Saturday, October 21, 2017
A+ Certification Knowledge Base

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CompTIA A+ 220-801 exam - Objective 1.2 - Motherboard Components, Purposes, and Properties.

Motherboard Form Factor Comparison
Motherboard Form Factor Comparison

The motherboard is the most important and intricate piece of hardware inside a computer. When putting together a computer, the first two decisions to make are usually on which motherboard and processor combo. Everything else that you add to a computer will be based on these pieces of hardware. When choosing a motherboard, there are a few things to look at. Pay close attention to the motherboards form factor, number of expansion slots, processor socket, chipset, buses, and onboard components. You will want to choose a motherboard that fits your needs. Example, if you are putting together a home file server and will need to hook up 5 hard drives or SSD’s, you will need a motherboard with enough SATA connectors to accommodate the number of drives you have as well as a couple extra SATA connectors for your optical drive and future expansion. Or, if you have a video card that requires a PCIe x 16 slot and a SATA controller that requires a PCIe x 1 slot you will need to pick a motherboard with enough expansion slots to meet your needs.

Motherboard Component Identification
Motherboard Component Identification

Motherboard Form Factor Types

There are a few different sizes of motherboard. The motherboards form factor is what determines the size and features available on a motherboard. This form factor also determines what case and power supply you will need. It’s important to know what form factor you want before buying your motherboard. The most common and popular form factors are the ATX, microATX, and Mini-ITX. The motherboard shown above has an ATX form factor.

Form Factor Comparison
Form Factor Comparison – Image credit Wikipedia
Form Factor Motherboard Size Description
ATX Up to 12″ x 9.6″ (305mm × 244mm) This is one of the most popular form factors and has had multiple revisions and variations
MicroATX Up to 9.6″ x 9.6″ (244mm × 244mm) A Smaller version of the ATX
Mini-ITX (ITX) Up to 6.7″ x 6.7″ (170mm x 170mm) A small form factor that is commonly used in home theater systems & low-end computers. These motherboards are often used in combination with an Intel Atom processor and can be purchased as a motherboard-processor combo unit.
FlexATX Up to 9″ x 7.5″ Smaller version of MicroATX
BTX Up to 12.8″ wide BTX motherboards can have up to seven expansion slots, are designed for improved airflow, and can use an ATX power supply
MicroBTX Up to 10.4″ wide A smaller version of BTX and can have up to four expansion slots
PicoBTX Up to 8″ wide A smaller version of MicroBTX and can have up to two expansion slots
NLX Up to 9″ x 13.6″ Used in low-end systems with a riser card

Expansion Slots & Data Bus Speeds

motherboard traces
motherboard traces

The motherboard is covered with tiny lines on both the top and bottom side of the board. These lines are actually small pathways, sometimes called traces, that allow data, power, and instructions to move between components on the motherboard. This collection of pathways over which motherboard devices communicate and the protocol or methods used for transmission, is called a bus. All of this activity on a bus is transmitted in binary, meaning that there are only two states. The two states of binary are on and off. This binary data is placed on a line by applying a small amount of voltage. Motherboard devices such as the CPU interpret this voltage or lack there of on each line as a binary digit of 0 or 1. These 0s and 1s are traveling all over the trace lines and being read and transmitted by related components. The data bus is used to carry data. The data bus comes in different sizes or widths. The width of the data bus is called the data path size. Common data path sizes range from 8, 16, 32, 64, or 128 bits. That means that a bus with 16 lines or traces is called a 16 bit bus, while a bus with 128 lines or traces is called a 128 bit bus. Buses can also carry, control signals needed to coordinate activity, power needed for components, as well as memory addresses used to tell a program where data is stored. The system clock is a pathway on a bus that is dedicated to keeping all of the activities and components on the motherboard in sync. For the system clock to work, the chipset generates a continuously pulsing signal on one end of the system bus. This pulse is then picked up by other components on the motherboard. The frequency of the front side bus, CPU, RAM and other motherboard components is measured in hertz (Hz).

Frequency Description
1 hertz (Hz) one cycle per second
1 megahertz (MHz) one million cycles per second
1 gigahertz (GHz) one billion cycles per second


1333 RAM
1333 RAM – Image credit Wikipedia

If you look at a stick of RAM, you will see that it is rated in MHz. Common ratings for RAM include 1333 or 1866 MHz. The FSB is commonly rated at 2600, 2000, 1600, 1333, 1066, 800, & 533 MHz.

There are various expansion buses on the motherboard each using a different protocol, frequency & data path size. Different types of buses include: expansion bus, local bus, local I/O bus & local video bus. An expansion bus includes any bus that does not run in sync with the system clock. Expansion buses are generally connected to the southbridge. A local bus is a bus that runs in sync with the system clock. If a local bus is connected to the I/O controller or southbridge, it is called a local I/O bus. PCI, AGP, PCIe & PCIx are types of expansion buses.

Bus Bus Type Data Path Size (bits) Throughput (Speed) Description
PCI Express (PCIe) v. 2 Local video & local I/O Up to 32 lanes Up to 500 MB/sec per lane in each direction
  • Serial Communication
  • x1, x2, x4, x8, x16, x32 bit lanes
  • High performance for devices like high end graphics cards.
PCI Express (PCIe) Local video & local I/O Up to 16 lanes Up to 250 MB/sec per lane in each direction
  • Serial Communication
  • x1, x2, x4, x8, x16 bit lanes
  • High performance for devices like high end graphics cards.
PCI Extended (PCI-X) Local I/O 64 Up to 8.5 GB/sec
  • Parallel Communication
  • Designed for servers
  • Not PCI Express
PCI Local I/O 32 or 64 133 – 532 MB/sec
  • Parallel Communication
  • Legacy expansion slots
AGP Local video 32 266 MB/sec – 2.1 GB/sec
  • Parallel Communication
  • Legacy video expansion slot
  • developed for high end graphics
USB Expansion 1
  • v. 1.1 – 12 MB/sec
  • v. 2.0 – 480 MB/sec
  • v. 3.0 – 5 GB/sec
  • Has been through several revisions
  • Still widely used


conventional PCI slots
conventional PCI slots – Image credit Wikipedia

PCI Expansion Slot The conventional Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) bus uses parallel communication and has a x32 bit data path that supplies 3.3 or 5 volts of power to an adapter card that operates at 33 or 66MHz. This bus has a throughput speed of 133 – 152 MB/sec. PCI was the first bus that allowed an adapter card to run in sync with the CPU. Since PCI is a shared bus topology, mixing 33 and 66Mhz adapters will slow all adapters down to 33Mhz. These adapters are keyed to fit into slots based on these voltages. Notches in the 5V adapter card and slot are oriented toward the front of the motherboard while notches in in the 3.3V adapter card and slot are positioned towards the rear of the motherboard.

PCIx slots
PCIx slots – Image credit Wikipedia

PCIx Expansion Slot The PCIx slot uses a 64 bit data path and has had 3 major revisions. The final revision for this technology is PCIx 3.0. These revisions are all backwards compatible with the traditional PCI cards and slots with the exception of 5V PCI cards. PCIx was designed for the server marketplace which is why we usually dont see this slot on a desktop computer motherboard.

PCIe Slots
PCIe Slots – Image credit Wikipedia

PCI Express (PCIe) Expansion Slot PCIe slots come in four different sizes including x1, x4, x8 & x16. PCI Express uses serial communication and is directly connected to the northbridge for faster high end communications. PCIe is not backward compatible with PCI or PCIx because it uses a completely different design. PCIe was designed to replace these older technologies along with the AGP bus. Today, PCIe has replaced AGP but continues to coexist with PCI for backwards compatibility.

Mini PCI slot
Mini PCI slot – Image credit Wikipedia

miniPCI Expansion slots miniPCI is used as an internal connector for laptop cards.

CNR slot
CNR slot – Image credit Wikipedia

CNR Expansion slots CNR (communications and networking riser) slots are found on some motherboards and are designed for networking, audio, and telephony technologies. This slot was developed by Intel to replace its AMR (audio/modem riser) technology. This slot was commonly found on Pentium 4 class motherboards but has now been replaced by onboard components.

AGP slot comparison
AGP slot comparison

AGP 1x, 2x, 4x, 8x Expansion Slots AGP was the preferred video expansion slot standard for a long time but has now been replaced by PCIe. The AGP standard had four major releases. These releases included AGP 1.0, AGP 2.0, AGP Pro & AGP 3.0. These variations of AGP had different throughputs, voltages & speeds. There were also several variations of slots available to AGP cards. These slots were keyed differently to make sure you were putting the right card into the right slot. While this is not a current technology, it is still used by a lot of older computer systems.

Standard Speed Max throughput Voltage Supported slots
AGP 1.0 1x 266 MB/sec 3.3 V
  • 3.3 V keyed slot
AGP 2.0 1x, 2x, 4x 533 MB/sec – 1.06 GB/sec 3.3 V or 1.5 V
  • 1.5 V keyed slot
  • 3.3 V keyed slot
  • universal slot
AGP Pro 1x, 2x, 4x, 8x N/A 3.3 V or 1.5 V
  • AGP Pro 3.3 V keyed slot
  • AGP Pro 1.5 V keyed slot
  • AGP Pro universal slot
AGP 3.0 4x, 8x 2.12 GB/sec 1.5 V and 0.8 V
  • 1.5 V keyed slot
  • AGP Pro 1.5 V keyed slot
  • Universal AGP 3.0 slot

CPU Socket Types

The processor socket on a motherboard is another important feature to know about. The socket and chipset establish what processors will work with the motherboard. The CPU socket is designed to hold either an Intel or AMD processor. On older motherboards, you may have found a long narrow slot designed to hold a legacy processor but on todays boards, all CPU’s fit into a square socket. There are a few different types of arrays used by CPU’s today. Some of the more important arrays include:

PGA Socket 478
PGA Socket 478 – Image credit Wikipedia

The pin grid array (PGA) socket has a uniform grid of small holes designed to receive the pins attached to the underside of the CPU.

CPU Socket LGA775(T)
CPU Socket LGA775(T) – Image credit Wikipedia

The land grid array (LGA) socket has small blunt pins that are designed to connect to lands on the underside of the CPU.

FCLGA 2011 (Core_i7_Extreme_Edition,_Sandy_Bridge-E)
FCLGA 2011 (Core i7 Extreme Edition, Sandy Bridge-E) – Image credit Wikipedia

The flip chip land grid array (FCLGA) or the flip chip pin grid array (FCPGA) processor is flipped over so that the top of the CPU is on the bottom side that makes contact with the socket.

SPGA Socket 7
SPGA Socket 7 – Image credi Wikipedia

The staggered pin grid array (SPGA) socket has its pins staggered all over the socket to be able to fit more pins into the small space available to the socket.

BGA bottom view of an Intel Embedded Pentium MMX, showing the blobs of solder
BGA bottom view of an Intel Embedded Pentium MMX, showing the blobs of solder – Image credit Wikipedia

The ball grid array (BGA) connection is not a socket because the processor is actually soldered onto the motherboard and is sold as a package.

Note: Some processor families use more than one socket type. When choosing a CPU, make sure its socket matches the socket on your motherboard.

Take care when installing the processor into the socket. Try to avoid touching the socket or bottom of the CPU with your fingers. This can leave behind oil from your fingers and can lead to poor CPU contact. A CPU can only be put into a socket one way, look over the CPU to find a small triangular shaped mark and match this up to a similar mark on the socket. This will ensure your CPU’s orientation to the motherboard is correct before trying to insert the CPU into the socket. To ensure that even force is applied while installing the CPU, there are one or two levers on the side of the socket to be pressed down after dropping the CPU into place. These types of sockets are called zero insertion force (ZIF) sockets and are found on all modern motherboards where the CPU is not soldered on (BGA).

The Chipset

The chipset is a combination of chips on the motherboard that work together with the processor to control RAM, buses & peripheral devises. The manufacturer will usually give the chipset a name and model number. Communications between the CPU and RAM happen over the frontside bus (FSB), which is a set of pathways that connect the CPU to important motherboard components such as RAM & the expansion slots. These components are local to the FSB. The backside bus (BSB) is a set of pathways that exist between the CPU and level 2 or 3 cache memory. Sometimes thee is no BSB, in this case the level 2 or 3 cache memory is placed on the FSB. The northbridge & southbridge are both subsets of the chipset.

chipset – Image credit Wikipedia

The Northbridge manages important, high speed connections between the CPU and RAM as well as connect high-end graphics slots like AGP or PCI Express. The northbridge is connected to and controls the Southbridge; helping to manage communications between the Southbridge and other computer components. The Southbridge manages slower onboard peripheral connections such as USB, Ethernet, PATA, SATA, PS/2, parallel, serial and other integrated components. Basically, this part of the chipset manages anything that does not have an effect on the overall performance of the computer system.

Note: Newer CPU’s are now integrating Northbridge functionality such as processor cores, RAM controller and the graphics processing unit (GPU).


Motherboard Jumper
Motherboard Jumper – Image credit Wikipedia

On old legacy motherboards it was common to find that you had to use jumpers to configure the boards settings. A jumper is made up of two small metal pins that stick up off of the motherboard. These jumpers were either open or closed depending on whether or not the pins had a cover. An open jumper has no cover while a closed jumper has a cover over the pins. This corresponding image shows a motherboard jumper with a red cover. These open or closed positions were used for many different settings. These settings included; telling the computer system to turn on or off, a power saving feature, or to configure the speed of the CPU. When not in use, jumper covers can be stored in a “parked” position. This means that the jumper is only connected to one pin and “parked” for later use. This technique helps computer techs keep track of the cover when its not being used.

Jumpers are still found on todays motherboards. Jumpers come in really handy when you need to reset a forgotten BIOS or boot up password. Another use for jumpers today is to reset bios settings incase of a failed flash or improper configuration. Read you motherboard user guide for more information on using jumpers on your motherboard.

Power connections and types
24-pin power
24-pin power – ©

The 24-pin (or 20-pin on older motherboards) power connector is the main power connection for the motherboard.

8-pin CPU power
8-pin CPU power – ©

The 8-pin and 4 pin CPU power connection provides additional power needed by the CPU.

4-pin CPU power
4-pin CPU power – ©

Fan connectors

Fan connector
Fan connector – ©

The fan power connection has 4 header pins sticking up off the motherboard and has a small tab that only allows the fan connector to fit one way.

Integrated Connectors & Ports

integrated components and ports
integrated components and ports

Other than expansion slots, motherboards also have on board ports and internal connectors. Commonly found integrated components on todays motherboards include USB, PS/2, Ethernet, Audio, Serial, HDMI, VGA & DVI. Depending on your motherboard, you may also find S/PDIF, parallel, FireWire, Thunderbolt, Mini Display & eSATA. The motherboard comes packaged with an I/O shield, sometimes called the backplate, that is installed in the computer case and designed with all the necessary holes for these I/O ports. Some motherboards also come with integrated connector modules that allow the connection of additional ports. These ports are made accessible from the rear of the case and are mounted in same case opening slots that are used by the expansion cards. The internal connectors or headers available vary depending on what mobo you have. Commonly found connectors and headers include PATA, IDE, Floppy, USB, SATA, Audio, S/PDIF & FireWire. For a more in depth look at all of the different ports found on a computer, check out the computer inside & out article.

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– Image credit Wikipedia

Random access memory (RAM) is Dynamic RAM or DRAM and is stored on memory modules that are inserted in memory slots on the motherboard. DRAM requires constant refreshing and only holds is data and instructions temporarily before rapidly letting it go. The memory controller refreshes the temporary storage of data and instructions thousands of times a second while the CPU processes it. DRAM categories include:

  • DIMM or Dual Inline Memory Module – This is the type of RAM used by all new motherboards and uses a 64-bit data path.
  • SO-DIMM or Small Outline DIMM – This is a smaller version of DIMM, used by mobile devices such as laptops and other small form factor computers.
  • RIMM or Rambus Inline Memory Module – This is an older type of RAM designed by Rambus, Inc. This type of RAM is installed in pairs. Every slot must be filled by either a RIMM or a continuity RIMM (CRIMM). A CRIMM placeholder is the same size and shape as a RIMM but without the integrated RAM circuitry.
  • SIMM or Single Inline Memory Module – This type of RAM is used on outdated legacy motherboards and is no longer in use. Electrical contacts are only on one side of the module.
Desktop/large form factor RAM module type comparison
RAM Type Image Number of Pins Features

DDR-SDRAM DIMM – Image credit Wikipedia
  • First DIMM to run in sync with the system clock
  • 100-200 MHz bus clock speed
  • Electrical contacts are different on both sides
  • Has 2 notches

DDR DIMM – Image credit Wikipedia
  • Runs 2x faster than SDRAM
  • Electrical contacts are different on both sides
  • 100-200 MHz bus clock speed
  • Has 1 notch

2GB PC2 5300U 555
DDR2 DIMM – Image credit Wikipedia
  • 2x the bus clock multiplier of DDR at minimum
  • Electrical contacts are different on both sides
  • 200–533⅓ MHz bus clock speed
  • Uses less power than DDR
  • Has 1 notch

DDR3 DIMM – Image credit Wikipedia
  • 4x the bus clock multiplier of DDR at minimum
  • Electrical contacts are different on both sides
  • 400–1066⅔ MHz bus clock speed
  • Uses less power than DDR2
  • Has 1 notch

  • 10x the bus clock multiplier of DDR at minimum
  • Electrical contacts are different on both sides
  • 1066⅔–2133⅓ MHz bus clock speed
  • Uses less power than DDR3
  • Has 1 notch

RIMM – Image credit Wikipedia
  • Has 2 notches located near center of connector edge
  • Proprietary memory from Rambus
  • Electrical contacts are different on both sides
  • Installed in pairs
  • Every slot must be filled. can use continuity RIMM’s (CRIMM)
72 pin SIMM

72 pin SIMM
72 pin SIMM – Image credit Wikipedia
  • Installed in groups of 2
  • Electrical contacts are the same on both sides
  • Has 1 notch
30 pin SIMM

30 pin SIMM
30 pin SIMM – Image credit Wikipedia
  • Installed in groups of 4
  • Electrical contacts are the same on both sides
  • Has 1 notch
Laptop/small form factor RAM module type comparison
RAM Type Image Number of Pins Size Features

SO-DIMM SDRAM – Image credit Wikipedia
144 2.66″
  • Has 1 notch slightly offset from center of connector edge.

DDR SO-DIMM – Image credit Wikipedia
200 2.66″
  • Has 1 notch near one side of the connector edge.

DDR2 SO-DIMM – © Matthieu Riegler, CC-BY, Wikimedia Commons
200 2.66″
  • Has 1 notch near one side of the connector edge.

DDR3 SO-DIMM – Image credit Wikipedia
204 2.66″
  • Has 1 notch that is offset from the center of the connector edge.

260 2.66″
  • Has 1 notch that is offset from the center of the connector edge.

SO-RIMM – Image credit
160 2.66″
  • Has 2 notches near center of the connector edge.
  • Proprietary memory from Rambus
Parity vs. non-parity

On older SIMM’s, parity was used as an error checking technology. Parity RAM has an additional parity bit (8 bits for data and an addtional 1 bit for parity) and does not have the ability to correct errors. With this technology, RAM uses either even or odd parity. Even parity uses the parity bit to add either a 1 or 0 in order to make the total number of the 9 bits even. Odd parity uses the parity bit to add either a 1 or 0 in order to make the total number of the 9 bits odd. If the memory controller reads an incorrect state (even number when supposed to be odd or odd when supposed to be even) a parity error occurs.

ECC vs. non-ECC

ECC (error correcting code) is a modern error correcting technology that is often used in a server environment. This technology will detect errors in the RAM and correct those errors on the fly. A DIMM with ECC will have an odd number of chips laid out on the module, as opposed to a DIMM without ECC, which will have an even number of chips. ECC is supported on SDRAM, DDR, DDR2, DDR3 and DDR4 modules. For ECC to work, both the motherboard and the modules must support the technology.

RAM configurations

On a motherboard, Multi-channel DIMM slots are colored to differentiate between channels. Each RAM slot uses a channel. Originally, DIMM’s only used a single channel which meant that the memory controller could only access one DIMM at a time. Since its introduction, there have been a quite a few improvements to the DIMM; dual channels double the speed by allowing the memory controller to access two DIMM’s at the same time, triple channels tripled the speed by allowing the memory controller to access three DIMM’s at one time and quad channels allow access to four DIMM’s at the same time. DDR, DDR2 and DDR3 RAM can use dual channels. DDR3 and DDR4 DIMM’s can also use triple and quad channels. For dual, triple, or quad channel technology to work, the motherboard and the DIMM must support it. When setting up dual, triple or quad channeling, the DIMM’s in each channel must be an exact match in size, speed, and features and should also come from the same manufacturer.

Single sided vs. double sided

A DIMM is either single or double sided. Single sided RAM has memory chips on one side of the module while Double sided RAM has memory chips on both sides of the module. Some double sided DIMM’s are dual ranked. This means that the module has more than one bank; the chips on the DIMM are grouped so that the RAM controller only accesses one group at a time. This is a slower and lower performing type of DIMM in contrast to modules where all of the memory is accessible at one time.

RAM Compatibility and speed

DDR runs 2x as fast as SDRAM and has one notch and 184 pins. DDR2 uses less power than DDR, has one notch, and has 240 pins. DDR3 uses less power than DDR2, also has one notch, and has 240 pins. DDR4 uses less power than DDR3 , also has one notch, and has 288 pins. DDR2, DDR3, and DDR4 are not compatible with one another, the notch in these modules is positioned differently to ensure that they are not inserted into the wrong memory slot.

Double Data Rate SDRAM (DDR SDRAM) is an improvement on SDRAM. The dual inline memory module (DIMM) gets its name because it has an independent set of electrical contacts on both (dual) sides of the module. RAM modules are keyed with small notches so that the RAM will only fit into the memory slot one way. Synchronous DRAM (SDRAM) was the first DIMM to run in sync with the computer system clock. The SDRAM DIMM has 2 notches and 168 pins.

NOTE: SDRAM should not be confused with SRAM (Static RAM) which is very fast, very expensive and maintains data without constant refreshing. SRAM is often used in CPU memory caches.

The speed of a DIMM is measured in either MHz (i.e. 1600 MHz – transfers per second) or PC rating (i.e. PC3-12800 – bytes per second). A PC rating is a DIMM’s bandwidth in Megabytes per second. The term PC differs between DDR, DDR2, and DDR3 RAM. DDR uses the term “PC” while DDR2 uses the term “PC2” and DDR3 uses “PC3”. To calculate PC rating, multiply the modules MHz x 8. (i.e. 1600 MHz x 8 = PC3-12800).

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CompTIA A+ 220-801 exam - Objective 1.1 - BIOS (basic input/output system) configuration.

Bios configuration
Bios configuration - Image credit Wikipedia
Bios configuration
Bios configuration – Image credit Wikipedia

Motherboard BIOS settings are used to configure all of the features available to the board. You can use these settings to enable or disable a connector or port, set security features, set boot order, and much more. On legacy motherboards, there were three different methods to configure the motherboard; jumpers, dip switches & CMOS RAM settings. These older boards took a lot more time to setup than todays motherboards. If you had to configure a motherboard by way of jumpers or dip switches that meant you had to open up the computer case every time you wanted to make a change. Today, motherboards are configured through a program installed in CMOS RAM called the BIOS. CMOS RAM is a small amount of of memory stored on the motherboard designed to store the motherboards settings. The CMOS RAM is hooked up to a small round CMOS battery located on the motherboard. The battery enables CMOS RAM to retain its data even when there is no power connected to the computer.

motherboard model number - Image credit Wikipedia
motherboard model number – Image credit Wikipedia

The first step in making a change to motherboard settings is to locate the user guide that came with the board.  This documentation may be on a CD or in a printed manual. If you don’t have the user guide, you can probably find it available for download on the motherboard manufacturers website. To find the right manual, you will need the model number and manufacturers name. This information is usually printed right onto the motherboard.

System Information Window msinfo32 ©
System Information Window msinfo32 ©

Another way to find the model number and manufacturer name is to use a program. If the board in question happens to be installed in the computer you are using with windows installed, you can use msinfo32.exe to find the information you are looking for. This program is nice because it is built into Windows and requires no installation.

To check for your motherboards model number, type “msinfo32.exe” into the run box from the start menu and press enter. Or, you can click start and search for system information and hit enter. There are really quite a few ways to accomplish this task from within Windows.

Note: For more detailed information and diagnostic tools, I like to use a program called hwinfo. Hwinfo can be downloaded from Make sure to get the appropriate version for your installed OS (x32 or x64 bit). To find out what version you need, click the start button->right click computer->click properties. Your OS version is listed under system->startup type.

Once you have the motherboards user guide you will be able to read and learn all about your motherboard and how to configure its settings. This documentation will come in very handy when supporting your motherboard. Some common motherboard manufacturers include:

Configuring a motherboard using the BIOS (basic input/output system).

Beginning boot screen message
Beginning boot screen message ©


To configure the motherboards settings in CMOS RAM, we need to access the BIOS. To access the BIOS on your computer you will need to use a key or combination of keys during your computers startup procedure. Depending on the BIOS, the key or combination of keys will differ. During the beginning boot screen you may see a message letting you know which key(s) to press for BIOS Setup. Once you know the key or combination of keys needed to enter BIOS, it is sometimes helpful to repeatedly push these key(s) until you enter setup. On a system that boots up quickly, this helps ensure you don’t miss your chance to enter the BIOS. Commonly used BIOS & keys include:

BIOS Key to Press During POST to Access Setup
Award Del
Older Phoenix Ctrl+Alt+Esc or Ctrl+Alt+S
Newer Phoenix F2, F1, or Del
Dell computers using Phoenix Press Ctrl+Alt+Enter or F2
Compaq computers Press the F10 key or for older Compaq computers, press F1, F2, F10, or Del.


Read your motherboards user guide to find out what key(s) are needed to access the BIOS on your motherboard. Also, during boot up you may see a message telling you how to enter the BIOS. This message usually flashes up pretty quick by default so be ready when you turn on your computer. Once inside the BIOS, some motherboards let you can change the setting for how long this boot message is displayed.

Award BIOS main menu
Award BIOS main menu ©

Once you have pressed the required key(s) for your system, a setup screen will appear with several menus available. These menus will differ depending on the BIOS you have. I have included a few sample screens from an Award BIOS to help you familiarize yourself with what the screens may look like and what they will contain. The starting BIOS screen will be a main menu for setup. Depending on your BIOS, this main menu may include settings for adjusting your system date and time and an overview of your system that includes your processor speed and model, how much total memory is installed, as well as how much is in each RAM slot, system temperature and system fan speeds. Or, it may just be a main menu leading you to the different areas of the BIOS where you can view such information.

Install firmware upgrades – flash BIOS

Award BIOS Q-Flash Utility
Award BIOS Q-Flash Utility ©

Sometimes, a BIOS may need updating. This is called flashing the BIOS. A BIOS update ensures you motherboards firmware is fully up to date. A BIOS flash can also solve some problems and add motherboard features. Problems that flashing the BIOS may fix include; system hangs up during the boot process or motherboard features that are not working right or at all. The Award BIOS includes a Q-Flash Utility to assist you in flashing your BIOS. You will need to have the BIOS update downloaded and on a drive ready to choose when flashing. You can download the BIOS update from the motherboard manufacturers website. The BIOS update can be performed from a USB flashdrive or a bootable CD.

WARNING: when flashing the BIOS make sure that you follow the manufacturers instructions exactly. Make sure that you have the correct file for your BIOS. If you are at all unsure, DO NOT GUESS. This could ruin your BIOS and your motherboard. For any questions, call the manufacturers tech support. You will need your motherboards model number.

Once started, it is very important to let the BIOS update finish before doing anything else with the system. If the update is interrupted or you stop a BIOS flash while it is in progress the flash will fail and BIOS may become corrupt. If this happens you will need to try and recover the BIOS. A recovery file can usually be downloaded from the manufacturers website. The recovery file then needs to be put on to a USB flash drive. Depending on your motherboard, you may need to set a jumper on the motherboard to recover from failed flash and reboot the system. From here the BIOS will automatically perform the recovery from the USB flash drive.  After your BIOS has been recovered, reset jumper on the motherboard to its normal operational setting.

BIOS component information

The BIOS includes information for all of the components hooked up to the motherboard:

  • How much RAM is installed and what slots are available.
  • How many and what size hard drives or SSD’s are installed.
  • Optical drive information related to reading disks and boot priority.
  • CPU stats including CPU name, CPUID, how many cores and temperature.

BIOS Configurations

BIOS setup boot priority options ©
BIOS setup boot priority options ©

Setting the boot sequence order allows you to specify the priority in which your attached devices will boot. Usually, the hard drive containing the operating system is selected as the first boot device but sometimes you may want your PC to boot from a flash drive, CD or DVD first. Also, if you want to boot to a device other than your operating system drive without changing the boot order in BIOS setup, you can usually find that there is a startup key for the boot menu (example: the F12 key gets me to my boot options menu) that will allow you to select your desired boot device during system startup. This enables you to save time by selecting your needed boot device on an as needed basis.

EFI boot option
EFI boot option ©

Notice that in the BIOS boot sequence screen pictured, the EFI CD/DVD setting is set to auto. This must be set in order to boot a CD via the EFI interface. EFI is essential if you want to boot a windows install cd to load windows on a 2TB or larger drive. The Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) is a newer standard that is starting to replace the BIOS standard. This is an interface between the motherboards firmware and the operating system that improves the boot process transition from motherboard to OS. This setting must be set in order to boot to a drive larger than 2 TB. For more information, check out

BIOS setup enabling and disabling  devices
BIOS setup enabling and disabling devices ©
BIOS settings OnChip SATA type selection
BIOS settings OnChip SATA type selection ©

Enabling and disabling devices on a motherboard is another feature built into the BIOS. Depending on your BIOS, you will be able to enable or disable the network port, expansion slots, USB ports, audio ports & video ports. On the screen shown here, you can enable or disable the SATA controller, onboard audio, onboard 1394 (firewire), the left or right USB 3.0 controller, the OnChip USB 3.0 controller, USB 2.0 controllers, onboard LAN and the onboard serial port. This menu also allows you to change the motherboard OnChip SATA type from Native IDE to AHCI. This is an important setting to know about because if you are moving an OS drive from one board to another you will want to make sure that this setting is the same as it was on the previous motherboard; otherwise the drive will not boot. On newer boards, AHCI is usually set as the default.

BIOS date & time settings
BIOS date & time settings ©

System Date/time is set on this section of the BIOS setup menu. This Award BIOS menu is labeled as “Standard CMOS Features” allows you to configure the IDE channels as master or slave, adjust the date and time, and choose to halt boot on all errors, keyboard only error, or no errors.

BIOS settings CPU clock speed adjustment
BIOS settings CPU clock speed adjustment ©

Adjusting your cpu clock speed can slow or speed up your CPU, but BE CAREFUL. Running your CPU at speeds higher than recommended by the manufacturer can damage or destroy your CPU. If you do decide to overclock your system pay attention to the temperature of the processor so that it does not overheat. The BIOS settings menu, pictured in this corresponding image, give you the ability configure the integrated graphicx (IGX), adjust the CPU clock, RAM clock and control system voltage.

virtualization support setting in Advanced BIOS Features on the Award BIOS. ©
virtualization support setting in Advanced BIOS Features on the Award BIOS. ©

Virtualization means to create a virtual version of something. This virtualized component can be a computer, operating system, network, server and more  A virtual machine (VM) is a virtual computer. A simulation of the hardware used to make up a physical computer. Virtualization software available includes VMware and , Windows Virtual PC &Hyper-V. Virtualization support from the BIOS is essential to being able to host and run virtual machines.

BIOS Security

Your BIOS settings may offer an assortment of security features. One of these features is intrusion-detection/notification. This alert stops the boot up process and informs you when the case has been opened. Reboot the computer to bypass this alert. To be able to use this feature, your case must have a panel switch that is connected by wire to a header on the motherboard. This feature is nice but false alarms can be annoying; sometimes a dead CMOS battery can be the cause of a false alarm.

BIOS supervisor and user password setting ©
BIOS supervisor and user password setting ©

A power on password can be set to prevent unauthorized access to the computer and the BIOS setup utility. The password settings are usually in the same menu as the boot options. Some BIOS setup programs allow you to setup a supervisor and a standard user password.

A lojack for a laptop is a technology that is embedded in BIOS that protects the computer from theft by allowing a 3rd party company to locate your laptop whenever the system is connected to the Internet. “Lojack for laptops” is a service provided by Apple computers have a version called “find my mac”.

The BIOS can also manage hard drive data encryption and drive password protection. When a password is set, the hard drive cannot be accessed without it. The set password is stored on the actual hard drive. Hard drive encryption ensures all data is secure and cannot be access without the key. The TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip is included on high end motherboards. Encryption programs are designed to work with this chip by using them to store the encryption or startup key needed to boot the system. If the encrypted hard drive was stolen and put into another computer, no data would be accessible because it would all be encrypted. BitLocker is a commonly used encryption method for Windows that works with the TPM chip.

Using built in diagnostics

Built in diagnostics settings are also available from BIOS setup. These built in diagnostic tests that occur at boot are also called POST (Power On Self Test). The settings allow you to configure your system to perform a faster boot speed by bypassing the extensive POST. If you are troubleshooting a motherboard, make sure to set BIOS to perform all tests.

Monitoring your system

BIOS monitoring ©
BIOS monitoring ©

Monitoring your system allows you to stay up to date on your PC’s health. You can monitor the temperature, fan speeds, voltage, clock, bus speed and intrusion detection/notification. The corresponding BIOS screen shows settings for enabling and disabling an assortment of system health warnings.

Saving your changes and exiting the BIOS

BIOS save and exit setup ©
BIOS save and exit setup ©

Once you have finished setting up your motherboard for your computer system, you will need to save your settings and exit the BIOS. Often times the f10 key can be used as a shortcut to save and exit. If you are not sure about settings you have changed you can also exit without saving.

BIOS load fail safe or optimized defaults ©
BIOS load fail safe or optimized defaults ©

Just incase you need to , the BIOS also offers a quick way to load all of the fail safe or optimized defaults. This is great if you have saved your changes but want or need to go back to the default BIOS settings.

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Computer Repair & IT Support Acronym Definition List.

Compute Repair & Tech Support Acronyms
Compute Repair & Tech Support Acronyms - Tag Cloud by
Acronym Meaning
A/V Audio Video
AC alternating current
ACL Access control list
ACPI advanced configuration and power interface
ACT activity
ADC Analog-to-Digital Converter
ADF Automatic Document Feeder
ADSL Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line
ADSL asymmetrical digital subscriber line
AGP accelerated graphics port
AHCI Advanced host controller interface
AIFF Audio Interchange File Format
AIX Advanced Interactive Executive
ALU Arithmetic Logic Unit
AMD advanced micro devices
AMR audio modem riser
ANSI American National Standards Institute
AP Access Point
API Application Program Interface
APIPA automatic private internet protocol addressing
APM Advanced power management
APU Accelerated Processing Unit
ARP address resolution protocol
ASCII American Standard Code for Information Interchange
ASP Active Server Page or Application Service Provider
ASR automated system recovery
AT advanced technology
ATA advanced technology attachment
ATAPI advanced technology attachment packet interface
ATM asynchronous transfer mode
ATX advanced technology extended
AUP Acceptable Use Policy
Bash Bourne-Again Shell
BASIC Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code
Bcc Blind Carbon Copy
BIOS basic input/output system
Blob Binary Large Object
BMP Bitmap
BNC Bayonet Neill Concelman or British navel connector
BRI basic rate interface
BSOD Blue Screen of Death
BTX balanced technology extended
CAD Computer-Aided Design
CAPTCHA completely automated public turing test to tell computers and humans apart
Cc Carbon Copy
CCD Charged Coupled Device
CCFL cold cathode fluorescent lamp
CD compact disc
CD-R Compact Disc Recordable
CD-ROM compact disc read only memory
CD-RW RW  compact disc rewritable
CDFS compact disc file system
CDMA Code Division Multiple Access
CDN Content Delivery Network
CFS central file system, common file system, cammand file system
CGA color/graphics adapter
CGI Common Gateway Interface
CIFS common Internet file system
CISC Complex Instruction Set Computing
CLOB Character Large Object
CMOS complementary metal oxide semiconductor
CMS Content Management System
CMYK Cyan Magenta Yellow Black
CNR communications and network riser
COMx communication port (x = port number)
CPA Cost Per Action
CPC Cost Per Click
CPL Cost Per Lead
CPM Cost Per 1,000 Impressions
CPS Classroom Performance System
CPU central processing unit
CRIMM  continuity rambus inline memory module
CRM Customer Relationship Management
CRT cathode ray tube
CSS Cascading Style Sheet
CTP Composite Theoretical Performance
CTR Click-Through Rate
DAC discretionary access control
DAW Digital Audio Workstation
DB-25 serial communications D shell connector, 25 pins
DB-9 9 pin D shell connector
DBMS Database Management System
DC direct current
DCIM Digital Camera IMages
DDL Data Definition Language
DDOS distributed denial of service
DDR double data rate
DDR RAM double data rate random access memory
DDR SDRAM double data rate symmetric dynamic random access memory
DDR2 Double Data Rate 2
DDR3 Double Data Rate Type 3
DFS distributed file system
DHCP dynamic host configuration protocol
DIMM Dual In-Line Memory Module
DIMM dual inline memory module
DIN Deutsche Industrie Norm
DIP dual inline package
DLC Downloadable Content
DLL Dynamic Link Library
DLP digital light processing
DLT digital linear tape
DMA direct memory access
DMZ demilitarized zone
DNS Domain Name System
DNS domain name service or domain name server
DOS Disk Operating System
DOS disk operating system or denial of service
DPI Dots Per Inch
DRAM dynamic random access memory
DRM Digital Rights Management
DSL digital subscriber line
DSLAM Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer
DTD Document Type Definition
DV Digital Video
DVD Digital Versatile Disc
DVD digital video disc
DVD-R digital video disc recordable
DVD-RAM digital versatile disc random access memory
DVD-ROM digital video disc read only memory
DVD-RW digital video disc rewritable
DVD+R Digital Versatile Disc Recordable
DVD+RW Digital Versatile Disk Rewritable
DVI Digital Video Interface
DVI digital visual interface
DVR Digital Video Recorder
ECC error correction code
ECP extended capabilities port
EDI Electronic Data Interchange
EDO SDRAM extended data out symmetric dynamic random access memory
EEPROM electrically erasable programmable read
EFS encrypting file system
EGA enhanced graphics adapter
EIDE enhanced integrated drive electronics
EISA extended industry standard architecture
EMI electromagnetic interference
EMP electromagnetic pulse
ENET Ethernet EPP enhanced parallel port
EPS Encapsulated PostScript
ERD emergency repair disk
ESD electrostatic discharge
ESDI enhanced small device interface
EUP Enterprise Unified Process
EVDO evolution data optimized or evolution data only
EVGA extended video graphics adapter/array
EXIF Exchangeable Image File Format
FAQ Frequently Asked Questions
FAT file allocation table
FAT12 12 bit file allocation table
FAT16 16 bit file allocation table
FAT32 32 bit file allocation table
FCC Federal Communications Commission
FDD floppy disk drive
FDDI Fiber Distributed Data Interface
FERPA Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
FIFO First In, First Out
FILO First In, Last Out
FiOS Fiber Optic Service
FLOPS Floating Point Operations Per Second
Fn Function (referring to the function key on a keyboard)
FPM fast page
FPS Frames Per Second
FPU Floating Point Unit
FQDN Fully Qualified Domain Name
FRU field replaceable unit
FSB front side bus
FTP file transfer protocol
GB gigabyte
Gbps Gigabits Per Second
GDI graphics device interface
GHz gigahertz
GIF Graphics Interchange Format
GIGO Garbage In, Garbage Out
GIS Geographic Information Systems
GPIO General Purpose Input/Output
GPS global positioning system
GPU Graphics Processing Unit
GRPS general radio packet system
GSM global system manager or graphic size modification or graphics screen manager
GUI graphical user interface
GUID Globally Unique Identifier
HAL hardware abstraction layer
HAV hardware assisted virtualization
HCL hardware compatibility list
HDD hard disk drive
HDMI High-Definition Multimedia Interface
HDMi high definition media interface
HDTV High Definition Televsion
HDV High-Definition Video
HFS Hierarchical File System
HPFS high performance file system
HSF Heat Sink and Fan
HTML Hyper-Text Markup Language
HTML hypertext markup language
HTPC home theatre PC
HTTP hypertext transfer protocol
HTTPS HyperText Transport Protocol Secure
HTTPS hypertext transfer protocol over secure sockets layer
I/O input/output
ICANN Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers
ICF Internet Connection Firewall
ICMP internet control message protocol
ICR intellegent character recognition
ICS internet connection sharing
ICT Information and Communication Technologies
IDE  integrated drive electronics
IDS intrusion detection system
IEEE Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
IGP Integrated Graphics Processor
IIS Internet Information Services
IIS internet information server
IM Instant Message
IMAP Internet Message Access Protocol
IMAP internet mail access protocol
InterNIC Internet Network Information Center
IP internet protocol
IPCONFIG internet protocol configuration
IPP Internet printing protocol
IPS Intrusion Prevention System
IPSEC internet protocol security
IPX internetwork packet exchange
IPX/SPX internetwork packet exchange/sequenced packet exchange
IR infrared
IRC Internet Relay Chat
IrDA Infrared Data Association
IRQ interrupt request
ISA industry standard architecture
iSCSI Internet Small Computer Systems Interface
ISDN integrated services digital network
ISO International Organization for Standardization
ISO Industry Standards Organization
ISP internet service provider
IT Information Technology
IVR Interactive Voice Response
JBOD just a buch of disks
JFS Journaled File System
JPEG Joint Photographic Experts Group
JRE Java Runtime Environment
JSF JavaServer Faces
JSON JavaScript Object Notation
JSP Java Server Page
Kb kilobit
KB kilobyte or knowledge base
Kbps Kilobits Per Second
KDE K Desktop Environment
KVM Switch Keyboard, Video, and Mouse Switch
LAMP Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP
LAN local area network
LAT local area transport
LBA logical block addressing
LC lucent connector
LCD liquid crystal display
LDAP lightweight directory access protocol
LED Light-Emitting Diode
LED light emitting diode
Li-on lithium-ion
LIFO Last In, First Out
LPD/LPR line printer daemon / line printer remote
LPI Lines Per Inch
LPT line printer terminal
LPT1 line printer terminal 1
LPX low profile extended
LTE Long Term Evolution
LUN Logical Unit Number
LVD low voltage differential
MAC media access control
MAC Address Media Access Control Address
MAMP Mac OS X, Apache, MySQL, and PHP
MAN metropolitan area network
MANET Mobile Ad Hoc Network
MAPI messaging application programming interface
MAU media access unit, media attachment unit
Mb megabit
Mbps Megabits Per Second
MBR master boot record
MBSA Microsoft baseline security analyzer
MCA micro channel architecture
MDI Medium Dependent Interface
MFD multi-function device
MFP multi-function product
MHz megahertz
MicroDIMM micro dual inline memory module
MIDI musical instrument digital interface
MIME multipurpose Internet mail extension
MIMO multiple input multiple output
MIPS Million Instructions Per Second
MIS Management Information System
MLI multiple link interface
MMC Microsoft management console
MMS Multimedia Messaging Service
MMX multimedia extensions
MP3 MPEG-1 Audio Layer-3
MP3 Moving Picture Experts Group Layer 3 Audio
MP4 moving picture experts group layer 4
MPEG Moving Picture Experts Group
MSCONFIG Microsoft configuration
MSDS material safety data sheet
MTU Maximum Transmission Unit
MUI multilingual user interface
NAC network access control
NAS network attached storage
NAT network address translation
NetBEUI networked basic input/output system extended user interface
NetBIOS Network Basic Input/Output System
NetBIOS networked basic input/output system
NFS network file system
NIC network interface card
NiCd nickel cadmium
NiMH nickel metal hydride
NLI not logged in or natural language interface
NLX new low profile extended
NNTP network news transfer protocol
NOC Network Operations Center
NSP Network Service Provider
NTFS new technology file system
NTLDR new technology loader
NTP network time protocol
NUI Natural User Interface
NVRAM Non-Volatile Random Access Memory
OASIS Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards
OCR optical character recognition
ODBC Open Database Connectivity
OEM original equipment manufacturer
OLAP Online Analytical Processing
OLE Object Linking and Embedding
OLED organic light emitting diod
OOP Object-Oriented Programming
OS operating system
OSD On Screen Display
OSPF Open Shortest Path First
OSR original equipment manufacturer service release
OU organizational unit
P2P Peer To Peer
PAN personal area network
PATA parallel advanced technology attachment
PC personal computer
PCB Printed Circuit Board
PCI peripheral component interconnect
PCIe peripheral ocmponent interconnect express
PCIX peripheral component interconnect extended
PCL printer control language
PCMCIA Personal Computer Memory Card International Association
PDA personal digital assistant
PDF Portable Document Format
PGA pin grid array
PGA2 pin grid array 2 PIN personal identification number
PHP Hypertext Preprocessor
PIM Personal Information Manager
PMU Power Management Unit
PNG Portable Network Graphic
PnP plug and play
PON Passive Optical Network
POP post office protocol
POP3 post office protocol 3
PoS point of sale
POST power on self test
POTS plain old telephone service
PPC Pay Per Click
PPGA Plastic Pin Grid Array
PPI Pixels Per Inch
PPL Pay Per Lead
PPM Pages Per Minute
PPP point to point protocol
PPPoE Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet
PPS Pay Per Sale
PPTP Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol
PPTP point to point tunneling protocol
PRAM Parameter Random Access Memory
PRI primary rate interface
PROM Programmable Read-Only Memory
PROM programmable read only memory
PS/2 Personal System/2
PS/2 personal system/2 connector
PSTN public switched telephone network
PSU power supply unit
PUM Potentially Unwanted Modification
PUP Potentially Unwanted Program
PVC permanent virtual circuit
PXE preboot execution environment
QBE Query By Example
QoS quality of service
RAID Redundant Array of Independent Disks
RAID redundant array of independent discs
RAM random access memory
RAMBUS trademarked term
RAS remote access service
RDF Resource Description Framework
RDP remote desktop protocol
RDRAM rambus dynamic random access memory
RF radio frequency
RFID Radio-Frequency Identification
RGB red green blue
RIMM rambus inline memory module
RIP routing information protocol
RIS remote installation service
RISC Reduced Instruction Set Computing
RISC reduced instruction set computer
RJ registered jack
RJ-11 registered jack function 11
RJ-45 registered jack function 45
RMA returned materials authorization
ROM Read-Only Memory
ROM read only memory
RPC Remote Procedure Call
RPM Revenue Per 1,000 Impressions
RS-232 or RS-232C recommended standard 232
RSS RDF Site Summary
RTC real time clock
RTE Runtime Environment
RTF Rich Text Format
RUP Rational Unified Process
S.M.A.R.T self monitoring, analysis, and reporting technology
SaaS Software as a Service
SAN storage area network
SAS serial attached SCSI
SATA serial advanced technology attachment
SC subscription channel
SCP secure copy protection
SCSI small computer system interface
SCSI ID small computer system interface identifier
SD Secure Digital
SD card card secure digital card
SDK Software Development Kit
SDLC System Development Lifecycle
SDRAM Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory
SDRAM symmetric dynamic random access memory
SDSL Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line
SEC single edge connector
SEO Search Engine Optimization
SERP Search Engine Results Page
SFC system file checker
SFF small form factor
SGRAM synchronous graphics random access memory
SIMM Single In-Line Memory Module
SIMM single inline memory module
SIP Session Initiation Protocol
SKU Stock Keeping Unit
SLA Software License or Service Level Agreement
SLI Scalable Link Interface
SLI scalable link interface or system level integration or scanline interleave mode
SMART Self-Monitoring Analysis And Reporting Technology
SMB server message block
SMM Social Media Marketing
SMS Short Message Service
SMTP Simple Mail Transfer Protocol
SMTP simple mail transport protocol
SNMP simple network management protocol
SO-DIMM Small Outline Dual In-Line Memory Module
SOA Service Oriented Architecture
SOAP Simple Object Access Protocol
SoDIMM small outline dual inline memory module
SOHO small office/home office
SP service pack
SP1 service pack 1
SP2 service pack 2
SP3 service pack 3
SP4 service pack 4
SPDIF Sony Philips digital interface format
SPGA staggered pin grid array
SPX sequenced package exchange
SQL Structured Query Language
SRAM static random access memory
sRGB Standard Red Green Blue
SSD Solid State Drive
SSH secure shell
SSID service set identifier
SSL secure sockets layer
ST straight tip
STP shielded twisted pair
SVGA super video graphics array
SXGA super extended graphic array
TB terabyte
TCP transmission control protocol
TCP/IP transmission control protocol/internet protocol
TDR time domain reflectometer
TFT Thin-Film Transistor
TFTP trivial file transfer protocol
TIFF Tagged Image File Format
TTL Time To Live
TWAIN Toolkit Without An Informative Name
UAC user account control
UART universal asynchronous receiver transmitter
UAT User Acceptance Testing
UDDI Universal Description Discovery and Integration
UDF user defined functions or universal disk format or universal data format
UDMA ultra direct memory access
UDP user datagram protocol
UFS universal file system
UGC User Generated Content
UML Unified Modeling Language
UNC universal naming convention
UPnP Universal Plug and Play
UPS uninterruptible power supply
URI Uniform Resource Identifier
URL uniform resource locator
USB universal serial bus
USMT user state migration tool
UTF Unicode Transformation Format
UTP unshielded twisted pair
UXGA ultra extended graphics array
VCI Virtual Channel Identifier
VDSL Very High Bit Rate Digital Subscriber Line
VDU Visual Display Unit
VESA Video Electronics Standards Association
VFAT virtual file allocation table
VGA video graphics array
VLB VESA Local Bus
VLE Virtual Learning Environment
VoIP voice over internet protocol
VPI Virtual Path Identifier
VPN virtual private network
VRAM video random access memory
VRML Virtual Reality Modeling Language
W3C World Wide Web Consortium
WAIS Wide Area Information Server
WAMP Windows, Apache, MySQL, and PHP
WAN wide area network
WAP wireless application protocol
WDDM Windows Display Driver Model
WEP wired equivalent privacy
WIFI wireless fidelity
WIMP Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointer
WINS windows internet name service
WLAN wireless local area network
WPA Wi-Fi Protected Access
WPA wireless protected access
WPS WiFi protected setup
WUXGA wide ultra extended graphics array
WWW World Wide Web
XGA extended graphics array
XHTML Extensible Hypertext Markup Language
XML Extensible Markup Language
XMP Extensible Metadata Platform
XPR AIX command line utility
XSLT Extensible Style Sheet Language Transformation
Y2K Year 2000
ZIF zero insertion force
ZIP zigzag inline package

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The A+ certification was developed by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA).  This certification was designed to provide the computer repair and support industry a way to certify the proficiency level of computer service technicians. The A+ certification is earned by proving that you have the skills, knowledge and troubleshooting ability needed to provide a professional level of service in the computer support industry.  In order to become A+ certified, you have to pass two tests.

  • The A+ 220-801 exam. This test covers basic computer technology concepts including networking, customer service, printers, PC configuration & installation, safety, laptops and computer hardware.
  • The A+ 220-802 exam. This test covers security, installation and configuration of computer operating systems, mobile devices and troubleshooting.

The 801 & 802 exams consist of about 90 multiple choice and performance based questions.  The exams are 90 minutes in length.  CompTIA recommends 6-12 months lab/field experience before taking the test. A passing score for the 801 test is 675 on a scale of 900. The 802 test requires a passing score of 700 on a scale of 900.

Why get the A+ certification?

There are numerous reasons to become A+ Certified.  According to CompTIA, the A+ certification is a great starting point for your career in IT.  The A+ certification helps IT professionals boost their career, increase salaries and opens the door to better opportunities. The A+ certification validates your skills as an IT professional and is recognized worldwide.  IT professionals everywhere are using the A+ certification as a foundation for pursuing more advanced certifications.  If your looking for a great start to a career in an industry that is exploding, start with the A+ certification.

How to get certified

To become A+ certified, you have to pass the 220-801 & the 220-802 exams.  In order to pass these exams you will need to study.  This site will serve as an extensive study guide, designed to help anyone looking to pass the A+ certification.  Once your ready, you will need to register for the exams.  This can be accomplished by visiting or by calling Pearson VUE at 877-551-7587. When your ready to contact Pearson VUE, you will need to have the following information:

  • Name
  • Social security number
  • Mailing address
  • Phone number
  • Employers name
  • Location you wish to take the test
  • Credit or debit card for payment


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CompTIA A+ 220-801 exam. Intro to computer components.

Motherboard Component Identification
Motherboard Component Identification

There are many different pieces of hardware used to make up a computer. All of this hardware is unique in what it offers for functionality. In this article you will learn how to identify all of the ports, sockets, chipsets, connectors & hardware used to make up a computer.

Tower Computer Case
Tower Computer Case – Image credit Wikipedia

To start us off, one of the most important components of the computer is the computer caseThe computer case is also known as the chassis. The case holds and protects all of the computers essential components; such as the power supply, motherboard, hard disk drives, solid state drives, optical drives, RAM (random access memory), expansion cards and other drives. There are many different sizes shapes and colors of computer cases.  Some that sit upright are called a tower case while others that lay flat are called a desktop case. Some computer cases have the display built in, these are called all in one computers. Mobile cases are used for tablets and laptops.

When looking at a computer case, you will see numerous ports. These ports are for all types of connections including video, sound, peripheral, data transfer and network connectivity.

Ports commonly found on a computer include:

  • VGA (Video Graphics Array)
  • DVI (Digital Video Interface)
  • HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface)
  • DisplayPort
  • Thunderbolt
  • RJ-45 or Ethernet
  • S/PDIF (Sony-Philips Digital Interface)
  • audio ports

  • USB (Universal Serial Bus)
  • FireWire, eSATA (external SATA)
  • S-Video
  • PS/2,
  • serial
  • parallel
  • modem

VGA port
VGA port – Image credit Wikipedia

The VGA (Video Graphics Array) port is also called a DB-15 port.  This is a type of analog video port used for a computers display. The display is also called a monitor. This port is quickly being replaced by digital ports such as the DVI and HDMI ports. Digital offers a better quality high definition video. While still commonly available, the VGA port is mostly found on older monitors.

DVI port
DVI port – Image credit Wikipedia

The DVI (Digital Video Interface) port has the ability to transmit video to either a digital or analog display. This is helpful if you have a newer computer or port available but a display that only supports VGA. Adapters are available to make the transition.

HDMI – Image credit Wikipedia

The HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) port supports both audio and video. This port is often used by modern flat screen TV’s and stereo equipment. Today, the HDMI port is also commonly available to connect computers to digital displays with built in audio. This type of port previously only supported a digital transmission but there are now HDMI to VGA adapters available. These are sometimes found with a split off audio cable that can be attached to an audio port and a VGA cable for connecting to analog monitors.

Mini DisplayPort
Mini DisplayPort – Image credit Wikipedia

A DisplayPort also transmits digital video and audio and is beginning to replace VGA and DVI ports. There are also a variety of adapters available for this port. These adapters allow you to connect your VGA or HDMI components to the DisplayPort.

Thunderbolt Port
Thunderbolt Port – Image credit Wikipedia

The Thunderbolt port has the ability to transmit data, audio & video over the same cable. Thunderbolt transfers data at an impressive 10 Gbps. This port is the same size and shape of the DisplayPort and is compatible with DisplayPort devises. There are also a number of adapters available for this port. The Thunderbolt port was developed by Intel and until recently was only available on Macintosh computers.

Rj-45 Ethernet port
Rj-45 port – Image credit Wikipedia

The RJ-45 or Ethernet port is used for wired network connections. This port is used by network cables. These ports transfer data at 100 megabits per second (Mbps), and Gigabit Ethernet transfers data at 1 gigabit per second (Gbps), which is 1,000 Mbps. A gigabit network adapter, switch and router will keep your network speeds at the top. This keeps all computers on a LAN (local area network) communicating it the highest levels.

S/pdif optical digital audio port
S/pdif optical digital audio port – Image credit Wikipedia

S/PDIF (Sony-Philips Digital Interface) optical digital ports are used for audio transmission. This type of port is commonly used to connect your computer to a home theater sound system. This offers the highest quality audio signal.

Computer audio ports
Computer audio ports – Image credit Ryan Franklin – Flickr

The audio ports are round and color coded. There are usually between 3 and 6 of these ports located on a computer. There is usually an audio in for the microphone and an audio out for your speakers and headphones. Sometimes there are extra ports for surround speakers and center speakers.

USB port
USB port – Image credit Wikipedia

USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports are used for multiple devises. These devises include the keyboard, mouse, printer, scanner, external hard drives, flash drives, or web cams.  These ports have gone through some upgrades over the past years as well. USB 1.0 was the original with a transfer speed maxing out around 12 Mbit/s. USB 2.0 transfer speeds were greatly improved and were available at up to 280 Mbit/s. Super Speed USB 3.0 transfer speeds top them all at a whopping 5 Gbps.

FireWire ports
FireWire IEEE1394 ports – Image credit Wikipedia

FireWire ports are also called IEEE1394 ports and were originally developed by Apple.  Today, these ports are most commonly used for multimedia devices. Apple has now stopped using this port and replaced it with the faster and more dynamic Thunderbolt port.

eSATA port
eSATA port – Image credit Wikipedia

eSATA (external SATA) ports are used by external hard drives using the eSATA interface. The eSATA interface is faster than USB 2.0 and for years was considered a professionals choice over USB. Today, USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt are the ports of choice for many professionals.

P/S2 ports
P/S2 ports – Image credit Pixabay

The PS/2 port types were also called a mini-DIN port. Theses round 6-pin ports are color coded green or purple for use with either a mouse or keyboard.  While they look alike, they are not interchangeable. The green port is used for a mouse and the purple port is used for a keyboard. Today these ports have been replaced by USB and are not commonly used.

Serial port
Serial port – Image credit Wikipedia

The Serial port is a 9-pin male port usually only found on older computers. Today, for obscure applications, when a serial port is needed it usually has to be added by way of expansion card. This port is also called a DB9 port and has now been replaced by USB.

Parallel computer printer port
Parallel computer printer port – Image credit Wikipedia

The parallel port is also an older technology. This type of port is a 25-pin female port used by legacy printers. This is another port that has been replaced by the USB port.

Modem port
Modem port – Image credit Wikipedia

The modem port is a legacy item and not commonly found on computers anymore. This port was used to connect a phone line to a computer for a dial up Internet connection. This type of port has been replaced by the RJ-45 port.

The motherboard is the largest and main circuit board inside of a computer.  This board is also known as the system board, main board, mobo or PCB (printed circuit board).  The mother board is the most important piece of computer hardware because it is what connects all of the other components that make up a computer.

A typical motherboard has the following sockets, ports, headers, connectors & chipsets:

  • RAM slots
  • CPU socket
  • Power connectors
  • BIOS
  • CMOS battery
  • USB slots

  • Northbridge
  • Southbridge
  • Expansion slots
  • Chipsets
  • Integrated peripheral ports and connections

Motherboard component Identification
ATX Motherboard component Identification

The mother board comes in various sizes, shapes and colors and has numerous components connected to it.

Motherboard Form Factors. A motherboard is classified by its form factor.  There are few different form factors available.  Some of the most common form factors are the ATX, micro ATX, and ITX. The most common though, is the ATX form factor. When choosing a motherboard for a custom computer build, be sure to select a matching case.

Motherboard Form Factor Comparison
Form Factor Comparison – Image credit Wikipedia

ATX (Advanced Technology Extended). On the ATX motherboard, the processor and memory slots are at a right angle to the expansion slots.  This layout puts the RAM and processor in line with the power supply fan which allows the processor to run cooler. This arrangement also allows for the installation of full length expansion cards.

Micro ATX. The micro ATX form factor is designed to work in standard ATX cases and smaller micro ATX cases. The smaller motherboard and case combo allow you to save some room but with that you lose expansion capacity.  On a micro ATX motherboard there are generally less RAM slots, expansion card slots, USB headers, SATA connectors & integrated components.

ITX. The ITX form factor is actually a whole family of form factors.  These include Mini-ITX (170×170 mm), Nano-ITX (120×120 mm), Pico-ITX (100×72 mm), & Mobile-ITX (60 x 60 mm).  These smaller motherboards have four mounting holes and one expansion slot.  These system boards are generally used for home theater systems.

Components attached the the motherboard.

AMD Phenom II X4 840 CPU
AMD Phenom II X4 840 CPU – Image credit Wikipedia

The CPU (central processing unit) is also called the processor or microprocessor.  This component does the largest amount of data processing for the entire computer system. Because of this, the CPU generates a lot of heat. To keep the CPU cool a processor cooler is needed. A processor cooler is a heat sink with a fan attached to it. This ensemble is placed over the top of the CPU. The heat sink has numerous metal fins that draw the heat away from the microprocessor. Heat sinks are also found on video cards and other computer components that require cooling.

High Performance RAM Random Access Memory
RAM (Random Access Memory) – Image credit Wikipedia

RAM (random access memory) is inserted into memory modules located on the motherboard. These memory modules are call DIMM (dual inline memory module) slots. RAM is a form of temporary storage used for data and instructions that are being processed by the processor. Many video cards also contain embedded dedicated RAM for video and graphics memory.

Soundblaster expansion card
Soundblaster expansion card – Image credit Wikipedia

Expansion cards inserted into a motherboards expansion slots provide a computer with extra ports.  These extra ports can host numerous port types including VGA, DVI, USB, HDMI, eSATA, or Network.  Expansion cards are also called adapter cards. Today, much of the time we find that all of the needed ports are attached directly to the board. These are call onboard ports. Onboard ports allow us to get away with out using expansion cards.

Optical drive
Optical drive – Image credit Wikipedia
Hard Drive (HDD)
Hard Drive (HDD) – Image credit Wikipedia

Hard drives, solid state drives, optical drives & other types of drives are also connected to the motherboard. Hard disk drives (HDD) and solid state drives (SSD) are permanent storage devices used to store data and programs. The operating system is usually the first bit of data installed on a HDD or SSD. Hard drives and SSD’s are located at the front of the computer, stacked into drive bays. Other types of drives you may find attached to the mother board are floppy disk drives & tape drives. Each drive attached to the motherboard requires a power cable from the power supply and a data cable.

SATA (serial ATA) and PATA (parallel ATA 40-pin) are the 2 types of data cables used for hard drives, solid state drives & optical drives. SATA is the newer faster interface and PATA is the older and slower interface. Today SATA is the most commonly used type of data cable but PATA is still found in some legacy systems that you may encounter.

The Floppy drive cable (34-pin) looks a lot like the PATA cable but with 6 less pins.

Solid-State Drive
Solid State Drive (SSD) – Image credit Wikipedia
SATA cable
SATA cable
PATA cable
PATA cable – Image credit Wikipedia

Power Supply (PSU)
Power Supply (PSU) – Image credit Wikipedia

A power supply or PSU (power supply unit) is a box that sits inside the computer case. The power supply is usually located at the top and back side of a computer case.  The power supply converts powerful AC current into usable DC current. Many power supplies have a dual-voltage switch on the back next to where the IEC power cable plugs into the PSU.  This switch allows you to switch the input voltage from 115 V to 220 V depending on where you live.  The power supply has an assortment of power cables with many different types of adapters used to connect to all of the components inside

The power supply has an array of power connectors:

  • 4-pin Molex
  • 15-pin SATA
  • 20-pin P1
  • 20+4 pin P1
  • 24-pin P1
  • 4-pin auxiliary

  • 8-pin auxiliary
  • 4-pin Berg
  • 6-pin PCIe
  • 6+2 pin PCIe
  • 8-pin PCIe

4-pin Molex power supply connector
4-pin Molex power supply connector – Image credit Wikipedia

The 4-pin Molex power connector is used to connect power to a variety of components. Hardware items that use this connector include SATA drives, PATA drives some case fans. SATA drives do have a 15-pin SATA power connector but some have an additional 4-pin Molex connection. This is helpful if you are out of SATA connectors. There are also adapters available that will convert the 4-pin Molex to SATA or other if needed.

15-pin SATA power supply connector
15-pin SATA power supply connector – Image credit Wikipedia

The 15-pin SATA power connector is used for SATA hard drives, optical drives and solid state drives. In some cases you will need to attach a SATA connector to an expansion card to provide needed power.

20-pin P1 power supply connector
20-pin P1 power supply connector – Image credit Wikipedia

The 20-pin P1 power connector is the main motherboard power connector used on older ATX motherboards. Today, the 24-pin power connector is used as the main power connector for motherboards.

20+4 pin power supply connector
20+4 pin power supply connector – Image credit Wikipedia

The 20+4 pin P1 power connector is a 20-pin power connector with an additional 4-pin connector attached. This allows the power supply to be used on older and newer motherboards.

24-pin power supply connector
24-pin power supply connector – Image credit Wikipedia

The 24-pin P1 power connector is the primary power connector for todays motherboards.

4-pin auxiliary power connector
4-pin auxiliary power connector – Image credit Wikipedia

The 4-pin auxiliary power connector is used for an extra 12 volts of power needed by the CPU.

8-pin auxiliary power supply connector
8-pin auxiliary power supply connector

The 8-pin auxiliary power connector is also referred to as the EPS12V cable. Today, many CPU’s need more than power than the 12 volts of power provided by the 4-pin power connector.  Depending on the power supply, this cable may provide one 12 volt rail of power over all 8 pins or 2 x 12 volt rails of power over 4-pins apiece. Keep that in mind when shopping for a power supply.

berg power supply connnector
berg power supply connnector – Image credit WIkipedia

The 4-pin Berg power connector or P7, is used to supply power to a floppy disk drive. Today, this cable is mostly unused. A relic provided just in case you need to connect a floppy disk drive.

6-pin PCIe power supply connector
6-pin PCIe power supply connector

The 6-pin PCIe power connector is used to supply power to expansion cards when needed. Often times this is used for high-end video cards with the version 1 standard.

6+2 pin PCIe power supply connector
6+2 pin PCIe power supply connector

The 6+2 pin PCIe power connector is used to provide an extra 12 volts of power to expansion cards. This is used by high-end video cards that are using a PCIe x 16 card slot. This connector gives you the option of either a 6-pin or 8-pin connector to suit your specific video cards needs.

8-pin PCIe power supply connector
8-pin PCIe power supply connector

The 8-pin PCIe power connector is also used to supply power to expansion cards when needed. This power supply connector is used for high-end video cards that used the version 2 standard.


0 493

Exam Objectives: CompTIA A+ 220-801

These are the exam objectives as stated (and copyrighted) by CompTIA, Inc.:

1.0 PC Hardware 40%

1.1 Configure and apply BIOS settings.

  • Install firmware upgrades—flash BIOS
  • BIOS component information
    • RAM
    • Hard drive
    • Optical drive
    • CPU
  • BIOS configurations
    • Boot sequence
    • Enabling and disabling devices
    • Date/time
    • Clock speeds
    • Virtualization support
    • BIOS security (passwords, drive encryption: TPM, lo-jack)
  • Use built-in diagnostics
  • Monitoring
    • Temperature monitoring
    • Fan speeds
    • Intrusion detection/notification
    • Voltage
    • Clock
    • Bus speed

1.2 Differentiate between motherboard components, their purposes, and properties.

  • Sizes
    • ATX
    • Micro-ATX
    • ITX
  • Expansion slots
    • PCI
    • PCI-X
    • PCIe
    • miniPCI
    • CNR
    • AGP2x, 4x, 8x
  • RAM slots
  • CPU sockets
  • Chipsets
    • North Bridge
    • South Bridge
    • CMOS battery
  • Jumpers
  • Power connections and types
  • Fan connectors
  • Front panel connectors
    • USB
    • Audio
    • Power button
    • Power light
    • Drive activity lights
    • Reset button
  • Bus speeds

1.3 Compare and contrast RAM types and features.

  • Types
    • DDR
    • DDR2
    • DDR3
    • SDRAM
    • SODIMM
    • RAMBUS
    • DIMM
    • Parity vs. non-parity
    • ECC vs. non-ECC
    • RAM configurations
    • Single channel vs. dual channel vs. triple channel
    • Single sided vs. double sided
  • RAM compatibility and speed

1.4 Install and configure expansion cards.

  • Sound cards
  • Video cards
  • Network cards
  • Serial and parallel cards
  • USB cards
  • Firewire cards
  • Storage cards
  • Modem cards
  • Wireless/cellular cards
  • TV tuner cards
  • Video capture cards
  • Riser cards

1.5 Install and configure storage devices and use appropriate media.

  • Optical drives
    • CD-ROM
    • DVD-ROM
    • Blu-Ray
  • Combo drives and burners
    • CD-RW
    • DVD-RW
    • Dual Layer DVD-RW
    • BD-R
    • BD-RE
  • Connection types
    • External
    • USB
    • Firewire
    • eSATA
    • Ethernet
    • Internal SATA, IDE and SCSI
    • IDE configuration and setup (Master, Slave, Cable Select)
    • SCSI IDs (0—15)
    • Hot swappable drives
  • Hard drives
    • Magnetic
    • 5400 rpm
    • 7200 rpm
    • 10,000 rpm
    • 15,000 rpm
  • Solid state/flash drives
    • Compact flash
    • SD
    • Micro-SD
    • Mini-SD
    • xD
    • SSD
  • RAID types
    • 0
    • 1
    • 5
    • 10
  • Floppy drive
  • Tape drive
  • Media capacity
    • CD
    • CD-RW
    • DVD-RW
    • DVD
    • Blu-Ray
    • Tape
    • Floppy
    • DL DVD

1.6 Differentiate among various CPU types and features and select the appropriate cooling method.

  • Socket types
    • Intel: LGA, 775, 1155, 1156, 1366
    • AMD: 940, AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1, F
  • Characteristics
    • Speeds
    • Cores
    • Cache size/type
    • Hyperthreading
    • Virtualization support
    • Architecture (32-bit vs. 64-bit)
    • Integrated GPU
  • Cooling
    • Heat sink
    • Fans
    • Thermal paste
    • Liquid-based

1.7 Compare and contrast various connection interfaces and explain their purpose.

  • Physical connections
    • USB 1.1 vs. 2.0 vs. 3.0 speed and distance characteristics
    • Connector types: A, B, mini, micro
    • Firewire 400 vs. Firewire 800 speed and distance characteristics
    • SATA1 vs. SATA2 vs. SATA3, eSATA, IDE speeds
    • Other connector types
      • Serial
      • Parallel
      • VGA
      • HDMI
      • DVI
      • Audio
      • RJ-45
      • RJ-11
    • Analog vs. digital transmission
      • VGA vs. HDMI
    • Speeds, distances and frequencies of wireless device connections
      • Bluetooth
      • IR
      • RF

1.8 Install an appropriate power supply based on a given scenario.

  • Connector types and their voltages
    • SATA
    • Molex
    • 4/8-pin 12v
    • PCIe 6/8-pin
    • 20-pin
    • 24-pin
    • Floppy
  • Specifications
    • Wattage
    • Size
    • Number of connectors
    • ATX
    • Micro-ATX
    • Dual voltage options

1.9 Evaluate and select appropriate components for a custom configuration, to meet customer specifications or needs.

  • Graphic / CAD / CAM design workstation
    • Powerful processor
    • High-end video
    • Maximum RAM
  • Audio/Video editing workstation
    • Specialized audio and video card
    • Large fast hard drive
    • Dual monitors
  • Virtualization workstation
    • Maximum RAM and CPU cores
  • Gaming PC
    • Powerful processor
    • High-end video/specialized GPU
    • Better sound card
    • High-end cooling
  • Home Theater PC
    • Surround sound audio
    • HDMI output
    • HTPC compact form factor
    • TV tuner
  • Standard thick client
    • Desktop applications
    • Meets recommended requirements for running Windows
  • Thin client
    • Basic applications
    • Meets minimum requirements for running Windows
  • Home Server PC
    • Media streaming
    • File sharing
    • Print sharing
    • Gigabit NIC
    • RAID array

1.10 Given a scenario, evaluate types and features of display devices.

  • Types
    • CRT
    • LCD
    • LED
    • Plasma
    • Projector
    • OLED
  • Refresh rates
  • Resolution
  • Native resolution
  • Brightness/lumens
  • Analog vs. digital
  • Privacy/antiglare filters
  • Multiple displays

1.11 Identify connector types and associated cables.

  • Display connector types
    • DVI-D
    • DVI-I
    • DVI-A
    • Displayport
    • RCA
    • DB-15
    • BNC
    • miniHDMI
    • RJ-45
    • miniDin-6
  • Display cable types
    • HDMI
    • DVI
    • VGA
    • Component
    • Composite
    • S-video
    • RGB
    • Coaxial
    • Ethernet
  • Device connectors and pin arrangements
    • SATA
    • eSATA
    • PATA
      • IDE
      • EIDE
    • Floppy
    • USB
    • IEEE1394
    • SCSI
    • PS/2
    • Parallel
    • Serial
    • Audio
    • RJ-45
  • Device cable types
    • SATA
    • eSATA
    • IDE
    • EIDE
    • Floppy
    • USB
    • IEEE1394
    • SCSI
      • 68pin vs. 50pin vs. 25pin
    • Parallel
    • Serial
    • Ethernet
    • Phone

1.12 Install and configure various peripheral devices.

  • Input devices
    • Mouse
    • Keyboard
    • Touch screen
    • Scanner
    • Barcode reader
    • KVM
    • Microphone
    • Biometric devices
    • Game pads
    • Joysticks
    • Digitizer
  • Multimedia devices
    • Digital cameras
    • Microphone
    • Webcam
    • Camcorder
    • MIDI enabled devices
  • Output devices
    • Printers
    • Speakers
    • Display devices

2.0 Networking 27%

2.1 Identify types of network cables and connectors.

  • Fiber
    • Connectors: SC, ST and LC
  • Twisted Pair
    • Connectors: RJ-11, RJ-45
    • Wiring standards: T568A, T568B
  • Coaxial
    • Connectors: BNC, F-connector

2.2 Categorize characteristics of connectors and cabling.

  • Fiber
    • Types (single-mode vs. multi-mode)
    • Speed and transmission limitations
  • Twisted pair
    • Types: STP, UTP, CAT3, CAT5, CAT5e, CAT6, plenum, PVC
    • Speed and transmission limitations
  • Coaxial
    • Types: RG-6, RG-59
    • Speed and transmission limitations

2.3 Explain properties and characteristics of TCP/IP.

  • IP class
    • Class A
    • Class B
    • Class C
  • IPv4 vs. IPv6
  • Public vs. private vs. APIPA
  • Static vs. dynamic
  • Client-side DNS
  • DHCP
  • Subnet mask
  • Gateway

2.4 Explain common TCP and UDP ports, protocols, and their purpose.

  • Ports
    • 21—FTP
    • 23—TELNET
    • 25—SMTP
    • 53—DNS
    • 80—HTTP
    • 110—POP3
    • 143—IMAP
    • 443—HTTPS
    • 3389—RDP
  • Protocols
    • DHCP
    • DNS
    • LDAP
    • SNMP
    • SMB
    • SSH
    • SFTP
  • TCP vs. UDP

2.5 Compare and contrast wireless networking standards and encryption types.

  • Standards
    • 802.11 a/b/g/n
    • Speeds, distances and frequencies
  • Encryption types

2.6 Install, configure, and deploy a SOHO wireless/wired router using appropriate settings.

  • MAC filtering
  • Channels (1—11)
  • Port forwarding, port triggering
  • SSID broadcast (on/off)
  • Wireless encryption
  • Firewall
  • DHCP (on/off)
  • DMZ
  • NAT
  • WPS
  • Basic QoS

2.7 Compare and contrast Internet connection types and features.

  • Cable
  • DSL
  • Dial-up
  • Fiber
  • Satellite
  • ISDN
  • Cellular (mobile hotspot)
  • Line of sight wireless internet service
  • WiMAX

2.8 Identify various types of networks.

  • LAN
  • WAN
  • PAN
  • MAN
  • Topologies
    • Mesh
    • Ring
    • Bus
    • Star
    • Hybrid

2.9 Compare and contrast network devices their functions and features.

  • Hub
  • Switch
  • Router
  • Access point
  • Bridge
  • Modem
  • NAS
  • Firewall
  • VoIP phones
  • Internet appliance

2.10 Given a scenario, use appropriate networking tools.

  • Crimper
  • Multimeter
  • Toner probe
  • Cable tester
  • Loopback plug
  • Punchdown tool

3.0 Laptops 11%

3.1 Install and configure laptop hardware and components.

  • Expansion options
    • Express card /34
    • Express card /54
    • PCMCIA
    • SODIMM
    • Flash
  • Hardware/device replacement
    • Keyboard
    • Hard Drive (2.5 vs. 3.5)
    • Memory
    • Optical drive
    • Wireless card
    • Mini-PCIe
    • screen
    • DC jack
    • Battery
    • Touchpad
    • Plastics
    • Speaker
    • System board
    • CPU

3.2 Compare and contrast the components within the display of a laptop.

  • Types
    • LCD
    • LED
    • OLED
    • Plasma
  • Wi-Fi antenna connector/placement
  • Inverter and its function
  • Backlight

3.3 Compare and contrast laptop features.

  • Special function keys
    • Dual displays
    • Wireless (on/off)
    • Volume settings
    • Screen brightness
    • Bluetooth (on/off)
    • Keyboard backlight
  • Docking station vs. port replicator
  • Physical laptop lock and cable lock

4.0 Printers 11%

4.1 Explain the differences between the various printer types and summarize the associated imaging process.

  • Laser
    • Imaging drum, fuser assembly, transfer belt, transfer roller, pickup rollers, separate pads, duplexing assembly
    • Imaging process: processing, charging, exposing, developing, transferring, fusing and cleaning
  • Inkjet
    • Ink cartridge, print head, roller, feeder, duplexing assembly, carriage and belt
    • Calibration
  • Thermal
    • Feed assembly, heating element
    • Special thermal paper
  • Impact
    • Print head, ribbon, tractor feed
    • Impact paper

4.2 Given a scenario, install, and configure printers.

  • Use appropriate printer drivers for a given operating system
  • Print device sharing
    • Wired
      • USB
      • Parallel
      • Serial
      • Ethernet
    • Wireless
      • Bluetooth
      • 802.11x
      • Infrared (IR)
    • Printer hardware print server
  • Printer sharing
    • Sharing local/networked printer via Operating System settings

4.3 Given a scenario, perform printer maintenance.

  • Laser
    • Replacing toner, applying maintenance kit, calibration, cleaning
  • Thermal
    • Replace paper, clean heating element, remove debris
  • Impact
    • Replace ribbon, replace print head, replace paper

5.0 Operational Procedures 11%

5.1 Given a scenario, use appropriate safety procedures.

  • ESD straps
  • ESD mats
  • Self-grounding
  • Equipment grounding
  • Personal safety
    • Disconnect power before repairing PC
    • Remove jewelry
    • Lifting techniques
    • Weight limitations
    • Electrical fire safety
    • CRT safety—proper disposal
    • Cable management
  • Compliance with local government regulations

5.2 Explain environmental impacts and the purpose of environmental controls.

  • MSDS documentation for handling and disposal
  • Temperature, humidity level awareness and proper ventilation
  • Power surges, brownouts, blackouts
    • Battery backup
    • Surge suppressor
  • Protection from airborne particles
    • Enclosures
    • Air filters
  • Dust and debris
    • Compressed air
    • Vacuums
  • Component handling and protection
    • Antistatic bags
  • Compliance to local government regulations

5.3 Given a scenario, demonstrate proper communication and professionalism.

  • Use proper language—avoid jargon, acronyms, slang when applicable
  • Maintain a positive attitude
  • Listen and do not interrupt the customer
  • Be culturally sensitive
  • Be on time (if late contact the customer)
  • Avoid distractions
    • Personal calls
    • Talking to co-workers while interacting with customers
    • Personal interruptions
  • Dealing with difficult customer or situation
    • Avoid arguing with customers and/or being defensive
    • Do not minimize customer’s problems
    • Avoid being judgmental
    • Clarify customer statements (ask open ended questions to narrow the scope of the problem, restate the issue or question to verify understanding)
  • Set and meet expectations/timeline and communicate status with the customer
    • Offer different repair/replacement options if applicable
    • Provide proper documentation on the services provided
    • Follow up with customer/user at a later date to verify satisfaction
  • Deal appropriately with customers confidential materials
    • Located on a computer, desktop, printer, etc.

5.4 Explain the fundamentals of dealing with prohibited content/activity.

  • First response
    • Identify
    • Report through proper channels
    • Data/device preservation
  • Use of documentation/documentation changes
  • Chain of custody
    • Tracking of evidence/documenting process

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Motherboard Form Factor Comparison

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The motherboard is the most important and intricate piece of hardware inside a computer. When putting together a computer, the first two decisions to...