.

EIDE Connector
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A+ Certification: Computer Hardware, System Boards, and Storage Devices by Jeremy Reis on Wednesday, June 29, 2005 SCSI (Small Computer Systems Interface) is another standard for hard drive connection. SCSI also has a variety of other peripherals and storage devices which can take advantage of it. SCSI comes in three varieties: SCSI 1, SCSI 2, and SCSI 3. SCSI 1 supports up to 8 devices, 1 of which is required to be the controller card (so you can add 7 additional devices to the (Click picture for larger version in controller). Unlike normal IDE or EIDE systems, most SCSI a new window) devices come in internal or external varieties and most cards can support both. SCSI 2 (also known as Ultra-2), which is more popular than SCSI 1, supports up to 16 devices (one of which has to be the adapter card or controller) and supports a higher transfer speed. SCSI 3 is sometimes referred to as Ultra-3 SCSI. Ultra-3 SCSI increases the throughput rate of the interface from 80 Mbps to 160 Mbps. The new standard for this transfer rate is referred to as Ultra160/M. SCSI 3 Cable

SCSI Type

Max Cable Length (meters) 6 6

Max Speed (MBps) 5 5-10

Max Number of Devices 8 8 or 16

SCSI-1 SCSI-2

Fast SCSI-2 Wide SCSI-2 Fast Wide SCSI-2 Ultra SCSI-3, 8-bit Ultra SCSI-3, 16-bit Ultra-2 SCSI Wide Ultra-2 SCSI Ultra-3 (Ultra160/m) SCSI

3 3 3 1.5 1.5 12 12 12

10-20 20 20 20 40 40 80 160

8 16 16 8 16 8 16 16

A SCSI chain (all of devices on a controller) must have a terminator at both ends. The SCSI card often has a built-in terminator and a lot of present day SCSI devices also have a switchable termination on the drive or device. SCSI drives are typically more expensive than EIDE drives, but have higher access speed and allow for more devices on one controller.

SCSI 2 Port
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SCSI 2 Cable
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SCSI Terminator
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Internal SCSI Cable
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CD-ROMs CD-ROM (Compact Disc – Read Only Memory) was developed by Sony and Phillips. It has a standard capacity of 650 Megabytes of information and is burned onto a disc using laser light. CDs have expanded over the years and a typical CDROM today can hold 700 MBs of information or 80 minutes of music. Most typical home machines and some business-class PCs come with a CD-R or CD-RW drive. A CD-R drive allows you to write once to a CD-R or CD-RW disc. A CD-RW drive allows you to write once to a CD-R disc or many times to a CD-RW disc.

There are many advantages to using CD-Rs and CD-RWs to store data or backup data. Cost per megabyte is very cheap on CD-Rs, most for pennies per megabyte. In addition, CD media is fairly long lasting if you care for it. CD media can become unreadable if you leave discs in sun or heat for too long or if they become scratched. CDFS (Compact Disk File System) is the type of filing system CD-ROMs use to store information.

Tape Backup Devices
Typical backup drives connect via the parallel port, SCSI, ATAPI, or USB ports. There are several different competing tape formats you should be aware of. QIC (Quarter Inch Format) is a format which either comes in a 3.5” or a 5.25” hard plastic case. It can store from 40 Mb to 25 GB worth of data. Linear Tape-Open (LTO) is an open standard format developed by IBM, HewlettPackard, and Seagate. LTO was developed to provide a standard among normally proprietary tape backup systems. LTO format tapes come in a variety of sizes and types. The positive of tape is a large amount of storage for a low reusable cost. The negatives of a tape are its access time – a tape starts at the beginning and moves to the spot where the data is when retrieving information. Tape devices are typically only used for backup situations.

Floppy Drives
In early home PCs, often the floppy drive was the only way to store and retrieve data (though in my first computer – an Atari – I had a tape cassette recorder which stored and retrieved somewhere in the neighborhood of 16K of a normal audio cassette). Over the years, the floppy drive has stayed with us, though more as a leftover from the early days than anything else. A typical system with a floppy drive is a 3.5” drive which holds 1.44 MB.

A+ Certification: Part 2 - Hardware: System Architecture by Jeremy Reis on Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Course Overview
The A+ Hardware Service Technician exam will cover in detail the different hardware components and peripheral components you may experience in a normal technician’s daily job. Though you may have extensive experience with troubleshooting computer problems or issues, there are many “details” that the exam covers which you may not have experienced yet or may need to refresh your knowledge on. This courses will give a detailed look into the System Architecture of a computer system. Throughout the exam you may see icons which indicate something you need to know for the exam or something from the author's life experience:

When you see this icon, study the topic thoroughly, there is material in this section with specific questions on the exam.

Indicates an example from the Author's experience in the IT world. Course Outline I. Introduction to the System Architecture Course Section 1 II. System Architecture Overview III. Components of a Motherboard IV. The CPU V. Characteristics of a CPU VI. CPU Sockets Section 1 Review Section 2 VII. BIOS & CMOS VIII. Types of Memory IX. Memory Packages

X. RAM's Integral Part of the Computer System Section 2 Review Section 3 XI. IRQs XII. DMA Channels XIII. Common I/O Addresses XIV. COM Port Addresses Section 3 Review Section 4 XV. Cable Connections XVI. Serial vs. Parallel XVII. Computer Port Identification

General System Architecture Overview
System Architecture is a broad topic in regards to computers. There are many components which make up a computer. Each one is necessary to the operation of the computer, which makes each one important in terms of troubleshooting issues and difficulties. At the heart of the computer is the motherboard and its heart the central processing unit (CPU). The CPU is responsible for most of the processing of software applications, directing of data traffic inside the computer, and other operations of the computer. An example of a CPU is a Pentium III. The computer also needs to allow its user to change its base settings and store those settings. Its BIOS (Basic Input Output System) contains the base level instructions for the computer and has a setup program to change any user-defined settings such as hard drive type, power management settings, or IRQ settings. The BIOS stores its data in the CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor). The motherboard/system board also contains RAM (Random Access Memory). RAM is used to load your operating system and software applications to be able to utilize them while you are using your computer system. RAM has extremely fast transfer rates.

The system board also has expansion buses allowing you add expansion cards to increase communication capabilities, expand viewing features, or use the computer more effectively. Example expansion boards include an Ethernet card, a 64 Mb video card, or a IEEE1394 Firewire expansion card. In addition, PCs have storage devices which allow you to store and retrieve data. A storage device may be a hard drive, a floppy drive, or an optical drive.

Characteristics of a CPU
Chip Speed The processor contains millions of transistors. The CPU is measured by its clock speed in MHz. One Megahertz is one million cycles per second. The first IBM PC CPU, the Intel 8088, ran at 4.77 MHz. Today’s PCs exceed 2 GHz (2,000 MHz!) Math Coprocessor Contained within the chip is a math coprocessor which handles floating point calculations, like algebra and statistics. The math coprocessor is also referred to as the FPU (Floating Point Unit). Earlier Intel chips had an additional chip which handled the math functions, but the Pentium line has had the functions built-in. Cache Memory Most processors have an internal cache which stores frequently used data and instructions. Cache is broken up into two classifications, L1 which is internal cache and L2 which is the external cache. Buses Each processor has buses which work with it. The external bus, also called the system bus, allows the processor to connect with other devices such as expansion cards and devices. Buses consist of two parts: data bus and address bus. The data bus transfers the information and the address bus tells where the information should go.

CPUs
Here is table of the different chip types and their characteristics (we included PowerPC for comparison purposes):

CPU 8088 80286 80386SX 80386DX 80486SX 80486DX 486DX2 486DX4 Pentium I Pentium MMX Pentium Pro

Speed (MHz) 4.77 8-12 16-20 16-33 16-33 25-50 33-66 75-100 60-166 166-233 120-200

Data Bus Address L2 Cache Addressable (Bits) Bus (Bits) Memory 8 16 16 32 32 32 32 32 64 64 64 64 64 20 24 32 32 32 32 32 32 32 32 36 36 32 36 32 64 64 32 64 64 64 0 0 0 0 8 Kb 8 Kb 8 Kb 8 Kb 16 Kb 32 Kb 288 Kb 512Kb 128Kb 256Kb 256Kb2Mb 256Kb 1 MB 16 MB 4 GB 4 GB 4 GB 4 GB 4 GB 4 GB 4 GB 4 GB 64 GB 64 GB 4 GB 64 GB 64 GB 64 GB

Transistors 29,000 134,000 275,000 275,000 1,185,000 1,200,000 1,200,000 1,600,000 3,100,000 4,450,000 5,500,000 7,500,000 7,500,000 9,500,000 28,100,000 55,000,000 25,000,000 22,000,000 37,500,000 6,500,000 10,500,000

Pentium II 233-450 Celeron Pentium III Pentium III Xeon Pentium IV Itanium Athlon 500 +

450-1,000 64 500-1,000 64 1,400 + 1,000 + 64 64

L3 - 4Mb 64 GB 256Kb 384Kb 512Kb, 1Mb 1Mb 4 GB 64 GB 64 GB 64 GB

850-1,200 64 64 64 64

Athlon XP 1,600 + Power PC G3 Power PC G4 233-333 400 +

The A+ Hardware exam will delve into some of the details in this chart. Things to take notice of is the Data Bus, Address Bus, and Addressable Memory. You will probably be tested on these items.

BIOS
What is the BIOS? The BIOS (Basic Input Output System) is the chip that contains low level software for configuring the system's capabilities and communicating with the hardware. The BIOS previously was stored in the ROM, though most present day computers have the BIOS stored in EEPROM, an electronically erasable programmable ROM. The BIOS communicates between the software and the hardware so fewer conflicts present themselves. BIOS Operation When you first enter setup on a computer, you see many options for configuring your computer. Typical options include the automatic detection of IDE drives, option to enable/disable the processor cache, Plug’N’Play feature detection, password protection, time/date settings, IRQ settings, and more. Typically, the BIOS stores its configurations in the CMOS (Complementary MetalOxide Semiconductor). The CMOS is powered by a small battery so it can retain its settings after the power is turned off. The CMOS is usually not upgradeable, but the battery used to power it is usually easily upgradeable. Troubleshooting and the BIOS Since the BIOS contains the low level software controlling the computer, you may need to replace it in earlier PCs if you have to upgrade the hard drive. If you continually lose your settings in between power cycles of your machine, your CMOS battery may need to be replaced. This can be found on the motherboard and is typically a standard battery you can get replaced at most computer shops or electronics stores. Example Screenshots of Different BIOSs (Click to open larger in a new window)

Memory
ROM ROM (Read-Only Memory) is a form of non-volatile memory. Non-volatile memory keeps its contents even there is no power. Read-only memory is just that, read only, it cannot be written to. The computer ROM contains the setup program and POST (Power On Self Test) software. RAM RAM (Random Access Memory) is a volatile type of memory which loses its information when power is not present. RAM is where your software and data is stored when your computer is on and you are actively using or accessing them. There are many different types of RAM common in today’s PCs, though the different types fit into one of these two categories: DRAM – Dynamic RAM. Dynamic RAM needs to be refreshed thousands of times a second. SRAM – Static RAM. Does not need to be refreshed like DRAM, which makes it faster. More expensive than DRAM. PROM PROM (Programmable ROM) is a programmable type of ROM. It cannot be erased or changed once it is recorded. EPROM Eraseable PROM can be erased using a UV light on a special window on the chip. This chip can be reprogrammed. EEPROM Electronically Erased PROM can be erased using a special electrical charge. Chips can then be reprogrammed after erased. Most modern day BIOSs are stored in EEPROM. VRAM Video RAM is used on video cards to display video to the monitor. VRAM is dualported, it can be read from and written to at the same time from two different devices. VRAM is a very fast type of memory used on most video cards. WRAM

WRAM (Windows RAM) is a dual-ported type of memory - meaning you can read and write to the RAM at the same time from different devices. It was developed to be an extremely fast graphics RAM. The Windows in Windows RAM is the large "windows", or chunks, of memory that can be written to or read from at a given time. SGRAM SGRAM (Synchronous Graphics RAM) is synchronized with the system clock. Unlike WRAM, SGRAM is single-ported. It syncs itself to the system clock and can run at speeds up to 100 MHz. It is a type of DRAM. RDRAM RDRAM, or Rambus DRAM, is a type of DRAM developed by Rambus Inc. which allows access to the memory at 800 MHz, breaking the current 100 MHz barrier. Cache Memory Cache memory is memory used to cache CPU instructions. L1 is cache memory that is located on the CPU. L2 is cache memory located outside the CPU. DIP Dual Inline Package is an older RAM type used in older systems.

Memory Packages
DIPP Dual In-line Pin Packages - mainly used in EEPROMs. SIPP Single In-line Pin Packages SIMM Single In-line Memory Modules. Typically found in older systems in 30 or 72 pin chips. 32-bit data path. Pentium processors require s 64-bit data path, so you need to install SIMMs in pairs (e.g. 2 32MB SIMMs). DIMM

Dual In-line Memory Modules. Most common type of system memory, usually 168 pin. 64-bit data path, can be installed in single chips.

SODIMM Small Outline DIMM. A type of laptop or PDA memory, 144 pin.

RAM and Your Computer
DOS RAM is broken up into DOS memory “sections.” The first 640 Kb of memory is Conventional Memory, which is used to load DOS, run programs, and load drivers. DOS is loaded in the first 64K of memory. Above 640 Kb, but below 1024 Kb, is Upper Memory, also called Reserved Memory. 640 Kb – 768 Kb is Video RAM, 768 Kb – 960 Kb is for BIOS and RAM buffers, and 960 Kb – 1024 Kb is Motherboard BIOS. Above 1024 Kb is Extended memory. High Memory Area (HMA) is the first 64 Kb of Extended memory. Extended memory is mainly used by Windows programs. Expanded memory is sometimes used by DOS programs and is available up to 32 MB. It is swapper in 16 Kb pages (addresses in pages of 16 Kb). In DOS, the MEM.EXE program allows you to determine how memory is being used by DOS. It has several switches, the important ones are highlighted here: /? the help switch, /C the classify switch - gives a report of how memory is used, /D the debug switch details the first 640KB of memory, /F the free memory switch, shows all free memory blocks in the first 640KB of memory, /M (module) the module switch, shows the starting addresses of the data, program, and how much memory is allocated, and /P the pause switch, displays the output one page at a time. To use upper memory, you need to make sure the upper memory device driver, EMM386.EXE is invoked in CONFIG.SYS and DOS=UMB is there also.

DOS=HIGH loads DOS into HMA. Device=HIMEM.SYS is the extended memory device driver. A Parity Error indicates a problem with RAM. Parity is a simple form of error checking and is used to check RAM.

IRQs
IRQs (Interrupt Request) are a very important portion of this course as there could be several questions on the exam in regards to this material. In addition, understanding IRQs and what effect they have on your computer can help you when troubleshooting problems in your career as an IT technician. All CPUs perform tasks one at a time. When a device needs the attention of the processor, it sends an interrupt request. Since the processor needs to know where the request came from, we have the IRQ settings to minimize conflicts and allow multiple devices to interrupt the CPU when needed. Here is a chart of common IRQ settings; you should memorize these for the exam: IRQ 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Device Timer Keyboard Wired to IRQ 9 COM 2 (COM 4) COM 1 (COM 3) Available (often LPT2, sound cards, or network cards) Floppy Disk Controller LPT1 Clock Wired to IRQ 2 Unused Unused Mouse Port Coprocessor

14 15

Hard Disk Controller Unused

DMA
DMA, or Direct Memory Access, is also a very important topic to study and understand. DMA channels allow devices to communicate directly with system memory without involving the CPU allowing for more efficient (faster) transfer of data. Newer PCs no longer require DMA, but older PCs may. Hard drive controllers, NICs, and floppy disk controllers are three examples of devices that may use DMA in older systems. In most PCs, there are 8 DMA channels (number 0 – 7). Channels 4-7 are generally available, while channel 0 is used to refresh DRAM, channel 1 is used by the hard disk controller or sound card, and channel 2 is used by the floppy disk controller.

Common I/O Addresses
I/O Addresses are memory locations which provide an interface between the operating system and an I/O device. This is an important area of study for the exam. Address (Hex) 00-0F 20-21 40-43 1F0-1F8 200-20F 238-23B 278-27F 2E8-2EF 2F8-2FF 300-30F 330-33F 378-37F Device DMA Controller Interrupt Controller Timer Hard Disk Controller Joystick Controller Bus Mouse LPT2 COM4 Serial Port COM2 Serial Port Ethernet Card MIDI Port LPT1 Port

3E8-3EF 3F0-3F7 3F8-3FF

COM3 Serial Port Floppy Disk Controller COM1 Serial Port

It's important you study and memorize the memory addresses,

Cable Connections
DB-9 DB-9 is a standard connection for a COM cable (serial cable). Contains 9 pins.

DB-25 DB-25 is the other standard connection for Serial cables. Serial communications only use 9 of the available 25 pins.

Parallel (IEEE 1284) A 25 pin connector on the computer side and a 36 pin connector on the printer side. Most printers are moving to a standard Ethernet or USB connection.

RJ-11 RJ-11 is a standard telephone type connection. It is 4 or 6 wire and some networking equipment has used RJ-11, though RJ-45 is more common.

RJ-45 RJ-45 is the most popular network cable/connection type. RJ-45 is similar to the RJ-11 type connector, though it has 8 wires.

BNC BNC is a type of network connection most commonly used in 10 Base 2 networks. BNC is primarily used with a coaxial cable.

PS2/MINI-DIN PS2 is a standard developed by IBM for keyboards, mice, and input devices. Uses a DIN connection with 6 pins.

USB Universal Serial Bus, or USB, is the new standard for peripheral connection to PCs. USB devices range from scanners to printers to storage devices. Supports data transfer up to 12 mbps and each port can support up to 127 devices.

IEEE 1394 IEEE 1394 is the standard for what is commonly referred to as “Firewire”. Apple Computer coined the term when they began adding Firewire ports to their Macintosh computers. MORE IEEE 1394, or Firewire, is a high speed connector for data intensive applications such as video editing or external storage devices.

Serial vs. Parallel
A serial cable is one which can only send data in one direction at a time. A parallel cable sends data in both directions simultaneously. Ports Example Ports on a computer:

LPT Printer Port Audio Connections Firewire (IEEE 1394)

VGA Port

Keyboard / Mouse USB SCSI

Power

Com/Serial Port

Modem Phone Line BNC Network

Ethernet Port & Cable A+ Certification: Part 3 - Hardware: Upgrades, Troubleshooting and Preventative Maintenance by Jeremy Reis on Friday, July 01, 2005 Course Overview The A+ Hardware Service Technician exam will cover in detail the different hardware components and peripheral components you may experience in a normal technician’s daily job. Though you may have extensive experience with troubleshooting computer problems or issues, there are many “details” that the exam covers which you may not have experienced yet or may need to refresh your knowledge on. This courses will give a detailed look into the upgrading, troubleshooting and preventative maintenance of a computer system.

Throughout the exam you may see icons which indicate something you need to know for the exam or something from the author's life experience:

When you see this icon, study the topic thoroughly, there is material in this section with specific questions on the exam.

Indicates an example from the Author's experience in the IT world. Course Outline I. Introduction to the Upgrading, Troubleshooting, and Preventative Maintenance Section 1 II. The Troubleshooting Process III. POST Section 1 Review Section 2 IV. A MultiMeter V. The Ammeter, Voltmeter, and Ohmmeter Section 2 Review Section 3 VI. Cleaning Compounds VII. Power Problems VIII. The UPS Section 3 Review Section 4 IX. Upgrading a PC X. Upgrading Memory

XI. Upgrading the Hard Drive XII. Upgrading the CPU XIII. Upgrading the BIOS XIV. Upgrading the Laptop Battery & Hard Drive XV. Adding PCMCIA Cards XVI. Adding a Docking Station XVII. Upgrading Laptop Memory

Troubleshooting Issues and Problems
As an IT support person, you will need to work with customers throughout your career. Most often, you will hear from your customers when something isn't working for them, and often times, they can be irate. As we used to say, "They never call the cable company when it's working." Providing good customer service is extremely important in building a good relationship with your customers. Unfortunately, your troubleshooting job requires getting information from the customer who may not be in the frame of mind to provide it. What problem are you experiencing? First, you need to determine the user's problem in their own words. Though you may know it is not as they are explaining it, allowing the customer to explain the problem will help in the process of solving and calming them down. One of the principles I learned in support was that the user was never at fault. Most often, the problem occurred because of some action taken by the user, though when you are discussing the issue with them, you need to keep the mindset that it is not their fault. This helps prevent their egos from being hurt because of something they may have done. My first job in IT support provided a great deal of experience and taught me a lot about support. On my first day of work there, I arrived a few minutes early. An employee in a different department came over and found me and told me she had a problem. I was, of course, gung ho about solving my first issue. She explained that her laptop would not turn on. I proceeded to plug the power supply in for her. She was so embarrassed, I explained that it happens all the time and not to worry!

Is it software or hardware related? After you determine the user's problem and ask some questions to understand it, determine at this point if it is a hardware or software issue. If it is a hardware issue, you will either need to send a tech or look at it yourself. If it is a software issue, many of these can be handled over the phone.

POST
POST, or Power On Self Test is your first source of troubleshooting a problem. POST automatically runs when your computer is turned on and tests several components of your PC. The Processor – if the test fails for the CPU, the system stops usually with no error code. ROMs – POST checks the BIOS ROMs. If there is a problem, the system will stop, usually with no error code. DMA Controller – if there are any problems with the DMA controller, the system will stop. Interrupt Controller – if POST detects problems with the Interrupt Controller the system will give an audible error signal of one long beep then one short beep then the system stops. System Timing Chip – this chip provides timing signals for the bus and processor. Any errors will produce an audible error signal of one long beep and one short beep then the system stops. Video Card – if the Video Card fails, there will be one long beep then two short beeps then the system halts. RAM – any RAM errors will generate a “201: Memory Error” message on the screen. Any error codes beginning with 2 indicate a memory error. Keyboard – a problem with the keyboard will result in a “301: Keyboard Failure” error message followed by a short beep. System may halt or may ignore the error. Floppy Drives – any problems will result in a “601: Floppy Disk” error code appearing on the screen. Other Devices – POST checks the other ports and components of the computer, beeps, then continues. It also checks the Master Boot Record (MBR) on the hard drive. If it cannot find the MBR, it will freeze and not continue loading, otherwise it hands control over to the MBR (or DOS Boot Record (DBR) if it is booting from a floppy).

Summary of POST error codes: Error Code 1xx 161 164 2xx 3xx 4xx 5xx 6xx 17xx Problem Description System Board problem CMOS Battery Failure Memory System Size error Memory related problem Keyboard problem Monochrome video problem Color video problems Floppy Disk problem Hard disk problem

What is a Multimeter?
A multimeter is a common device to measure voltages, resistance, and currents. The CompTIA A+ Hardware Service Technician exam expects a basic knowledge of working with a multimeter and how it functions. Caution: Always use care when working around electronic components. A multimeter combines a voltmeter, which measure voltage, a ohmmeter

The Ammeter
An Ammeter measures current through a circuit. Since it measures the current, the ammeter should not interfere with the circuit, therefore it requires low resistance. In order to measure the current, the ammeter must be part of the circuit, therefore you must "break" the circuit so the ammeter can run in series with the circuit.

The Voltmeter
A Voltmeter is used to measure voltage, or potential difference in a circuit. A voltmeter runs in parallel with the circuit, the circuit does not need to be broken for a voltmeter. The voltmeter requires high resistance. The voltmeter is providing a parallel pathway, this is why a high resistance is required.

The Ohmmeter

An Ohmmeter measures resistance. In order to measure resistance, the circuit must not have a power supply connected. The ohmmeter functions by passing a small amount of current through the circuit and measuring the voltage.

Cleaning Compounds
Another important area of understanding in preventative maintenance are the cleaning compounds you use. Over time, computers may get dusty and dirty and require cleaning, you must use only approved cleaning compounds around computers. Cleaning products based on Isopropyl Alcohol are generally safe and you should always use lint free cleaning fabrics. Cleaning the Interior of a PC In addition, when cleaning the inside of computers, you must only use compressed air or approved PC cleaning vacuums. Use of other devices may cause damage to the chips in a computer. When you do clean the interior of a PC, you should always clean out the power supply and any dust accumulated on the motherboard. When you are complete with your cleaning, be sure to check any cables as the may unseat during cleaning.

Power
There are several classifications of power problems you may experience with the normal A/C power. Surges: a surge, also called a spike, is a very brief change in voltage Sags: a brief dip in available voltage (similar to a very short brown-out) Brownout: a sag which is there for an extended period of time. With a brown-out, you still have power coming through, just not the normal amount Blackout: complete loss of power

UPS
A UPS, an Uninterruptible Power Supply, is a battery backed up unit which provides continuous power (for a short period of time) in case of a brownout, sag, or blackout.

There are two classifications of UPS: online and offline. An online UPS is one which supplies power from its battery and recharges from the incoming power. An offline unit switches to battery power when power loss is sensed. An online UPS protects the machine more by providing a steady voltage. Things to Consider About UPSs UPSs are very useful devices though there are several elements you need to consider when purchasing or installing them. The cost is an important issue to consider. For a workstation, a simple 10-20 minute UPS can range from $50 - 150. For a machine which requires a significant amount of power (e.g. a server or a whole rack of servers) the costs can go up significantly. One other important thing to consider with a no-failure environment is more than one UPS combined with a generator. At one position I held, we had a server room with around 25 servers. Each server had dual power supplies which were balanced between different industrial strength surge protectors. The surge protectors were balanced between two large online UPSs. These UPSs were designed to provide power to the server room for about an hour without failure. With this balanced approach, if one power supply, one surge protector, or one UPS failed, the server could still function. One other consideration for server room battery backups - don't forget to provide UPS units for the network hardware! I have seen enterprises setup an exquisite battery backup system for the servers to keep them up in case of power failure but fail to support their switches. When a power loss would occur, the employees would lose network access, thus oftentimes losing what they were working on.

Upgrading a PC
There are many reasons you would consider upgrading a PC or components within a PC. With processor speeds increasing daily, upgrading an older system with a new CPU is an inexpensive way to have an up-to-date system without the cost of purchasing an entirely new computer. The best bang for the buck in upgrades is in memory. Upgrading the memory on a machine with a low amount increases the perceived speed significantly. You may also need to upgrade the storage on a machine, add new ports, or add new peripherals.

Upgrading a PC

There are many reasons you would consider upgrading a PC or components within a PC. With processor speeds increasing daily, upgrading an older system with a new CPU is an inexpensive way to have an up-to-date system without the cost of purchasing an entirely new computer. The best bang for the buck in upgrades is in memory. Upgrading the memory on a machine with a low amount increases the perceived speed significantly. You may also need to upgrade the storage on a machine, add new ports, or add new peripherals.

Upgrading Memory
Upgrading the memory on a PC is a fairly simple task. You first have to determine what kind of memory your motherboard supports. If you are using SIMMs, you will need to replace memory in pairs of sets of four. If you are using DIMMs, you can replace the memory a chip at a time. Once you have determined the type of memory and purchased it, you will need to power down the machine and open the case to your computer. Remember to use caution with static electricity and wear a wrist strap whenever working on a PC. Remove any memory if all of the slots are full. Open the two side latches which hold the memory secure and press the RAM chip firmly into its socket. Memory chips are all designed to fit in only one direction so you have no fear of putting the wrong side in. Once the memory is in the slot, close the two latches. Power on the PC. Your BIOS setup program will probably recognize the new memory automatically and reboot to save the changes. Once the changes are saved by the BIOS, your upgrade is complete!

Upgrading the Hard Drive
With the ever expanding amount of software and data being generated, adding an additional hard drive or replacing the hard drive is a common upgrade in computer systems. Adding a Hard Drive Adding an additional hard drive takes a little more advanced knowledge than upgrading the memory, though the task isn’t too difficult.

Many retail hard drive upgrade kits contain easy to use instructions and procedures to help the common person upgrade their computer. With your understanding of computer systems, adding an additional hard drive will be easy. To add an additional hard drive, you will need to power down your machine, remove the power cord, and open the case. Remember to use a wrist strap to ground yourself prior to working inside the computer. Locate an empty hard drive bay in the case and mount the hard drive into the case. If you current hard drive has an EIDE cable, check to see if it has an additional open port for the new HD. If the cable is a single port variety, you will need to install an EIDE cable which has two ports. Check the setting on the first hard drive and see if it is set to Master or Cable Select. If it is not yet set, set it now. Set the new hard drive as the Slave and plug the IDE cable into it. In addition, find an available power cord and plug it into the hard drive. Typically, the power cable has a white connector with five small holes in it. Close the case and plug the computer back in. When the computer starts booting, it may detect the new hard drive or you may need to set it up in the BIOS. Next, load your operating system and perform a high level format on the drive (or partition it if needed). Upgrading the Existing Hard Drive Upgrading an existing hard drive is similar to the process for adding a hard drive except that you will need to replace the hard drive in the steps above. If it is the primary hard drive on the system, you will either need to backup your previous hard drive and restore the data into the new HD, or reinstall your operating system on the replacement HD.

Upgrading a CPU
There are two main types of upgradeable sockets, ZIF and LIF, Zero Insertion Force and Low Insertion Force. There are several things you need to keep in mind when upgrading a CPU. A CPU is only as fast as the bus on the motherboard and you should keep this in mind. You can upgrade a CPU but if the bus speed on the motherboard is not fast enough, you will not gain the speed increase you are looking for. Also, one of the other important things to keep in mind when wishing to upgrade the CPU is the socket type on the motherboard. There are many different sizes of slots on the motherboard for the chip to fit into, you can see the socket sizes in the CPU section of the System Architecture course.

Upgrading the BIOS
When you need to upgrade the HD or other peripherals, your BIOS may be out of date and need upgraded as well. Newer BIOSs have upgradeable EEPROMs so they can be upgraded without replacing the actual chip.

Upgrading a Laptop Battery
Laptop or notebook computers usually come with around a 2-3 hour battery and your requirements may demand a higher capacity battery. Many notebook manufacturers sell extended life batteries to replace your primary battery or an extended battery which fits in one of the laptop expansion slots.

Upgrading a Laptop Hard Drive
Typically, a notebook computer has only one hard drive slot containing a 2.5” EIDE drive. You can either upgrade this hard drive, or there are some other choices in upgrading your storage space. An alternative is to purchase a hard drive adapter for your expansion bay, if your computer has one. Or, alternatively, you can purchase a Type III PCMCIA hard drive which occupies two Type II PCMCIA expansion slots. Additionally, you may be able to purchase an external portable hard drive which operates off your USB, Firewire, or Parallel ports. Adding Additional PCMCIA Cards A typical laptop has two Type II PCMCIA slots, though on most sub-notebooks, there is only one slot available. There is a wide range of devices available which fit the Type II PCMCIA slots such as IEEE1394 expansion cards, Type III hard drives, NIC cards, cellular modems, GPS units, and more. Adding these devices is relatively simple. PCMCIA cards are hot swappable so you can add a device while the computer is turned on (though my experience has been to add a new card before the computer comes on, makes installation and discovery easier). Adding a Docking Station A docking station allows your laptop to replicate its ports so you can leave the network, an external monitor, keyboard, mouse, expansion cards, etc. plugged in and just remove and insert your laptop or notebook computer as needed.

Expanding Laptop Memory Typically, laptop memory is a bit more expensive than desktop memory and you are more limited in the number of memory chips you can fit on the notebook motherboard. Typically, laptops either have a access panel which can be unscrewed to add additional (or replace) memory, or it is accessible under the keyboard. On Compaq Armada notebook computers, there are several tabs you slide down to open the keyboard and insert the memory under the keyboard.

Basic Types of Printers
In your career as an IT technician, you will troubleshoot and work with a variety of printers: laser printers, inkjet printers, dot matrix printers, label printers, plotters, photo printers. Luckily, the troubleshooting techniques and issues are similar among many varieties of printers, allowing you to transfer your knowledge of printers from one brand to another, and often from one type to another. DPI One of the common indicators of a printer’s print quality is the DPI the printer prints at. DPI is an acronym for Dots Per Inch. The quality of the print is represented by how many dots per inch across the page and how many dots per inch down the pager. For example, in a recent ad I saw for Canon S300 inkjet printer, the resolution for black ink was 600 x 600 DPI, while the resolution for color was 2400 x 1200 DPI. As the printhead travels across the page, its best resolution is printing up to 600 dots of black ink per inch and 2400 dots of color ink per inch.

Laser Printers
In most office environments, laser printers have become the most common type of printer. A laser printer (also called a “page” printer) receives its print information a page at a time and prints using a combination of lasers, electrostatic charges, and toner. Parts The laser printer has several parts which make up a significant portion of its operation: toner cartridge, laser scanning assembly, high voltage power supply, DC power supply, paper transport assembly, transfer corona assembly, fusing assembly, formatter board. The toner cartridge holds the toner which is what is “printed” onto the page. Toner is sensitive to the electrostatic charges. The toner cartridge also contains the print drum, charge corona wire, and the cleaning blade. The print drum has a photosensitive material

on it which holds static charge when it is not exposed to light. The charge corona wire charges the drum, while the cleaning blade does exactly what the name suggests, it cleans the used toner off the drum. The laser scanning assembly holds the laser which shines its light on certain parts of the printer drum. The electrical charge is reduced and the toner attaches itself to the drum where the laser has shined. The high voltage power supply takes 120 V AC and converts it to higher voltages for the charge corona wire and transfer corona wire. The DC power supply products +5 Volts DC, -5 Volts DC, and +24 Volt DC from household current. The paper transport assembly moves the paper through the printer. It is a series of motors and rollers to move the paper. The transfer corona assembly charge the paper with a positive charge as it moves through the printer. Once charged, it picks up the toner from the photosensitive drum. The fusing assembly (also known as the “fuser”) applies pressure and heat to the paper to seal the toner particles to the paper. In the process of fusing, there is a halogen lamp which heats up to about 350 degrees F. The formatter board is the circuit board that controls everything that is going on in the printer. It formats the information then tells the different modules to function together to get the printer page across.

Laser Printing Process
Once a laser printer receives the print information from the PC (or sometimes from a file server), it goes through a certain process in order to print: 1. Cleaning 2. Conditioning 3. Writing 4. Developing 5. Transferring 6. Fusing This process is important to learn and understand as there is guaranteed to be a question regarding this information on the exam: 1. Cleaning – the EP drum is cleaned with a rubber blade. 2. Conditioning – the EP drum is given a negative charge of about -600 Volts by the primary corona wire.

3. Writing – a laser beam writes to the EP Drum. This laser causes portions of the drum to become almost positively charged. 4. Developing – toner is applied to the drum by the particles being transferred to the areas of positive charge. 5. Transferring - the Transfer Corona wire charges the paper with a positive charge, the EP drum turns the paper as it runs beneath. 6. Fusing – the paper runs through the Fusing Assembly which is heated to 350 degrees F. The toner is fused onto the paper.

This printing process will be in one or more questions on the exam. Memorize it!

Preventative Maintenance
The purpose of preventative maintenance on a laser printer is to prevent potential problems from appearing. There are several things you can do in preventative maintenance. The ozone filter should be replaced during maintenance. The rollers inside the printer may need to be cleaned/replaced. There are roller replacement kits available for most major brands of printers. The replacement roller kits should be replaced by a professional with experience in laser printers. Always fan paper before inserting it into the printer tray. This allows separation of the individual sheets of paper to decrease chances of a paper jam from the paper tray.

Inkjet Printers
Inkjet printers are a very common type of printer because of their low cost and color capabilities. Inkjet printers functioning by spraying ink onto paper to form the letters and graphics. The inkjet printer has an ink cartridge (or sometimes several ink cartridges) which contain several chambers of ink. When the ink runs out, you must replace the ink cartridge. It is not recommended you refill ink cartridges.

Most common inkjet printers today are bubblejet printers, a spin-off from the original inkjet printers. Since the term inkjet is in much more common use, the printers are still referred to as “inkjet” printers. The original inkjet printers used a pump and ink nozzles to “spray” ink onto the page. Bubblejet printers use a special ink cartridge which has a tiny pinhole in the bottom. When the printer needs a certain color ink, it sends an electronic signal to a heater element near that color. It heats the ink up near vapor and as the ink expands, it sends a drop out the pinhole in the bottom which the print head applies to the page as it passes. You may have noticed in inspecting a inkjet printer that the printhead always “rests” in the same location when not in use, and commonly goes through some iterations prior to printing. When it moves out of the print range and rests, it rests on a specially designed pad to soak up any excess ink and keep the printhead always ready to print. The iterations you hear it performing prior to printing are related to cleaning to ensure the printhead is clean prior to applying ink to a pa

Dot Matrix Printers
The major category of printers you will need to be aware of for the A+ Hardware exam are dot matrix printers. Dot Matrix printers are a form of impact printer. The printhead in a dot matrix printer is a series of pins which form numbers, letters, and graphics as it passes over the paper. In early Dot Matrix printers, 9-pin was a common size of the printhead. This was referred to as a “draft quality printer.” Later versions, such as the 24pin printhead, print in near letter quality (NLQ) print mode. A dot matrix printer works by striking pins inside the printhead against a ribbon as it passes in front of the paper. These pins form letters, numbers, other characters, and graphics. Things You Need to Know During preventative maintenance, never lubricate the printhead of the printer. A tight ribbon could be the cause for flecks and smudges on the paper. A missing or broken printhead pin could cause incomplete printing. If the print density is erratic, there can be a problem in the advancement of the printer ribbon.

What is a network?
When more than two computers are linked together it forms a network. There are three types of networks: Local Area Network (LAN), Wide Area Network (WAN), and Metropolitan Area Network (MAN).

The most common two types of network you will come in contact with are the LANs and the WANs. A Local Area Network is one which is confined to a small general geographic area. A Wide Area Network is one which spreads over a large area. For example, your company’s office may have a LAN installed in your building. This is the network which all of your computers and peripherals are installed on. It may then connect to a WAN which comprises all of your satellite offices around the world. A Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) is a network which is comprised in one geographic metropolitan area. For example, a city may have setup a MAN for its networking requirements. There are generally two different broad types of networks, the peer-to-peer network and the server-based network. A peer-to-peer network consists of a series of workstations (desktop or laptop PCs) connected together with no central file or user management server. This is a common form of network in small offices. A common sign that you have a peer-to-peer network is that the individual computers share files and printers themselves and each user logs in locally to their computer. Commonly, a peer-to-peer network will use an operating system such as Windows 95, 98, ME, though it can be setup with other operating systems such as Windows 2000, Windows NT, Linux, or MacOS. A file-server based network is one which has a central server at its core. A file-server network, when configured properly, has advantages over peer-to-peer networks including security and central management.

Protocols
Networks communicate using protocols. A protocol is simple a method for the network to communicate, a way where all devices can talk the same “language”. TCP is an example of a protocol. There are a couple of protocols you should be aware of for the exam: TCP/IP: The most common communication protocol for networking. Acronym stands for Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol. Appletalk: A Macintosh standard protocol for communicating over networks. Often used in small Apple computer based networks, most news Macs just use TCP/IP. IPX/SPX: Novell Netware used to be the standard for network servers and as such IPX/SPX, their proprietary protocol, was the dominant networking protocol in the late 80s and early 90s. Eventually, Novell was forced into using TCP/IP for their standard like everyone else.

Network Cables
There are three main types of network cabling: twisted-pair, coaxial, fiber optic. In addition, there is wireless networking. Twisted-Pair Twisted-pair, commonly called CAT5, is the least expensive and most popular type of network cabling. It is several pairs of copper wires twisted around each other in an insulated covering. 10BaseT networks primarily use twisted-pair cabling. Coaxial Cabling Coaxial cabling consists of a copper wire surrounded by insulation and a foil shield. It is often used for 10Base2 cabling. Coaxial cable is the same cabling you see used for “cable” TV. Fiber Optic Fiber optic cabling is designed to transfer data at very high rates and over large distances. It carries a light pulse through a glass core at speeds of 100 Mbps - 1 Gbps. Wireless Networks Wireless networks consist of several different types of transmission medium. It can use microwave, radio, infrared light, or lasers. The most common types of wireless networks you will encounter are the 802.11b and 802.11a types of networks. 802.11 is a standard of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, a standards setting body. 802.11a sets standard for 54 Mbps wireless networks in the 5 GHz range and 802.11b sets the standard for 11 Mbps wireless networks in the 2.4 GHz range (also known as WiFi). 802.11 sets the standard for 1 or 2 Mbps wireless networks operating in the 2.4 GHz range. Other Types of Networks Though you will probably not see this on the exam, it is good to know there are other types of network cables out there, mostly for the home arena. There are many inexpensive cabling solutions which rely on telephone wire or some which rely on the power lines inside your home. Though most businesses would not use these types of solutions, some homeowners are turning to them for inexpensive methods of networking computers together in their homes.

Network Equipment
There are several different pieces of network equipment that you should be aware of.

At each workstation, there is a network interface card (NIC). A NIC is a device which allows that workstation (or node) to connect to a network. There are many different types of network cards, though the most common is a 10BaseT Ethernet NIC. Between each node, or between the nodes and central connecting device, there is the cable. The cable acts as the medium in which all of the data transfer occurs. On most networks, there is a device which directs the traffic on the network. There are two devices which perform this functionality, a switch and a hub. A switch is a device which receives the packets of information and directs them to their destination. A switch does not share bandwidth between devices. A hub also directs traffic between devices, but it shares the packets of information with every port on the hub. The primary difference between a hub and a switch is that the packets are sent to every port (shared bandwidth) on a hub, while a switch directs the packets to the proper ports. A switch is preferred in most environments. A gateway is a device which resides at the entry/exit point of a network to join to types of networks together. A server can also exist on the network which is a central repository for information, user accounts, printer information, files, or any combination of these items. A server can simply be another workstation designated as a server with server software or it can be a full-blown server costing thousands of dollars with redundancy and more robust features than most PCs.

Types of Network Cards
There are two types of networking cards you should be aware of for the exam, though there are additional networking devices which we will cover in this tutorial for your general knowledge, though probably will not be on the exam. Desktop/Workstation NIC Cards The most common type of Network Interface Card (NIC) is the kind which works in a standard desktop or workstation. Typically, this card is a PCI based card which transmits at 10 Mbps or 100 Mbps. This type of card fits into one of the open slots on the motherboard of the PC. Most major brand business computers (and a lot of home computers) now come standard with an Ethernet port. This port is the same that was contained on the former PCI cards, though the circuitry now simply resides on the motherboard of the PC. Needless to say, each PC must contain a NIC card in order to participate on the network. In addition, each PC must contain the software it requires to communicate with the network.

PC Card NICs (PCMCIA) When a laptop PC does not have a “built-in” network interface, you need to use a PCMCIA NIC to communicate on the network. These interfaces typically take up one PCMCIA slot on the computer. Laptops with a built-in network interface have the circuitry built into the motherboard or a “daughterboard”. Confusing, a lot of the major manufacturers use built-in Ethernet ports which drivers say that are PCI Ethernet cards. Your typical PCI slot would contain a card too large for a laptop, though the PCI circuitry can be utilized anywhere. Other Types of Network Connection Devices There are a broad range of other devices which can connect you to the network. Most of these are either USB or Firewire based solutions. Connection via RS232 It is possible to network two machines together via RS232, the serial port. Typically, you would use special software and a null modem cable to accomplish this. Due to speed, this is not a preferred method of networking.

Duplex
Full Duplex Full Duplex is a type of communication which can send data both directions simultaneously. For example, on a full duplex network one workstation can be sending data while another is receiving data at the same time. Half Duplex Half Duplex is a type of communication which can send data both directions, but not at the same time. For example, a workstation can send data and then immediately receive data, but cannot transmit and receive simultaneously.

Network Topologies
The topography of a network is the physical arrangement of elements in a network. Bus Topology A type of network where all of the nodes (connected devices) are connected via the same bus. In the bus topology, all of the nodes are connected via the same cable as each other. Also known as linear topology.

Fully Connected Topology In a fully connected topology, all of the nodes have a direct connection to each other. Hybrid Topology Two or more types of networks connected together. Mesh Topology Network type where there are two nodes with two or more paths between them. Ring Topology A type of network where each node has two connections to it. Star Topology A network topology in which all of the nodes communicate with a central node which passes communication throughout the network. If one node on the network loses its connection to the central node, that node cannot communicate with the network. Most Common Topology The most common type of network topology is the hybrid topology, a combination of two or more types of topologies.

Increasing Bandwidth
Upgrading from 10 Mbps to 100 Mbps One of the most cost effective ways to upgrade network bandwidth within a local area network is to upgrade the nodes and networking devices to 100 Mbps. Typically, a company builds a 10BaseT Ethernet network inside a building with CAT5 cabling. Each networking card inside each workstation operates at 10 Mbps or 10/100 (10 Mbps or 100 Mbps). In a medium to large network, you will have several switches or hubs on the network to direct traffic. These switches or hubs run at a given speed, usually either 10 Mbps or 10/100 Mbps. Upgrading these to 10/100 switches or hubs and upgrading the network cards to 10/100 will allow those clients to run at 100 Mbps.

Network Problems/Degradation

A network collision is when two streams of data from two devices on an Ethernet network are transmitted at the same time and collide. The network detects the collision and discards both packets of data and request new ones from the source. A collision is a natural occurrence on Ethernet networks. Too many collisions and your network bandwidth degrades as requests for new packets and more collisions take their toll. With managed switches, you can view how many collisions are occurring on the switch. With millions of packets transmitted an hour on busy networks, you can easily notice a trend if you collision rate starts climbing. Too many collisions can be a sign of a bad device or card connected to the network. Network Chatter Network chatter is a non-technical term for the traffic on your network which is discovery or traffic which may not seem to serve much of a purpose. Certain servers or devices may seem to “chatter” constantly, sending out packets but for no real purpose. For example, I worked at a company which had about 30 file servers on the network. Out of the 30, all but one were Windows NT or 2000, the remaining one was a Netware 4.10 server. The Netware server caused so much “chatter” on the network that when we would remove it, our network traffic would drop 50%. Netware servers sometimes have the tendency to send out unneeded packets to clients other than their own as a method of discovery or communication.