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A+ Core Hardware Study Guide (220-301)

This study guide is for the new A+ 2003 objectives and is the best free study guide that we have
seen anywhere. It is fairly lengthy and is broken into several parts. You can navigate through the
pages using the menu links on each page. You can also return to the index here and select a
particular section from the menu below.

Cables, Connectors, and Technologies

Cases, Keyboards and Pointing Devices
Power Supplies
System Boards
Hard Drives, Floppy Drives, CD-ROM and Tape Drives
Video Adapters, Video Displays and Sound Cards
Preventative Maintenance
Printers and Scanners
Networking Basics
Portable Devices
Cables, Connectors, and Technologies

By David J. Schultz

This paper is meant to help you with passing the A+ exam, in building your own PC, and most
importantly, on the job. It is important to know how to recognize which cable is which by looking at
it or its connector and how to troubleshoot any problems that may come up with them or their setup.
Also my “in the field” will describe some things to remember about these cables. This will help in
troubleshooting bottlenecks and other miscellaneous problems.

In reading this, please remember that there are legacy and cutting-edge products. Even though you
may have a tendency to turn nose up at the old stuff, you may have to work with it. Being able to
recognize it may get you a job and respect from the senior members faster than if you have to look
up all the old stuff.

There is also the weird and bizarre factor. There are a million differnent types of cables out there and
many of them are proprietary to a particular company or product. We see a lot of this in the laptop
world. I am not here to show the weird and bizarre so when you see these types of things, look in
the manual.

We need to start with some vocabulary.

• Asynchronous: Not synchronized. Communication without any timing mechanism. Instead of

a timing mechanism you have communication rules. There is a start bit and a stop bit to
notify the other end when communication starts and stops.
○ Pros: If one computer needs to send data then it can do so without having to keep
stopping during each clock cycle.
○ Cons: With the use of start and stop bits you have 20% overhead. In other words, if
you send 100 KB of information then it takes 120 KB to get it all there.
• Synchronous: In this setup, data is sent as strict blocks of information. Because the timing
is uniform, there is no need for a start and stop bit.
○ Pros: No need for extra information.
○ Cons: There is timing so you could say that there are blank spaces.
• IRQ: Stands for Interrupt ReQuest. This is how a peripheral tells the CPU it needs its
attention. There are specific numbers to tell the CPU which peripheral needs time and the
priority. The priority is determined from least to greatest (i.e. 0 is the most important and 15
is the least). Most systems have 16 of these IRQs. Some older systems only have 9. This
used to limit the numbers of things you can put in a system. Now technology has advanced so
there is now IRQ sharing, but be mindful when working with ISA cards and older systems as
you can run out fast.
• Male vs. Female Connector: I’m not going too far into this, but a male connector is the side
of a connection that has the prongs--like the power plug on your computer monitor. The side
that goes from your monitor into the wall is the male. The outlet is the female side of the
connector. NO JOKE.
• DB: This term you will see in the context of DB-25 or DB-9. What this is describing is the
shape of the connector. The connector has a definite shape like a capital D (also could be
called a trapezoid with rounded angles).
Now let's take a look at some of the various cable types.

Serial Port

Standard: RS-232
Connector Name: DB-9 (most common) sometimes DB-25
Transfer mode: Asynchronous
Sometimes called: COM ports
Number found on a system: 2 possible of 4
IRQ: 3(Com 2 & 4) and 4(Com 1 & 3)
I/O range: COM 1=03f8-03ff COM 2=02f8-02ff COM 3=3E8-3EF and COM 4=2E8-2EF
Max length: 50 feet
Max data rate: 1.5 Mbps (with 16550A UART)

Quick recognition:
 On the computer: Male DB-9 connector. Usually 2 of them. Note: this is usually the ONLY male
connector on the back of your PC. It is sometimes confused with the VGA connector because of
similar physical size. But you can quickly tell the difference because a serial connector on the back of
a computer is male and only has 9 pins where a VGA connector has 15 pins and is female (usually
colored blue). Also, if you are looking at a really old computer, you might confuse a serial port for
the video port. The really old EGA and CGA video connector used a DB-9 connector, but on the box
they were female. So again, it is important to remember to look for the male aspect of this connector
for identification.
 On the peripheral you can quickly identify it by its female connector as shown in the image

Normally used with: This is normally seen on older mice and modems. Two computers can be
networked together using a null modem cable. This is a serial cable that has its send and receive
crossed over so the 2 computers are not trying to send information to the other's send port.

Ending comments: No discussion of serial would be complete without discussing UART (universal
asynchronous receiver-transmitter) chips. This chip is the heart of your serial port. It takes your
information and turns it into serial data then back again. These chips have evolved from slower to
faster starting with the modern imp.

If you want the real techie stuff go to:

Parallel Port
Standard: IEEE-1284
Connector Name: DB-25(on PC), Centronics
Transfer mode: Synchronous
Sometimes called: LPT
Number found on a system: 1 (up to 2)
IRQ: LPT1 =7 LPT2=5*
Max length: 10 Meters (approx. 30 feet) absolute Maximum
Max data rate: 4 Mbps

Quick recognition on a computer:

This connector stands out as the biggest connector (usually) on the back of your PC. It is usually
next to the serial ports. It is a DB-25 connector on the PC and usually a Centronics 36 pin connection
to the peripheral. *Warning* There are SCSI 1 connectors that look like this and will actually fit
together. Just look for the SCSI symbol to tell the difference. You usually will not see a SCSI
connector on a PC. But on an old Apple Macintosh you will. There is also no parallel port on a Mac
to make things difficult.

Real World Notes: I once sold a Mac to a friend. He called me 2 weeks later asking me why the
computer did not work. It turns out that someone had given him an old PC printer. Not knowing, he
connected the parallel connector to it and turned it on. The Mac did not do anything. It did not even
POST. Once he unplugged the parallel connector from the SCSI interface on the back of his Mac it
worked fine with no damage.

Also, if you plug an older device in and it is not recognized, you may need to go into Device Manager
on you computer and "Enable legacy Plug and Play detection.”

*In modern computers they can be set not to use an IRQ for an LPT port.

Normally seen on: You usually see this on printers and scanners. This is being replaced with USB.


Standard: PS/2
Connector Name: DIN 6 (6 pin)
Sometimes called: PS/2 port, Mouse port, keyboard port, mini DIN 6
Number found on a system: 2
IRQ: 12 and 1
Max length: 100 ft

Quick recognition on a computer:

This will look like a small round connector on the back of your PC. Usually color-coded green or
purple. The green is for the mouse and the purple is for the keyboard. If they are not color-coded,
look close to the connector for an indicator or look it up in the owner’s manual. Or go by the rule that
the mouse is the one on the inside of the PC. If you do attach the wrong connector and start up the
PC you will get a "beep" (if the internal speaker is still connected) and an error message ("No
keyboard present").

Normally seen on: This is used for mice and keyboards


Connector Name: DIN 5

Transfer mode: N/A
Sometimes called: old keyboard connector
Number found on a system: 1
IRQ: 1

Quick recognition:On computer: On the keyboard cable this is a larger round connector with bigger
pins arranged in a circular fashion. On some older motherboards, this may be the only built-on
connector. It is also considered out-of-date. It was replaced by the PS/2 stile connector, which in
turn is being phased out by USB.

Normally seen on: Only used on keyboards.

USB 1.1

Standard: USB 1.1 (by USB-IF)

Connector Name: USB A/B
Transfer mode: Asynchronous
Number found on a system: 2-5
Maximum number of Devices: 127
IRQ: 11
Max length: 3-5 meters
Max data rate: 12 Mbit/sec (1.5 MB/sec)
Power: 2.5w

Quick recognition on a computer:

On the computer these look like thin rectangular slots.

Cable Quick recognition:

The cable has 2 male connectors; one on each side. The difference between the a and b standard is
that the 2 power wires are not at the b end. You would see this on a printer that gets its power from
the wall.

Normally seen on: Mice, keyboards, scanners, modems and other low-power peripheral devices.
Even some hard drives can be powered by this low current. This can also be found on digital
cameras and some camcorders to download the movies and pictures to your computer. Also you
can get speakers that use this type of connector. This interface has all but replaced the serial port.

Features: To connect many devices, you can use a USB hub. This is a box that you connect into
your computer through one of your USB ports and then you can plug many other devices into it.
Also, the speed of each USB chain is shared between all devices on that chain. So the more devices
you have operating at once, the slower they all will go.

*WARNING* With enough force you can plug a USB connector in upside-down. This will kill your
motherboard (BOOM) or PCI card. Never force anything on your computer!!!!


Insert same Pic from USB 1.1

Standard: USB 2 (by USB-IF)

Connector Name: USB
Transfer mode: Asynchronous
Sometimes called: USB 2
Number found on a system: Still being determined
IRQ: 11
Power: 2.5w

USB 2 is really just an upgrade in speed from USB 1.1. So everything is the same, just faster. You
can use the same cables but you do need a new hub. The old hub will work, but it will only allow the
USB 1.1 speed.

Firewire (IEEE-1394)
Standard: IEEE-1394
Connector Name: IEEE-1394 A B
Transfer mode: Asynchronous/Isosynchronous
Sometimes called: Firewire, IEEE-1394 or iLink (Apple computers has trademarked the term
“Firewire.” So, if you see it called that, someone is paying for that ability. iLink is what Sony calls
Number found on a system: 2
Max length: 4.5m (between devices)
Max data rate: 100Mbps, 200Mbps, 400Mbps (12.5MB/sec 255MB/sec 500MB/sec). Most computers
support 400Mbps but most devices are only 200Mbps
Max # of devices: 63

Quick recognition: This looks like a USB cable with 2 corners cut out.

On computer: Looks like a square with 2 corners filled in.

Normally seen on: You will see Firewire on high-end devices like high res. scanners, high res.
printers, hard drives, CD-RW, DVD, DVD-R/W, Video cameras, etc.

Features: Some on the added features are that you do not need a PC to connect them together. You
could conceivably have a video camera connected to a DVD-R and burn your movies without needing
a computer connected to it. They can talk to one another without using up the bandwith to the
computer and back. You can daisy chain them together so there is no need for a hub as in USB. Also
there is more power supplied. So, for example, you have enough to have a hard disk drive running
without power coming from the wall. Some companies have set it up so you can connect an MP3
player to your computer using IEEE-1394 and transfer the data plus recharge the player's internal
batteries off the firewire cable.


In this section we are not so worried about things like transfer rates and IRQs. The monitor will only
refresh so fast and IRQs would affect your video board not your monitor. The point of this part is so
that you can intelligently find and talk about these.

Standard: VGA
Connector Name: DB-15

Quick recognition ona computer:

This is our old standby and by far the most common of our video connectors. It is easy to find. It is
the only small three-rowed DB connector we will find on a PC. It is usually away from the other
connectors because it is on a replaceable card. There are, however, motherboards that do have video
built in. If so, then this connector will be close to the other connectors.


The power connector is almost completely standard. This looks almost exactly like an extension cord
with the exception of the ground being a slot instead of a round hole. Not much more to say.

Make sure that the power switch on the back of your computer is set for the correct voltage (115 or
230) for your location.

Be careful with laptops and some newer Apple Macintosh computers that may have different looking
power connectors on the computer.


Connector Name: 1/8 minijack

Sometimes called: headphone jack
Number found on a system: 1-5

Quick recognition: This the same jack that you have been plugging into your walkman for years. It
is a small pointed metal plug with one or two plastic bands imbedded in it.

On computer: These can be found on the front on most CD-ROM and CD writers. On some CD
readers and writers, you can plug a pair of headphones in and play audio CDs independently of the
computer. You will also find these on the back side on the PC. If you have a sound card, there will be
3 or more. One for your speakers (this is usually lime green). If it is not color-coded, then consult
the owner’s manual that comes with the sound card, motherboard, or PC. The other minijack is the
sound-in connector. This is for connecting a microphone or other device that can deliver sound to
your PC. This is color coded pink. There is one more plug that goes with this set--the line-in port. It
has many different uses.

Normally seen on: Any PC with sound. The male end you will find on any set of speakers or set of


Male and female

They come on most sound cards. It is a DA-15 port female on the PC and male on the device. This
port on the PC will usually be colored gold. This is quickly being replaced by USB. Adapters are
available to convert from the DA-15 to USB.


Telephone cable

RJ-11 is a common telephone cable. The end is called an RJ-11 connector and the cable is called
category 1 (Cat 1).

Ethernet cable

Standard: Conectors EIA/TIA 568a/b Cables Category 3, 4, 5 or 5e

Connector Name: RJ-45
Transfer mode: Serial
Sometimes called: Unshielded twisted pair (UTP) Shielded twisted pair (STP just UTP with some
more shielding), 10BaseT, 100BaseT, 1000BaseT. Crossover cable
Number found on a system: 1 (sometimes more)
IRQ: Would be assigned to the Network interface card.
Max length: 100 meters (328 ft.)
Min length: 1 Meter (3 ft.)
Max data rate: 10/100/1000 Mbp/sec

Quick recognition on a computer:

On computer: On the computer it looks like an over-sized telephone jack.

Normally seen on: Networking equipment for connecting 2 computers.

Tidbit: The A and B standard are very important to look for. If you have a cable that has never
worked, look at the colors at the end. If they match, they are a straight-through cable. This is used
for connecting dissimilar devices together i.e.… a PC to a Hub or a switch to a router. But you want
to use a crossover cable for like devices i.e.… PC to PC, switch to switch, or router to router.

*Warning* 80% of all network problems are caused by this little cable. If you can't get the network
to work, check the cable before you go and start changing the setting.

There is also a Plenum-grade Ethernet cable. This is a cable that is necessary for fire code. The issue
is that if there is a fire and the PVC outer coating of non-Plenum grade cable catches on fire, it will
release deadly gasses. In that case, if you have an enterprise grade network where you have literally
thousands of these cables running through the walls, this can cause deadly results in a fire. Before
wiring a building, check with the Fire Marshall about needing this cable.


Connector Name: DB25, IDC50, Centronics 50, HDI30, DB50, HPDB50, HPDB68, HP Centronics 60,
HP Centronics 68, SCA 80-Pin, and VHDCI68
Number found on a system:SCSI devices can be daisy chained, so the number connected to a
system will vary
Max length: 1.5 meters to 25 meters depending on the type
Max data rate: 360 MB/sec max

Quick recognition: This is a big connector

On computer: This is the biggest connector you will see on a system

Normally seen on: Hard drives, CD-ROM drives, tape drives, scanners etc.

50 Pin Centronics: This is connector is at the device end of some peripherals

25 Pin D Sub: This one you have to look out for. You can plug a parallel connector into this and they
will match up perfectly. But this is found on an Apple Macintosh. To help you out, you will not find a
parallel connector on a Mac making this easy. If you are working on a Mac, it is a SCSI interface not
a parallel connector.

DB-50: This is a rare connector that has 3 rows of pins. It was used on HP and DEC computers. It is
not very common.

50 Pin MicroD (High Density): This is a connector that has 2 rows of squared off holes. It is used on
8-bit fast SCSI.

68 Pin MicroD: This looks like the 50 Pin MicroD but longer and with more pins. This interface is used
on all SCSI Wide connectors.

It is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss ALL of SCSI. I just want to focus on recognizing these
connectors. Most times you will not see SCSI on a PC. But this is the standard on most servers as it
is fast - Up to 360MB/sec. This is a Gigabyte every 3 sec. Wow, that is fast! SCSI has grown up as a
technology and it has many implementations from SCSI-1, SCSI ultra wide, SCSI-2, SCSI-3, SCSI
160, SCSI 360 and more.

There are several different types of case designs:
• Towers: These cases stand upright and are a good solution when many disk bays are needed.
• Mini Towers: Similar to towers, but smaller in size. These are very common nowadays.
• Desktop: Traditional design where the PC sits horizontally often with the monitor set on top of

Keyboards are input devices that connect to the

motherboard and most are of the 101/102 key variety.
Older AT keyboards used a 5 pin DIN connection while
newer standards use a 6 pin mini DIN connector that is
shown to the left.

A keyboard should never be attached or unplugged while

the computer is on as the electrostatic discharge(ESD) can
damage the motherboard. For obvious reasons liquids
should not be spilled into a keyboard.

Because of their compact design, notebook computers use

smaller keyboards that typically are of the 84 key variety.
Newer versions contain Windows Keys that perform
functions such as launching Windows Explorer, minimizing
windows, etc. The following table lists the common Windows
Keys commands.

Key command Function

/E Launch Explorer
/F Launch Find Files or Folders
/F1 Launch Help
/M Minimize all windows
/Tab Scroll through open taskbar items

Pointing Devices
Pointing devices are input devices that include the mouse, trackball, light pen, joysticks and others.
The mouse is the most common of these. Newer mice called "Wheel Mice" have a scroll wheel that
allows you to scroll up and down without having to use the scrollbars in the application.

Older serial mice plugged into a DB-9 connector shown left. Newer mice are
typically PS/2 compliant and plug into a 6 pin mini DIN that are also used for
keyboard connections as discussed above.

Power Supplies
The power supply converts electricity received from a wall outlet(120V AC in the U.S.A.) into DC
current amounts that are needed by the various components of the system. There are 2 different
types of power supplies that correspond to 2 different types of motherboards, and hence, case

AT - This is an older design in which the connector to the system board uses 2 6-pin(P8/P9)
connections. It is important that the 2 connectors are plugged into the system board correctly and
not switched. P8 should be plugged into P1 ont the system board and P9 should be connected to P2.
ATX - A newer specification that uses a single 20 pin connection to the system board. These
connectors are keyed to make sure that the connector is plugged in properly.

Both models provide 4 levels of DC voltage. ATX power supplies add an additional voltage of +3.3V.
The wires coming out of the power supply are color coded with the black one as the ground wire.
• Yellow: +12
• Blue: -12
• Red: +5
• White: -5
• Circuitry: +/- 5 volts
• Motor: +/- 12 volts
Laptops and portables utilize an external power supply and rechargeable battery system. Batteries
were typically nickel-cadmium, but newer techologies have introduced nickel metal-hydride and
lithium-ion batteries that provide extended life and shorter recharge times. Lithium batteries are also
used to power a computer's CMOS ROM.

To remove a power supply from a PC, follow these steps:
1. Unplug the computer from the wall
2. Disconnect all of the internal power connections(i.e. CD Rom, Motherboard, hard disk, etc)
3. Remove the 4 retaining screws
4. Pull power supply out of the computer
Repeat these steps in opposite order to install a power supply

Further Reference:
System Boards
A system boards may also be called a planar board, motherboard or main board. There are various
types of system boards that differ depending on the type of case that they fit in and the type of
processor that they host. The form factor of the motherboard describes its general shape, what sorts
of cases and power supplies it can use and its physical layout. A company can make 2 motherboards
that have basically the same functionality but that use a different form factor and the only real
differences will be the physical layout of the board and the position of the components. Common
form factors include AT, Baby AT, ATX, Mini ATX, LPX, Mini LPX and NLX. The table below contains
more information:

Match to Case and Power

Style Where Found

Full AT Very Old PCs Full AT, Full Tower

Baby AT Older PCs All but Slimline, ATX


Mini ATX Newer PCs ATX

LPX Older Retail PCs Slimline

Mini LPX Older Retail PCs Slimline

NLX Newer Retail PCs Slimline

NOTE: Laptop motherboards tend to be proprietary to the model for which they are designed. Below
is a graphic that shows some of the common features of motherboards. Note that these will vary
from board to board depending on the form factor.

ATX System Board

System Boards typically have several components that are replaceable/upgradeable as follows:
• Processor - Upgrading the processor is a fairly simple process. Make sure that the new
processor is supported by the motherboard.
• Memory(RAM) - Before upgrading memory, check the motherboard manual for specifications
on supported memory types and speeds.
• CMOS Battery - These batteries are designed to last 2 to 5 years. Failure of this battery can
result in an error code, however, the most noticeable symptom is the computer's lack of
ability to keep proper time.
• BIOS ICs - Newer BIOS chips are "Flash" upgradeable using software. Older BIOSes require
replacement of the BIOS ROM chip. Before upgrading, make sure that your processor is
compatible with the BIOS and motherboard chipset.
• Cache Memory - On some system boards, the cache memory can be upgraded. It may be as
simple as adding an IC to an open slot. Other times, you may have to remove the existing
one to upgrade.
Motherboards also contain configurable jumpers and possibly even DIP switches(typically on older
models). Jumpers use BERG pins and a small connector that slides onto the pins to designate "on".
BERG connectors are also used to connect the front panel LEDs and switches to the board.

The back of the motherboard contains ports used for connecting various peripherals. Peripherals are
composed of input and output devices including the mouse, keyboard, monitor, speakers, printer,
etc. So what is the difference between an input device and an output device? It is just as the name
says. The mouse and keyboard are input devices since they are used to provide the computer with
information. Output devices provide YOU with information such as speakers, printers and the
monitor. Older PC-XT and AT board typically had a 5 pin DIN keyboard connection. The newer ATX
style uses the smaller 6 pin mini DIN connection.

Expansion Busses:
Bus Format Notes
8 Bit Used in PC and PC-AT models
ISA 16 bit Runs at 8 or 8.33mhz
VESA 32 bit Designed to address video limitations
EISA 32 bit Supports Plug-and-Play and Bus mastering
MCA 32 bit Supports PnP and Bus mastering
Supports PnP, Burst Mode, Bus Mastering. Utilizes the host bridge to communicate with other types of expansion
PCI 32/64 bit
slots. The 32-bit version is the most common.
Provides much faster speeds and is backward compatible with traditional PCI. The 64-bit version is more common
PCI-X 32/64 bit
than the 32-bit.
AGP 32/64 bit Variation of PCI designed to handle 3D graphics better from video cards.

Most modern motherboards contain AGP, PCI and ISA slots.

On newer and faster buses, a great deal of information is flowing through the channel every second.
Normally, the processor is required to control the transfer of this information. Bus mastering involves
having capable devices take control of the bus and do the work themselves instead of utilizing the

Plug-and-Play(PnP) - Compatible BIOSes can autodetect devices and assign resources to them. Non
PnP compatible devices are configured first followed by PnP devices.

The IRQ(interrupt request) value is an assigned location where the computer can expect a particular
device to interrupt it when the device sends the computer signals about its operation. Below is a list
of common IRQ settings.

IRQ Device
IRQ 0 System Timer
IRQ 1 Keyboard
IRQ 2/9 Video Card
IRQ 3 Open unless needed for Com 2 or 4
IRQ 4 Com 1, Com 3
IRQ 5 Open unless needed for LPT2 or sound card
IRQ 6 Floppy Disk Controller
IRQ 7 LPT1(parallel port)
IRQ 8 Real time clock
IRQ 9/2 linked to IRQ 2
IRQ 10 Open
IRQ 12 PS/2 Mouse
IRQ 13 Math Co-processor
IRQ 14 Hard Disk Controller
IRQ 15 Open

Input/output(I/O) addresses are resources used by virtually every device in a computer and
represent locations in memory that are designated for use by various devices to exchange
information between themselves and the rest of the PC. The following is a list of common I/O

1FO-1F8 - Hard Drive Controller, 16-bit ISA

220 - Soundcard
278-27F - LPT2
2F8-2FF - COM2
320-32F - Hard Drive Controller, 8-bit ISA
378-37F - LPT1
3D0-3DF - Video Adapter
3F0-3F7 - Floppy Controller
3F8-3FF - COM1

Universal Serial Bus(USB) - A high-speed I/O bus that supports the daisy chaining of devices(up to
127). USB hubs are used to provide connections for multiple devices. USB supports the addition and
removal of devices while they are on(hot-swapping). Devices are either full speed or low speed. Full
speed device cabling can be up to 16 feet 5 inches(5 meters) in length. Low speed cabling is limited
to 9 feet 10 inches(3 meters). USB supports Isochronous transfers that can stream data such as
voice or video.

Further Reference:
USB Explained

Software Layer
Layer BIOS stands for Basic Input/Output System and is software that manages
hardware and allows the operating system to talk to the various components.
0 Hardware
The BIOS is also responsible for allowing you to control your computer's hardware
settings, for booting up the machine when you turn on the power or hit the reset
Operating button and various other system functions.
3 Applications

The term BIOS is typically used to refer to the system BIOS, however, various other components
such as video adapters and hard drives can have their own BIOSes hardwired to them. During the
rest of this section, we will be discussing the system BIOS. The BIOS software lives on a ROM IC on
the motherboard known as a Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor(CMOS). People often
incorrectly refer to the BIOS setup utility as CMOS, however, CMOS is the name of the physical
location that the BIOS settings are stored in.

Basic CMOS Settings:

• Printer Parallel Port
○ Unidirectional - Single direction communication.
○ Bi-directional - Two directional communication. Used by HP printers.
○ ECP(Extended Capability Port) - Same as Bi-directional but uses a DMA to bypass
processor and speed up transfer.
○ EPP(Enhanced Parallel Port) - Same as bi-directional and offers an extended control
code set.
• COM/Serial Port
○ Memory Address - Each COM port requires a unique memory address.
○ IRQ - Every COM port requires a unique IRQ to talk to the CPU.
○ COM1 = IRQ4 and 03F8
○ COM2 = IRQ3 and 02F8
• Hard Drives
○ Size - The Size is automatically detected by the computer.
• Primary Master/Secondary Slave
○ Each hard drive has a controller built in the drive that controls the drive.
○ If two drives were on the same channel the adapter could get confused.
○ By setting one as a master it tells it which is in charge.
BIOS services are accessed using software interrupts, which are similar to the hardware interrupts
except that they are generated inside the processor by programs instead of being generated outside
the processor by hardware devices.

BIOS routines begin when the computer is booted and are mad up of 3 main operations. Processor
manufacturers program processors to always look in the same place in the system BIOS ROM for the
start of the BIOS boot program. This is normally located at FFFF0h - right at the end of the system

First, the Power On Self Tests(POST) are conducted. These tests verify that the system is operating
correctly and will display an error message and/or output a series of beeps known as beep codes
depending on the BIOS manufacturer.

Second, is initialization in which the BIOS looks for the video card. In particular, it looks for the video
card's built in BIOS program and runs it. The BIOS then looks for other devices' ROMs to see if any
of them have BIOSes and they are executed as well.

Third, is to initiate the boot process. The BIOS looks for boot information that is contained in file
called the master boot record(MBR) at the first sector on the disk. If it is searching a floppy disk, it
looks at the same address on the floppy disk for a volume boot sector. Once an acceptable boot
record is found the operating system is loaded which takes over control of the computer.

For more in depth information about the BIOS including the various setup utility settings, read The
BIOS Companion.

The processor, also known as the CPU, can be thought of as the brains of the system and is
responsible for executing software commands and performing calculation functions. The following
table shows the features of the various Intel processors.

Chip Characteristics
Processor Speed (MHz) Heat Sink Cooling Fan Cache Package Pins
8088 5-8 No No No DIP 40
80286 10 No No No PGA 68
80386SX 16 - 33 No No No PGA 100
80386DX 16 - 33 No No No PGA 100
80486SX 16 - 33 No Yes on 33 MHz 0-256K PGA 100
PGA 168
80486DX 25 - 50 No Yes on 33 MHz 0-256k
SQFP 208
Pentium 60-166 Yes Yes 256-512k PGA 296
Pentium Pro 233-266 Yes Yes 256k-1mb PGA 387
Pentium II 233-500 Yes Yes 512k SEC 242
Pentium III 450mhz-1.13ghz Yes Yes 256-512k SEC/PGA 242/370
Pentium IV 1.30-3.20ghz Yes Yes 256-512k PGA 423/478
Itanium 733-833mhz Yes Yes 96k PAC 418
Itanium II 900mhz-1.0ghz Yes Yes 256k OLGA 611

• With the Pentium MMX processors, 57 multimedia specific instructions were added to increase
multimedia performance and increased the L1 cache size to 32KB.
• The Pentium Pro added Dynamic Execution and increase L2 cache to 512KB.
• The Pentium II had integrated MMX technology and used a new Single Edge Contact
• The Pentium III provided increased processor speeds, a 100mhz front size bus speed and
increased L2 cache to 512KB.
• The Celeron processors are less expensive but only have a 66mhz bus and 128KB L2 cache.
• The Pentium IV introduced a number of graphics enhancements. 2 versions were made - The
first was a 423-pin PGA package with 256 KB L2 cache. The second version offers a 478-pin
PGA package with 512 KB of L2 cache.
• Intel Xeon processors are higher-end and based on their Pentium II, III and IV counterparts.
Bus Sizes of CPU’s
Processor Register Data Bus Address Bus
8088 16-bit 8-bit 20-bit
80286 16-bit 16-bit 24-bit
80386SX 32-bit 16-bit 24-bit
80386DX 32-bit 32-bit 32-bit
80486SX 32-bit 32-bit 32-bit
80486DX 32-bit 32-bit 32-bit
Pentium 64-bit 64-bit 32-bit
Pentium Pro 64-bit 64-bit 36 bit
Pentium II 64-bit 64-bit 36 bit
Pentium III 64-bit 64-bit 36 bit
Pentium IV 64-bit 64-bit 36 bit
Itanium 64-bit 64-bit 44 bit
Itanium II 64-bit 128-bit 44 bit

While Intel holds the majority of the processor market share, companies such as AMD have been
producing clones based on the X86 architecture. The table below outlines the various socket/slot
types and the processors that they support.

Socket Pins Processor

Socket 4 237 PGA Pentium 60/66, Pentium Overdrive
Socket 5 320 PGA Pentium 75-133, Pentium Overdrive
Socket 7 321 PGA Pentium 75-200, Pentium Overdrive
Socket 8 387 PGA Pentium Pro
Slot 1 242 SEC/SEPP Pentium II, Pentium III, Celeron
Slot 2 330 SECC-2 Xeon
Super Socket 7 321 PGA Pentium MMX, Pentium Pro, AMD K6-2, K6-2+, K6-3, K6-3+
Socket 370 370 PGA Celeron, Pentium III, Cyrix III
Socket 418 418 PAC Itanium
Socket 423 423 PGA Pentium IV
Socket 478 478 PGA Pentium IV
Socket 603 603 PGA Pentium IV-based Xeon, Xeon MP
Socket 611 611 OLGA Itanium II
Socket 940 micro-PGA AMD Opteron
Socket A 462 PGA AMD Athlon, Athlon XP, Duron
Slot A 242 Slot A AMD Athlon

Further Reference:
There are several different types of memory as discussed below:

ROM - ROM stands for "read only memory" and is non-volatile. This means that the information is
stored even when the power is turned off to the computer. An example of this would be the
computer's BIOS settings that are retained even when the computer is off. Recent advancements in
EEPROM technologies have produced Flash ROM chips that can be updated from a disk or over the

RAM - RAM stands for "random access memory" and is volatile. Over the years a variety of memory
types have emerged including DIP, SIP, SIMM, DIMM and most recently RIMM.

Type Pins
SIMMS 30/72 pins
DIMMS 168/184 pins
micro-DIMMS 68/144/172 pins
SO DIMMS 72/144/200 pins
RIMMS 184 pins

• Static RAM (SRAM) - SRAM doesn’t have to be constantly refreshed. Uses a lot of power. Used
in old IBM XT machines and was limited to 256K per chip.
• Dynamic RAM (DRAM) - DRAM uses capacitors instead of transistors and switches. Needs
constant refresh.
• Extended Data Output RAM(EDO RAM) - Has a cache on the chip and is 10-15% faster than
DRAM. EDO DRAM doesn't need to be refreshed as often as regular DRAM. Like DRAM, it is
now obselete.
• Synchronous DRAM (SDRAM) - SDRAM is tied to the system clock which provides support for
the faster bus speeds of modern computers.
• Rambus DRAM (RDRAM) - RDRAM adds support for even faster bus speeds and first surfaced
around the time of the Pentium IV. RDRAM uses RIMMS which require a heat spreader to be
attached to the RIMM to deal with its increased heat levels. Unused slots on a RDRAM
motherboard must be terminated with a CRIMM in order to function.
• Windows RAM (WRAM) - Specific to speed up graphical windows operations.
• Video RAM (VRAM) - Uses a dual port access system to speed up video operations.
Parity checking adds an extra bit to the data for error detection.

The speed of the memory that you install in your system must be at least as fast as the speed that
the system is running on. For example, you can put PC133 RAM into a system that is running at 100
MHZ, although you will not see an addition increase in performance over PC100 RAM. You can
sometimes mix speed ratings when installing multiple modules, however, it is not recommended.
This can cause the system to lock up or not start at all.

High Memory Area(HMA) is the first 64K of extended memory.

Conventional memory is the first 640K of memory.
Upper memory is between 640K and 1024K. Used to load DOS drivers to allow applications more
conventional memory.
Extended memory is memory above 1024K.
Virtual Memory - Protected Mode became available with the 80286 and provided the ability to use
Virtual Memory. Virtual Memory is the ability for the computer to use free hard drive space as extra

Further Reference:

Hard Drives

Hard drives are magnetic storage devices that contain

several discs inside called "Platters" that are attached to
a spindle motor. The number of platters varies
depending on the capacity of the drive. Platters are
coated with a film of magnetically sensitive substance
that is primarily made of iron oxide. Another important
ingredient is a thin layer of cobalt alloy. The read/write
heads are responsible for reading and writing to the
platters and are attached to the head actuator which is
in charge of moving the heads around the platters.

The voice coil actuator is found in modern drives and assures that the heads are in proper position
which ensures that the appropriate tracks are read. The guidance system used by the heads is called
a servo. Its job is to position the head over the correct cylinder. The spindle motor is responsible for
spinning the platters at a rate ranging from 3600 RPM to 10000 RPM depending on the drive. Heads
typically have a coil of copper wire inside. Currents are passed through the wires which causes the
surface underneath to become magnetized, creating 1 bit of data. The direction of the current
passing through the wiring dictates the polarity of the magnetization, which creates a 0 or a 1. To
read the data, the drive's electronics detect polarity differences.

The disk's surface has tracks that are rings that are located next to each other. Each platter has the
same number of tracks, and the tracks on the outside are larger than the tracks on the inner part of
the surface. A track location that cuts across all platters is called a cylinder. Each cylinder is divided
into sectors that are 512K in size. The size of the sector determines the amount of data that can be
written, and the amount that will be wasted if only a few characters are in a record. A one byte
record written to a sector occupies the entire track in that sector.

Hard drive performance is measured as follows:

• Access Time - This is a measure of the average time that it takes the drives R/W heads to
access data on the drive.
• Seek Time - This is the amount of time it takes for the drives head to move between cylinders
and land on a particular track.
• Data Transfer Rate - The megabytes per second(MBps) in which data is transferred between
the drive and the system.
There are several different type of interfaces that can be used including IDE, EIDE and SCSI. Each
IDE interface can support up to 2 devices. IDE devices each contain their own integrated controllers,
and so in order to maintain order on the channel, it is necessary to have some way of differentiating
between the two devices. This is assigning each device either a master slave designation using
jumpers on the drive, and then having the controller address commands and data to either one or
the other. Another option is to set the jumpers to cable select. This means that the position of the
drive on the cable will determine its status. If you are using two drives on a single channel, it is
important to ensure that they are jumpered correctly. Making both drives the master, or both the
slave, will most likely cause problems.

CompTIA uses the terms ATA, IDE and EIDE interchangeably to refer to all non-SCSI devices. IDE
Drives come in 2 types:
• Parallel ATA - The older, but still widely used variety, that uses a 40-pin cable to connect to
• Serial ATA - A newer specification that offers a number of benefits including: Faster
throughput, thinner 7-pin cable that promotes better airflow through the case, support for
longer cables, and hot-swappable. In addition, there are no jumpers to worry about because
each device connects to its own controller channel.
PIO and DMA are 2 different transfer modes and protocols that are used by hard drives to access the
computer. Details of each are provided below:
• PIO Mode - The Programmed I/O (PIO) mode is the older of the 2 methods for transferring
data. This method uses the CPU to control the transfer of data between the system and hard
drive . There are several different PIO modes that offer different speeds. These are shown in
the table below:
PIO Mode Transfer Rate (MBps)
0 3.3
1 5.2
2 8.3
3 11.1
4 16.6
• DMA Mode - Direct Memory Access mode allows devices to transfer data to and from memory
without using the CPU which reduces the overhead. PCI controllers use bus mastering to
accomplish direct memory access. Below are tables which show the different DMA modes and
their transfer rates:
DMA Mode
Transfer Rate (MBps)
Single Word (16-bit)
0 2.1
1 4.2
2 8.3

DMA Mode
Transfer Rate (MBps)
Double Word (32-bit)
0 4.2
1 13.3
2 16.7

• Ultra DMA - The maximum speed of multiword DMA mode 2 was 16.7 MB/s. As faster and
faster hard drives were created the new Ultra DMA specification was needed. The table below
shows the transfer rates:
Ultra DMA Mode Transfer Rate (MBps)
0 16.7
1 25
2 33
3 44.4
4 66.7
5 100
6 133
• Drives that use Ultra DMA are typically referred to as "Ultra ATA/xx" where "xx" is the speed
of the interface. For example, a drive that uses Ultra DMA mode 5 is referred to as ATA/100
because its throughput is 100 MBps.
Note: Both the hard disk, the system chipset and BIOS must support the mode in question.

Hard drives can be configured in a Redundant Array of Inexpensive Drives(RAID) configuration that
is used for a variety of purposes including data recovery and increased read/write performance
depending on the level of RAID employed. The RAID levels are as follows:
• RAID Level 0
Disk striping will distribute data across 2-32 hard disks. This provides the fastest read/write
performance as the system can access the data from more than one place. This level of RAID
does not provide any redundancy.
• RAID Level 1
Disk mirroring writes exact copies of data to more than one disk. Each disk or partition of a
disk will contain the exact same data. If one hard disk fails, the data still exists on the other
disk. This level of RAID also increases disk read performance as it can pull the data off of both
• RAID Level 2
Uses Hamming error correction codes, is intended for use with drives which do not have built-
in error detection. All SCSI drives support built-in error detection, so this level is of little use
when using SCSI drives. It is seldom used at all today since ECC is embedded in almost all
modern disk drives.
• RAID Level 3
Stripes data at a byte level across several drives, with parity stored on one drive. It is
otherwise similar to level 4. It can be used in data intensive or single-user environments
which access long sequential records to speed up data transfer. However, RAID-3 does not
allow multiple I/O operations to be overlapped and requires synchronized-spindle drives in
order to avoid performance degradation with short records.
• RAID Level 4
Disk Striping in which the parity information is written to 1 drive at a block level. The parity
information allows recovery from the failure of any single drive. The performance of a level 4
array is very good for reads(the same as level 0). Writes require that parity data be updated
each time. The process offers no advantages over RAID-5 and does not support multiple
simultaneous write operations.
• RAID Level 5
Very similar to RAID level 4, however, parity information is written to each of the disks in the
array. If one of the disks fails, the data can be reconstructed by installing a working hard
disk. The parity information is used to reconstruct the data that was lost.
For more in depth information on RAID, read Terms and Concepts of Hardware and Software RAID -

The following procedure outlines the installation of a hard disk.

1. Disconnect the power to the computer
2. Configure the appropriate master/slave settings or SCSI ID for the drive
3. Insert the drive into an available drive bay. If the drive is too small for the bay, you will need
a mounting kit
4. Screw in the 4 screws - 2 on each side of the bay
5. If the drive is an IDE disk, connect the IDE cable to the drive. There should be a stripe along
1 edge of the cable. This stripe denotes pin 1. Pin 1 on the drive is usually closest to the
power connector on the drive, however, you should consult the manufacturers
documentation. Then connect the signal cable to the motherboard ID1 or ID2 interface
making sure to note the pin 1 orientation there as well. If the drive is a SCSI drive, a SCSI
cable would be connected from the drive to a SCSI controller card.
6. Connect one of the power supply's power connectors to the drive
Once the drive has been installed it must be configured for use in the following steps:
1. CMOS configuration - Newer BIOSes autodetection features will do this automatically.
Otherwise, enter the setup utility during boot up and configure the drive.
2. Certain older drives types must be low-level formatted. Do not do this on IDE drives!
3. Partition the drive - Using the DOS utility FDISK, the drive can be partitioned into logical
drives. The disk must contain an active primary partition that will be the C drive. An extended
partition may also be created if desired. In Windows NT, the Disk Administrator program is
used instead of FDISK. The size of the partitions can be set to a desired size, however, note
the following:
○ Windows 95 Rev A(FAT16) only supported partitions up to 2GB in size.
○ Windows 95/98 OSR2(FAT32) supported drives up to 8GB.
○ Even if the OS supports larger partition sizes, the BIOS must also support logical block
addressing(LBA) or the maximum partition that you will be able to create will be either
504 or 528 MB.
4. Once the disk has been partitioned, it must then be formatted. This can be done using the
DOS format utility.
Due to the magnetic nature of hard disks, they should remain clear of magnetic fields.

Further Reference:

Floppy Drives
Floppy drives are also a form of magnetic storage that function similarly to hard drives. There is a
spring loaded metal cover that is moved aside during operation that exposes a mylar disk that is
coated with a ferro-magnetic substance. The drive's read/write heads access the disk as it turns on a
spindle. Older PCs used 5.25 inch disks and drives that were able to hold 1.2mb of data. Modern 3.5
drives can hold 1.44mb of data. Given the popularity of newer storage types such as CDROM, ZIP
disks and removable hard drives, it is not likely that further advancements to floppy technology will
be made.

The following procedure outlines the installation of a floppy drive.

1. Disconnect the power to the computer
2. Insert the drive into an available floppy drive bay
3. Screw in the 2 screws
4. Plug the floppy cable into the drive and into the mainboard FD1 interface while noting the pin
1 orientation. Note the twist in the cable. Connecting the floppy to the last connector on the
cable will make the drive an "A Drive" while plugging it in to the connector toward the middle
of the cable will make it a "Drive B"
5. Connect one of the power supply's power connectors to the drive
A beam is emitted by the laser and directed onto a single track on the disc by a prism/beamsplitter.
As the disc rotates, the beam encounters a series of pits and landings that determine whether the
beam is reflected back into the detector(from a landing) or scattered(from a pit). Light from the laser
beam must penetrate a thin protective layer of plastic on the disc before striking the reflective
coating that contains the pits and landings. As the disc rotates, light reflected from landings on the
disk strikes the photo sensor producing a series of electrical pulses that are coordinated with a timing
circuit to generate a stream of 1s and 0s that produce the binary code of information on the disc.
The average storage capacity for a CD-ROM is 680mb of data.

Newer CD-ROM drives have the capability to record data. There are 2 main types of CD recorders.
CD-R (Recordable) - Uses a chemical layer with a thin metal layer(silver alloy or gold). “Burning”
removes reflective parts to simulate pits and lands and represent 1s and 0s . CD-RW (ReWritable) -
Uses phase-change material that crystallizes to write, and rewrite CDs through a heating and cooling

The following procedure outlines the installation of a CDROM drive.

1. Disconnect the power to the computer
2. Configure the appropriate master/slave settings or SCSI ID for the drive
3. Insert the drive into an available drive bay
4. Screw in the 4 screws - 2 on each side of the bay
5. If the drive is an IDE, connect the IDE cable to the drive. There should be a stripe along 1
edge of the cable. This stripe denotes pin 1. Pin 1 on the drive is usually closest to the power
connector on the drive, however, you should consult the manufacturers documentation. Then
connect the signal cable to the motherboard ID1 or ID2 interface making sure to note the pin
1 orientation there as well. If the drive is a SCSI drive, a SCSI cable would be connected from
the drive to a SCSI controller card.
6. Connect one of the power supply's power connectors to the drive
Further Reference:

DVDs have nearly replaced VHS players in a relatively short amount of time. The reason for this is
their incredible capacity for storing data and improved picture quality. Another major advantage is
that DVD players became available for computers which did not happen with the VHS. DVDs come in
single-sided and dual-sided formats and can store 2 hours of video per side using the MPEG-2
compression standard. Because DVDs are compressed, they need to be decoded as they play. On a
computer this can be done with the use of software or a hardware decoder. Hardware decoders use
less CPU time. DVD-ROM drives are the most common type of DVD drives sold for computers. DVD-
ROM discs can hold up to 16 GB of data. Just like CD-ROM players, DVD-ROM drives offer recordable
versions. DVD-R and DVD+R can be recorded on once only. DVD-RW, DVD+RW and DVD-RAM are
rewrittable. DVD drives can play CD-ROMs and all DVD writable drives can burn CDs as well. DVD
players connect to the PC in the same way that CD-ROM drives do using either an ATAPI or SCSI
interface. When working with CD-ROM and DVD-ROM burners, one of the most common problems is
buffer underruns. Burners come with buffer RAM onboard that temporarily stores the data coming
from the source. There are many causes for buffer underrun errors, but following are the most
common things that will fix this.
• Make sure that your burner has a large enough buffer
• Make sure that you close as many applications and processes on your computer before
burning. Also make sure that screen savers, anti-virus software, etc. do not start running
while you are burning.
• Try burning at a slower speed.
• Make sure that your media is not scratched or dirty.
Tape Drives
Tape drives are another form of magnetic storage media that function similarly to the other forms of
magnetic media. The tape is belt driven and read/write heads magnetize portions of the tape as it
passes by them. Tape drives are typically used for backing up and storing data. Because they are
comparatively slow, they are used to store data that does not need to be accessed very often. Older
versions of tape drives were quarter-inch cartridges(QIC) that were approximately 6" x 4" in size.
Improvements in encoding enabled advancements in the amount of data that could be stored on
these tapes.

The newest advancements in tape technology have brought about Digital Audio Tape(DAT) and
Digital Linear Tape(DLT). DAT tapes work in a similar fashion as a VCR tape and can store much
larger amounts of data than the QIC formats. There are several different DAT standards as follows:

Standard Compressed capacity Uncompressed capacity

DDS-1 4 GB 2 GB
DDS-2 8 GB 4 GB
DDS-3 24 GB 12 GB

Tape Drives are typically connected to Parallel or SCSI ports.

SCSI stands for Small Computer Systems Interface and is a less commonly used, but faster
alternative to IDE. Another advantage of SCSI is that only the controller uses an IRQ while the
devices attached to it do not. SCSI devices are most commonly found in servers and high-end

SCSI devices, such as hard drives and CD-ROM drives, plug into a SCSI controller internally or
externally, and multiple devices can be configured in a chain. Internal devices connect using a 68-pin
ribbon cable that is similar to that used for IDE devices. It is very important that you get the pin
orientation correct when installing a SCSI drive. Failure to do so can destroy the SCSI device and/or
the SCSI controller card. External devices connect to the SCSI controller on the back of the PC. To
learn more about the various cable and connector types, read SCSI Connector Types.

In order for the SCSI bus to work correctly, the last device on any SCSI chain must be terminated.
Some SCSI devices are self-terminating, while others can be terminated using jumpers or a resistor
that plugs into the end of the cable or device.

Each device on a SCSI chain must receive its own SCSI ID including the controller. This ID can be set
on SCSI devices using either jumpers, dip switches or dials. You will need to consult with the
manufacturer of your device to figure out the correct method for setting the ID. New SCSI standards
support up to 16 devices. The controller is usually preset to receive ID 7. A bootable hard drive
would usually be set to ID 0 since it is the lowest on the list and the first to be accessed.

SCSI controllers come with their own BIOS that offer configuration settings.

Over the years, there have been a number of SCSI standards and increasing speed. The table below
shows the details of the various SCSI standards:

Standard Bus Speed (MBps) Bus Width Devices Supported

SCSI-1 5 8 8
Fast SCSI 10 8 8
Fast Wide SCSI 20 16 16
Ultra SCSI 20 8 8
Wide Ultra SCSI 40 16 16
Ultra2 SCSI 40 8 8
Wide Ultra2 SCSI 80 16 16
Ultra3 SCSI
160 16 16
(Ultra 160)
Ultra320 320 16 16

Additional Reading

Video Adapters
The video adapter is the component that provides communications between the monitor and the
system board. As with everything else, there have been several different standards over the years as

CGA 640x200
EGA 640x350
VGA 640x480
SVGA 1600x1200+
SVGA is the current standard and is extensible which means that increased color depths and
resolutions will be supported under the same SVGA standard.

Video cards contain their own RAM that allows them to support higher levels of color depth,
resolution and performance. The Advanced Graphic Port (AGP) was developed to attain even higher
performance levels including 3-D graphics rendering. AGP is derived from the PCI specification and is
only used for video adapters. There are several AGP specifications that are listed in the table below:

Mode Bus Speed Throughput

1x 66 MHz 266 MBps
2x 66 MHz 533 MBps
4x 66 MHz 1.07 GBps
8x 66 MHz 2.1 GBps

The multipliers 1x, 2x, 4x and 8x refer to the number of times the signal is increased per clock cycle.

Further Reference:

Video Displays
A video display(AKA Monitor) is based upon the use of an electronic screen called a cathode ray tube
or CRT. The CRT is lined with a phosphorous material that glows when it is struck by a stream of
electrons. This material is arranged into an array of millions of tiny cells, usually called dots. At the
back of the monitor is a set of electron guns, which produce a controlled stream of electrons. These
guns start at the top of the screen and scan very rapidly from left to right. Then, they return to the
left-most position one line down and scan again, and repeat this to cover the entire screen. The
electron guns are controlled by the video data stream coming into the monitor from the video card
which varies the intensity of the electron beam at each position on the screen. This control of the
intensity of the electron beam at each dot is what controls the color and brightness of each pixel on
the screen. The entire screen is drawn in a fraction of a second.

Color monitors have 3 electron guns that control the display of red, green and blue light. The surface
of the CRT is arranged to have these dots placed adjacently in a specific pattern. There are separate
video streams for each color coming from the video card, which allows the different colors to have
different intensities at each point on the screen. By varying the intensity of the red, green and blue
streams, the full gamut of colors is achieved.

The surface of the CRT only glows for a small fraction of a second before beginning to fade. This
means that the monitor must redraw the picture many times per second to avoid having the screen
flicker as it begins to fade and then is renewed. The speed of this redrawing process is called the
"refresh rate".

Monitor quality depends on the resolution, which is measure in pixels, or "dot pitch". Dot Pitch is a
measurement of the distance between dots on the screen. The closer together they are the better
the resolution. Dot Pitch is measured in millimeters.

There are several different types of displays available. LCD panels where previously only available for
laptops, the prices have come down enough that they are now commonly used for desktop PCs as
well. They are lighter, thinner, use less power and do not flicker like their CRT counterparts. Some
flat-panel LCDs use a DVI connector instead of the tradition DB-15 connector used with CRTs.
The monitor connects to the video adapter via a DB-15 connector on the board.
Older video standards utilized a 9 pin connection. Some high performance
monitors are connected via a BNC connection.

Laptops once used compact CRT based monitors, but now use Liquid Crystal
Displays(LCD) because they are much lighter and compact.

You should avoid exposing an LCD to extreme light, heat and cold.

Care should be taken when working inside monitors as they can contain electrical charges as high as
25,000 volts which is a potentially lethal amount.

Further Reference:

Sound Cards
Your computer's sound card is responsible for taking sound data from a disk(like an MP3 file) and
converting it so your computer's speakers can play it. Usually, this tweaking consists of changing
digital ones and zeros into analog waveforms your ears can recognize.

The sound card is also responsible for doing it the other way around. It takes external sounds such
as your voice as you talk into a microphone and converts those waveforms into ones and zeros so
that they can be stored on a disk.

Sound cards are internal cards that are either built into the motherboard or are installed in an ISA or
PCI expansion slot. The back of the sound card contains RCA jacks for connecting speakers and

If you want to be able to hear CDs playing in a CD-ROM drive through your sound card, you need to
use an MPC2 cable to connect the CD-ROM drive to the sound card.

Most problems with sound are pretty easy to figure out. If you are having a problem getting sound,
check the following items: Make sure that the speakers are on and the volume is turned up enough
on the speakers. On the computer, make sure that volume in Windows is turned up and not muted.
Make sure that your speakers are plugged into the correct RCA jack on the sound card. Check the
device manager and make sure that there are no resource conflicts with the sound card.

Further Reference:

The modem is a device that converts digital information to analog by MODulating it on the sending
end and DEModulating the analog information into digital information at the receiving end. Modems
are known as Data Circuit-Terminating Equipment(DCE) while the computer using the modem is
often referred to as Data Terminal Equipment(DTE). Modems have different transmission modes as
• Simplex - Simplex means that signals can be passed in one direction only which means that
communication only happens in one direction.
• Half Duplex - Half duplex means that signals can be passed in either direction, but not in both
simultaneously. Half-duplex modems can work in full-duplex mode.
• Full Duplex - Full duplex means that signals can be passed in either direction, simultaneously.
Full duplex operation on a two-wire line requires the ability to separate a receive signal from
the reflection of the transmitted signal. This is accomplished by either FDM (frequency
division multiplexing) in which the signals in the two directions occupy different frequency
bands and are separated by filtering, or by Echo Canceling (EC). The implication of the term
full-duplex is usually that the modem can transmit and receive simultaneously at full speed.
Modems that provide a low-speed reverse channel are sometimes called split-speed or
asymmetric modems. Full duplex modems will not work on half-duplex channels.
Modems can also be classified by their speed which was measured by the BAUD rate. One baud is
one electronic state change per second. Since a single state change can involve more than a single
bit of data, the Bits Per Second(BPS) unit of measurement has replaced it as a better expression of
data transmission speed. Common modem speeds are V.34 at 28.8 kbps, V.34+ at 33.6 kbps and
V.90 at 56 Kbps.

Error correction is the method by which modems verify that the information sent to them has been
undamaged during the transfer. Error-correcting modems break up information into small packets,
called frames. The sending modem attaches a checksum to each of these frames. The receiving
modem checks whether the checksum matches the information sent. If not, the entire frame is
resent. Though error correction may slow down data transfer on noisy lines, it does provide greater
reliability. As with data compression protocols, for an error correction protocol to be used, it must be
supported by both modems in the connection.

Sometimes one modem in a connection is capable of sending data at a faster rate than the other can
receive. Flow control allows the receiving modem to tell the other to pause while it catches up. Flow
control exists as either software(XON/XOFF) flow control or hardware(RTS/CTS) flow control. With
software flow control, when a modem needs to tell the other to pause and when to resume.
Hardware, or RTS/CTS, flow control uses wires in the modem cable or, in the case of internal
modems, hardware in the modem. This is faster and much more reliable than software flow control.

Most modern modems are internal, however, they can be internal or external. External modems are
connected to the back of the system board via a RS-232 serial connection. Internal modems are
installed in one of the motherboard's PCI or ISA expansion slots depending on the modem. The
modem contains an RJ-11 connection that is used to plug in the telephone line.

Hayes Corporation developed a smart modem which accepted AT type commands. This is now a
widely accepted standard. The following is a brief list of the AT command set.
• ATA Answer call
• ATA/ Repeat last command
• ATC Turn modems carrier signal ON (ATC1) or OFF (ATC0)
• ATD Dial a telephone number (ATDT255-0789)
• ATE Enable (ATE1) or disable (ATE0) the echo of characters to the screen
• ATH Hang up the phone (ATH0) or pick up the phone (ATH1)
• ATM Turn on modem speaker (ATM1) or turn off speaker (ATM0)
• ATO Place modem on-line
• ATP Pulse dial
• ATS Set values in modem 'S' registers
• ATT Touch tone dial
• ATZ Reset the modem
Further Reference:

This portion of the exam is one that is very difficult to outline in a study guide and is where your
experience is really being tested. There are far too many different errors and solutions to be written
here. We have included some general troubleshooting information and common problems for various
components, however, this is by no means a comprehensive list. This is where your on the job
experience and work in your home lab are necessary.

Below is a list of useful tools for hardware troubleshooting:

• Standard and Phillips Screwdrivers - various sizes
• IC ROM Puller - For upgrading BIOS chips
• Multimeter - A necessary tool for troubleshooting electrical issues such as the power supply. It
can also be used to do a resistance test. When performing this test make sure that the power
to the system is unplugged.
The following table shows the readings that you should see for various multimeter tests:

Test Good reading

Speaker Resistance 8 ohms
Fuse Resistance 0 ohms
Capacitors(DC) 5V (most of them)

Some components of a PC are field replaceable and some are not. Common Field Replaceable
Units(FRUs) are below:
• Monitor
• Keyboard
• Mouse
• Floppy Drive
• Hard Drives
• Printer
• Video Adapter
• Sound Card
• Network Card
• Motherboard
• Power Supply
• Processor
• CMOS Battery
Beep codes vary depending on the manufacturer of the BIOS. Below are some of the common beep
codes for an Award BIOS.
Beep Code Meaning
1 long System memory failure
1 long then 2 short Video controller failure
1 long then 3 short Video controller failure
Continuous Video or memory failure

Below are the IBM error code families and the component that the error code relates to:
Error Code Family Error Type
1xx System board errors
2xx Memory (RAM) errors
3xx Keyboard errors
4xx Monochrome monitor errors
5xx Color monitor errors
6xx Game control adapter errors
7xx 8087 or 80287 math coprocessor errors
9xx Parallel printer adapter errors
10xx Reserved for parallel printer adapter
11xx Asynchronous communications adapter errors
12xx Alternate asynchronous communications adapter errors
13xx Parallel printer adapter errors

• Lost BIOS password - Most newer motherboards have a jumper that can be used to clear the
CMOS memory. Typically this involves opening the PC, changing the jumper to a special
setting, and then booting the PC. If the memory has been cleared, you power the PC down
and put the jumper back to its previous position
• System clock is not keeping correct time - This is typically caused by the CMOS battery failing
or running low voltage. Usually, replacing the CMOS battery will fix this.
• System locks up consistently a few minutes after power up - This is usually associated with a
failed processor fan or general overheating. Boot the system with the case off and see if the
fan is running. If not, the fan and likely the processor will need to be replaced.
• System appears completely dead(no visible activity during powerup) - Check the external
power cable and make sure that it is plugged into a working outlet and securely plugged into
the unit. Next, make sure that the on/off switch is set to "On" and that the 115/230 switch is
set to the appropriate setting for your location. Verify that the internal power connection from
the power supply to the motherboard is firmly connected. A multimeter can be used to narrow
determine how far the power is getting. Start at the outlet and work your way inside. Finally,
remove all unnecessary components from the motherboard to see if one of them is
overloading the power supply.
• Front panel lights come on and the power supply fan runs, but no other activity is present -
Try swapping out the power supply. If this doesn't fix the problem, remove all unnecessary
components from the motherboard to see if one of them is overloading part of the power
There are 2 types of memory errors:
• Soft-memory errors - These are occasional strange behaviors that can usually be cleared by
• Hard-memory errors - Caused by a hardware failure related to the RAM and will usually
display a message on the screen or create a beep code. Can be isolated by removing memory
chips 1 at a time.
• System locks up while counting RAM - Usually requires that the processor be replaced
Keyboards can have a variety of symptoms including:
No characters appearing on the screen
6 beeps on boot
A 301 error code
Keyboard is locked - Unlock It error message
Keyboard Error - Keyboard Test Failure
KB/Interface Error - Keyboard Test Failure

The most common causes for these problems is:

Incorrect keyboard type in BIOS or Windows
Keyboard not properly connected
Blown fuse in back of keyboard

Cursor skips around or gets stuck - This is usually caused by dirt and lint inside the mouse that
needs to be cleaned.
Doesn't move at all - Can be a configuration error caused by an IRQ or address conflict, conflicting
device drivers loaded in autoexec.bat and config.sys or can be caused by a hardware failure. If none
of these are causing it, it is likely a problem with the port on the motherboard.

• There are a variety of problems that can occur from misconfigured drivers and settings. When
possible, verify that the correct drivers are loaded and check for IRQ and memory address
• Screen goes blank after a while - This is usually due to Power Management settings in the
• The screen flickers - Usually caused by the refresh rate being set too low.
• The output on the screen is garbled or looks like a bunch of moving lines - This is most often
caused by setting the resolution, color depth or refresh rate at a higher level than the monitor
supports. To correct this, press F8 on boot and select "Safe Mode" from the menu. Set the
display settings to appropriate levels.
• No display at all and you suspect hardware - Make sure that the monitor is plugged into a
working outlet. Make sure that the contrast and brightness settings have not been turned all
the way down. Make sure that the monitors signal cable is properly connected to the PC and
that the video card is properly seated in the slot.
Floppy Drives:
• The floppy drive will not read any disks - Check for IRQ and memory address conflicts. Make
sure that the internal power cable is connected from the power supply to the drive. Verify that
the FDD cable is properly connected to the motherboard and the drive and that the pin 1
orientation is correct. You can also narrow down the problem by swapping out the drive and
cable one at a time to determine if the problem is with one of them.
• The system will not boot from the floppy drive but works fine after boot - This is usually
caused either by a problem with the floppy or by an incorrect boot sequence in the BIOS
Hard Drives:
• Make sure that the drive is properly connected and using the correct pin 1 orientation.
• Make sure that there is only one device connected to the cable that is configured as master.
• There are a variety of problems that can occur from misconfigured settings. Verify that the
correct drive settings are reflected in the BIOS settings. Common error messages that can
occur when these are incorrect are "Drive Type Mismatch" and "Invalid Media Type".
• Check for IRQ and memory address conflicts in Windows .
• The system will not boot. If booting from a floppy, the drive can be accessed from a DOS
prompt - This usually indicates that the boot files are missing or corrupt. Change directories
to the A drive(with the boot disk inserted) and type SYS C: to restore the boot files.
• From a DOS prompt, you receive a "Boot Disk Failure" or "Missing ROM Basic Interpreter"
error message when trying to view the contents of the hard drive - Try restoring the master
boot record by using the FDISK utility as follows: FDISK /MBR.
• If all configuration settings are correct and the drive cannot be accessed after booting with a
boot disk and an "Invalid Drive" or Invalid Drive Specification" error message appears, the
disk will need to be formatted and reconfigured.
• If the EIDE or IDE controller is dead and is hardwired to the system board, an IDE or EIDE
controller expansion card can be used without having to replace the motherboard.
• If it is a SCSI drive, make sure that the hard drive is using a unique SCSI ID on its chain and
that proper terminiation is in place.
• Make sure that the drive is properly connected and using the correct pin 1 orientation.
• Make sure that there is only one device connected to the cable that is configured as master.
• Make sure that the drive is configured correctly in the autoexec.bat for a line similar to
C:\MSCDEX.EXE /D:mscd001 /L:%CDROM% and config.sys for one like device=aspicd.sys
• If the CD tray has become jammed and will not open, use a paperclip or other long thin item
into the tray release access hole.
• If the EIDE or IDE controller is dead and is hardwired to the system board, an IDE or EIDE
controller expansion card can be used without having to replace the motherboard.
• If no sound is heard when playing a CD, make sure that the sound card is properly configured
and that the cable is connected between the CD-ROM and the sound card.
• "Data error reading drive C:" or "Sector not found" error messages consistently occur - This is
typically caused by a dirty drive that needs to be cleaned.
• Check for I/O and IRQ conflicts
• You may need to configure a modem initialization string using the AT Command Set.
• Check configuration settings such as disabling call waiting or dialing a 9 first for an outside
• Refer to ISP instructions for advanced configuration options such as flow control, parity, etc.
• Make sure that the correct driver is loaded for the modem.
• As with any component, make sure that it is properly seated and all cables are correctly
Preventative Maintenance
Cleaning of outer surfaces of a computer can be done with soap and water as long as the solution
does not enter the internal parts of the computer. The solution should be applied with a lint-free
cloth. The cleaning should be followed with an anti-static spray that can be made out of water and
fabric softener.

Internal dust can be cleaned with canned air, a soft brush or anti-static vacuum. Anti-static vacuums
are specially grounded to prevent static discharge like regular vacuums. Dust can contribute to
overheating problems. Making sure that all expansion slot covers are in place can reduce dust
buildup. Missing covers can also disrupt the airflow design of the case and cause overheating
problems. Additional fans can be added to help cut down on internal temperature problems.
Computer equipment should not be placed in areas of extreme temperature or humidity.

Oxidation corrosion can slow down or even prevent electricity from flowing through contact points.
Oxidation buildup can be removed by rubbing with an emery board or eraser. It can also be cleaned
with special cleaning solution.

Other internal components can be cleaned with Isopropyl alcohol and lint-free swabs.

Monitors should be cleaned with a soap and water solution with the power disconnected. Do not use
household cleaning solutions as they can damage the screen. Monitors should not be opened unless
you are qualified to work on them. Deadly voltage can be stored inside the monitor even a year after
it has been turned off.

Computer components should be transported in antistatic foam or an anti-static bag.

Hard drives are vacuum sealed and should never be opened except by professionals in a "clean

Important data should be regularly backed up and stored in a fire-proof safe or at a separate location
for protection against fire or theft. Windows NT /2000 Emergency Repair Disks should be stored in a
secure place where only authorized personnel can access them.

Because floppy disks are magnetic media, they should not be exposed to magnetic fields that can be
produced by TVs, monitors, speakers, power supplies and appliances with motors. Floppy drive
heads can be cleaned with a wet or dry head cleaning disk. Keyboards can tend to collect dust
between the keys. They can be vacuumed with a small vacuum.
Mice need to occasionally have the X and Y rollers cleaned with a lint-free swab.

Electrical spikes(measured in nanoseconds) or surges(measured in milliseconds) can cause damage

to system components or even data loss. Surge suppressors can prevent minor variances in power
and provide a stable stream of electricity to the unit, however, they may not always work against
larger surges.

Uninterruptable Power Supplies(UPS) provide power to the devices connected to it for a period of
time in the event of power loss or sag for long enough to gracefully shutdown the computer and
avoid data loss. Unnecessary peripherals such as scanners and printers should not be connected to a
UPS as they can overload it.

Laser printers have several hazards that should be noted. The laser can cause blindness, the fuser
can cause burns and the power supply can cause electrocution.

Toner cartridges, ink jet cartridges and batteries can be recycled.

Hazardous materials come with Material Safety Data Sheets(MSDS) that provide a variety of
information for handling the material. This can include: physical data, toxicity, health effect, first aid,
reactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment, and spill/leak procedures.

Electrostatic Discharge(ESD) can be harmful to electronic components and cause them to fail. Low
humidity, walking across carpet and appliance motors are some of the common generators of ESD.
MOS devices are particularly sensitive to ESD and special care should be taken around them. Below
are some of the prevention methods employed to prevent damage:
• Grounding straps are connected to a technicians wrist. You can ground the wrist strap to the
earth pin on a wall socket.
• Remove all metallic jewelery.
• Antistatic mats.
• Touching the chassis of the computer while plugged into a grounded outlet.
• Anti-static sprays can be applied to floors, computers and work surfaces.
• A humidifier can be used to keep the humidity above 50%.
An ESD wriststrap should never be worn when working with high voltage equipment such as

Computer equipment should be unplugged from the wall during electrical storms to prevent
equipment damage and injury.

There are several different types of printers and you will need to know their print processes and
common issues.

Feed Mechanisms:
• Pin Feed - Paper has perforated strip on each side that contains holes that fit onto pins that
are rotated by a motor in the printer.
• Friction Feed - Typically uses rollers that press against the platen or drum that rotate forcing
the paper through the printer.
Thermal Wax - Thermal wax printers use a roll of cellophane like film that has colored panels on it.
The file is rolled past a print head containing thousands of heated elements that burn the wax from
the film onto the paper.

Dye-Sublimation - The print process is very similar to the thermal wax printers, however, there are
a few differences. Dye-sublimation printers use film that contains dye rather than wax and must be
used with specially coated paper. More importantly, they offer extremely high quality due to their
continuous tone printing. Continuous tone refers to the fact that the dots put down by the printer can
vary in size and intensity rather than using a dithering process like other print processes. For this
reason, dye-sub printers can product photographic quality output.

Dot Matrix - Uses an impact printing process whereby a matrix of pins imprint an image. Uses a
Ribbon. ROM programs the Fonts.

• Smudges can be caused by the ribbon tension being too high
• Broken printhead pins can cause incomplete or missing characters.
• If the tops of characters are missing, the printhead is misaligned with the platen and needs to
be reseated or the printhead carriage may need to be adjusted.
• If the print gets lighter on the page from left to right, the printhead distance from the plate is
uneven and will need to be adjusted.
Ink Jet(or Bubble Jet) - No contact therefore quiet. Works by spraying ink onto the paper in a
sequential fashion. Similar in operation to a dot matrix printer.

• Never refill cartridges which are causing problems. The head is part of the cartridge so
replace the entire cartridge.
• If the output is disfigured or wavy, make sure that the paper thickness level is in the correct
position. If it is, then the paper feed rollers probably need to be replaced.
Laser Printers - Uses a Page Description Language (PDL) to print a page at a time. Main
components are:
• Cleaning Blade - This rubber blade removes excess toner off the drum after the print process
has completed.
• Photosensitive Drum - The core of the electrophotographic process. This component should
not be exposed to light.
• Primary Corona Wire - Highly negatively charged wire erases the charge on the Photosensitive
drum to make it ready for another image.
• Transfer Corona - A roller that contains a positively charged wire to pull the toner off the
photosensitive drum and place it on the page.
• Toner - Plastic Resin. Naturally Negatively charged
• Fusing Rollers - Bonds the toner particles to prevent smearing. Uses heat to bond. A thermal
fuse prevents the fuser from overheating.
• Blank Pages - Can be caused by No Toner, Transfer Corona Failure or HVPS Failure.
• Speckled Pages - Due to a failure in the cleaning step of the EP Process. Or a scratch on the
EP drum.
• Ghosted Images - Caused if the erasure lamp doesn’t erase all of the image from the EP drum
before the next page is printed.
• Smudged Images - The fusing process must have failed. The heating elements in the fusing
rollers may be faulty.
• Dark spots - Can indicated toner buildup at some point in the paper path. Running blank
sheets through it may clear problem.
• Jams in laser printers usually occur in the paper pickup area, the fuser or the registration
area. They can be caused by incorrect paper settings or media types.
Electrophotographic Print Process(EP):
The process concerned with putting the image on the page. Follows Six processes.
1. Cleaning - The Drum is cleaned and electrically erased.
2. Charging - The Drum is negatively charged to -5000Vdc. Done by the Primary Corona.
3. Writing - The Laser sweeps the length of the drum applying the image. The Laser reduces the
negative charge on the drum where the image is going to be.
4. Developing - The Toner is transferred to the area on the drum which has been swept by the
5. Transferring - Once the image is on the drum the paper is fed through and the transfer
corona wire attracts the image from the drum to the paper.
6. Fusing - The Fusing rollers heat up and pass the paper through bonding the toner to the
paper. Uses a Non stick roller surface.
Physical Connections:
Older printers utilize a RS-232 connection that can either be 9 or 25 pin serial port and cable. The
cable should be less than 50 feet long (15.25 meters). Serial configuration requires that the port be
configured with parity type, speed, protocol and character frame must be configured.

Parallel connections utilize a DB-25 port(left) on the computer to connect

to the printer. Parallel cables should be less than 10 feet(3 meters). Most
parallel ports are now Extended Capability Ports (ECP) which offers
increased performance over previous standards. Both the computer's
parallel port and the peripheral's port must support ECP in order to use it.
Many newer printers use USB connections and higher-end printers have rj-45 network connections
and can be integrated with standard networks. Older models may have coaxial network connections.
Another popular connection solution is the print server such as a Jet-Direct interface that connects to
the printers parallel port and has an RJ-45 connection at the other end.

Further Reference:

Font Types:
• Bitmap - composed of dots called pixels.
• Vector - Uses mathematical formulas to plot lines. Requires less storage space than bitmap.
• TrueType - Outline fonts for Windows only.
Scanners are comprised of a Charge Coupled Device(CCD) array. This array is like a series of "eyes"
that read and record light intensities and stores them in digital form. This is achieved when the
scanners internal light source passes over the image that is being scanned.

Scanners come in three basic types. The simplest type of scanner is the hand held in which the
scanning device is moved across images or text. The scanner reads the information directly. A Page
scanner works by inserting a page into the top of the scanner which is pulled via rollers through the
scanner. The most common type of scanner is the flatbed scanner which allows you to place a image
or document on the top of its surface, much like a photocopier. Scanner quality is measured in DPI
or dots per inch. 300 DPI is usually adequate for normal scanning, however, modern scanners can
scan at resolutions of 9600 DPI and higher. The higher the resolution, the larger the resultant
scanned file will be.

Scanners are connected to the system board via a SCSI, Parallel or other proprietary connection
method depending on the scanner model.

Further Reference:

Basic Networking
Network models are as follows:
• Peer-to-Peer - A peer to peer network is one in which lacks a dedicated server and every
computer acts as both a client and a server. This is a good networking solution when there
are 10 or less users that are in close proximity to each other. A peer to peer network can be a
security nightmare, because the people setting permissions for shared resources will be
computer idiots and the right people will never have access to the right resources. Thus is
only recommended in situations where security is not an issue.
• Client/Server - This type of network is designed to support a large Number of users and uses
dedicated server/s to accomplish this. Clients log on to the server/s in order to run
applications or obtain files. Security and permissions can be managed by 1 or more
administrators which cuts down on the aforementioned computer illiterates from medling with
things that they shouldn't be. This type of network also allows for convenient backup services,
reduces network traffic and provides a host of other services that come with the network
operating system (NOS).
Local Area Networks
A local area network (LAN) is a high-speed communications system designed to link computers and
other devices together within a small geographic area, such as a workgroup, department, or a
building. There are several different types of common networks listed below:
Network Type Cabling Connector Maximum Length Speed
RG-8 or RG-11,
10Base5 AUI/DIX 500 meters(1640 ft) 10 mbps
Thicknet coax
10Base2 RG-58, thinnet coax BNC connector 185 meters(607 ft) 10 mbps
Cat 3, 4, 5, 5e, 6 twisted
10BaseT RJ-45 100 meters(328 ft) 10 mbps
100Base-TX Cat 5, 5e, 6 twisted pair RJ-45 100 meters(328 ft) 100 mbps

2 Kilometers(6562
100Base-FX Fiber Optic ST, SC 200 mbps
1000Base-T - Gigabit
CAT 5e, 6, Fiber RJ-45 100 meters(328 ft) 1 gbps

No cabling. Uses Access Point (AP)

802.11b Wireless / WiFi 150+ feet 11 mbps
for connection
No cabling. Uses Access Point (AP)
802.11g Wireless / WiFi 150+ feet 54 mbps
for connection
No cabling. Uses direct line of sight Up to 16
Infrared N/A Varies
connections mbps

Additional Notes: Infrared technologies vary widely. They can be used for transmitting data between
PDAs or cell phones. This technology typically connects at a speed of about 115 kbps while advanced
technologies for connecting 2 networks together between buildings can run as high as 10 gbps and
extend several miles. Windows XP supports VFIR (Very Fast Infrared) which can transmit at up to

Remote Access
For the purposes of the A+ exam, you will need to be familiar with the following methods of
connecting to the internet:

Network Type Speed Cabling Description

Dial-up connection (POTS) Up to 56 Kbps Twisted pair Rapidly being replaced by faster technologies.
Integrated Services Digital Network Coaxial
128 kbps Business access
(ISDN) cable
256 Kbps to 8 Home, small business, and enterprise access using
Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) Twisted-pair
Mbps existing phone lines.
512 Kbps to 52 Coaxial
Cable modem Home, business, school access
Mbps cable
Satellite 400 kbps Rural and remote areas

Additional Notes:
 Dial-up networking is fading away with the adoption of faster technologies.
 ISDN service is an older, but still viable technology offered by phone companies in some parts of
the U.S.. ISDN requires an ISDN adapter instead of a modem, and a phone line with a special
connection that allows it to send and receive digital signals.
 ADSL allows you to connect to the internet via your phone line, but allows you to use your phone
while connected to the internet. Unlike a cable modem, the speed is stable.
 Cable modems are much faster generally than ADSL, however, your mileage will vary depending
on how many other people are using the bandwidth on your segment.
 Satellite connections come in two types - 1-way and 2-way. 1-way satellites only accept signals
and 2-way connections send and receive. Satellite connections can be affected by weather.

This next table lists the transmission speeds of the various cable types.
Transmission Medium Transmission Speed
Thicknet 10 mbps
Thinnet 10 mbps
cat 2 twisted pair 4 mbps
cat 3 twisted pair 10 mbps
cat 4 twisted pair 16 mbps
cat 5 twisted pair 100 mbps
cat 5e twisted pair 1 gbps
cat 6 twisted pair 10 gbps
Fiber Optic 100 mbps - 1 gbps
802.11b 11 mbps
802.11g 54 mbps

Miscellaneous Cable Info

 Shielded twisted pair (STP) differs from UTP in that it has a foil jacket that helps prevent
crosstalk. Crosstalk is signal overflow from an adjacent wire. STP can support speeds up to 20 mbps.
 Plenum grade cabling is required if the cabling will be run between the ceiling and the next floor
(this is called the plenum). Plenum grade cabling is resistant to fire and does not emit poisonous
gasses when burned. PVC cable, while cheaper, will emit poisonous gases in extreme heat or fire.
 Thicknet is often used as a backbone. A transceiver with a vampire tap penetrates the core of the
cable. From the transceiver a DB-15 connector plugs into the AUI port on a given device.
 Token ring networks can use UTP and STP cabling. Older versions used IBM-type Data Connector
(IDC) and Universal Data Connectors (UDC). These 2 types of cabling are now obselete.
 Fiber Optic cabling has an built in security as you can't intercept data as you can with other cable

Protocols are the special set of rules that end points use in a telecommunication connection when
they communicate. These rules allow computers with dissimilar operating sytems, network
topologies, hardware, etc. to communicate. Next is a description of some of the more common
• TCP/IP - TCP/IP is the protocol suite of the internet and will be covered in the next section.
• IPX/SPX - These protocols were developed by Novell and are/were used with Novell
Netware. IPX is the fastest routable protocol and is not connection oriented. IPX addresses
are up to 8 characters in hexadecimal format. SPX is connection oriented.
• NetBeui - Stands for "NetBIOS Extended User Interface". It is the standard protocol used by
Microsoft's operating systems. It is NetBEUI that allows the "shares' between machines. In
reference to the NetBIOS distinction, NetBIOS is the applications programming interface and
NetBEUI is the transport protocol. NetBEUI is a non-routable protocol meaning it will not allow
communication through a router.
• Appletalk - AppleTalk is the name given to the set of protocol and networking standards
created by Apple Computer for use with the Macintosh family of computers. AppleTalk is
routable and automatically handles such things as assigning of workstation and network
addresses, message routing between networks, etc.
TCP/IP Protocol Suite The TCP/IP protocol suite is made of many other protocols that perform
different functions. Below is a list of some of them:
• TCP - TCP breaks data into manageable packets and tracks information such as source and
destination of packets. It is able to reroute packets and is responsible for guaranteed delivery
of the data.
• IP - This is a connectionless protocol, which means that a session is not created before
sending data. IP is responsible for addressing and routing of packets between computers. It
does not guarantee delivery and does not give acknowledgement of packets that are lost or
sent out of order as this is the responsibility of higher layer protocols such as TCP.
• ICMP - Internet Control Message Protocol enables systems on a TCP/IP network to share
status and error information such as with the use of PING and TRACERT utilities.
• SMTP - Used to reliably send and receive mail over the Internet.
• FTP - File transfer protocol is used for transferring files between remote systems. Must
resolve host name to IP address to establish communication. It is connection oriented (i.e.
verifies that packets reach destination).
• ARP - provides IP-address to MAC address resolution for IP packets. A MAC address is your
computer's unique hardware number and appears in the form 00-A0-F1-27-64-E1 (for
example). Each computer stores an ARP cache of other computers ARP-IP combinations.
• POP3 - Post Office Protocol. A POP3 mail server holds mail until the workstation is ready to
receive it.
• TELNET - Provides a virtual terminal or remote login across the network that is connection-
based. The remote server must be running a Telnet service for clients to connect.
• HTTP - The Hypertext Transfer Protocol is the set of rules for exchanging files (text, graphic
images, sound, video, and other multimedia files) on the World Wide Web. It is the protocol
controlling the transfer and addressing of HTTP requests and responses.
TCP/IP Ports
Ports are what an application uses when communicating between a client and server computer.
Some common ports are:
• 21 FTP
• 25 SMTP
• 80 HTTP
• 110 POP3
TCP/IP Addressing
Every IP address can be broken down into 2 parts, the Network ID(netid) and the Host ID(hostid). All
hosts on the same network must have the same netid. Each of these hosts must have a hostid that is
unique in relation to the netid. IP addresses are divided into 4 octets with each having a maximum
value of 255. We view IP addresses in decimal notation such as, but it is actually
utilized as binary data.

IP addresses are divided into 3 classes as shown below:

Class Range
A 1-126
B 128-191
C 192-223

NOTE: 127.x.x.x is reserved for loopback testing on the local system and is not used on live
systems. The following address ranges are reserved for private networks: - - -
The previous information on TCP/IP has referred to IPv4, however, this addressing scheme has run
out of available IP addresses due to the large influx of internet users and expanding networks. As a
result, the powers that be had to create a new addressing scheme to deal with this situation and
developed IPv6. This new addressing scheme utilizes a 128 bit address (instead of 32) and utilizes a
hex numbering method in order to avoid long addresses such as The hex address format will appear in the
form of 3FFE:B00:800:2::C for example.

Wireless Networking
As the name implies, wireless networks allow computers to comunicate without the use of cables.
IEEE 802.11b defines two pieces of equipment, a wireless station, which is usually a PC or a Laptop
with a wireless network interface card (NIC), and an Access Point (AP),which acts as a bridge
between the wireless stations and Distribution System (DS) or wired networks. An 802.11b wireless
network adapter can operate in two modes, Ad-Hoc and Infrastructure. In infrastructure mode, all
your traffic passes through a wireless ‘access point’. In Ad-hoc mode your computers talk directly to
each other and do not need an access point at all. 802.11b delivers data throughput of 11 Mbps.

Network Cards
A Network Interface Card, often abbreviated as NIC, is an expansion board you insert into a
computer so the computer can be connected to a network. Like other expansion cards, network cards
require that the appropriate driver is loaded to function properly. If a network card will not function it
may be due to an IRQ or memory conflict. Typical settings for these are:
• IRQ - 5
• Port Address - 300h
• Base Memory - D8000h
Modern network cards can run in full-duplex mode which means that they send and receive data at
the same time. You can see this occurring by looking at the RX and TX (receive and transmit) LEDs
on the back of a network card. Older network cards only supported half-duplex and could only send
or receive, but not both at the same time.

Further Reference:

Portable Devices
There are a wide variety of portable devices available nowadays including laptops, portable digital
assistants (PDA), tablet PCs, etc. In addition, cell phones continue to add new features that are
beginning to give them many of the capabilities of the previously mentioned options.

Laptop Computers
Laptop computers have been around for quite a while and continue to be a popular choice for mobile
computing. Laptops have LCD screens and run on rechargeable batteries. There are 3 types of
batteries that are used in laptops as follows:
• Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cd) - This is an older technology that had a few problems. First, the
batteries needed to be completely discharged before recharging or they wouldn't hold a very
good charge and had problems when overcharged. Second, they have to be disposed of by a
recycling service due to their toxic nature.
• Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) - Still commonly used today, these do not have the charging
problems that the Ni-Cd types did. They are also non-toxic and do not need special disposal.
• Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) - These are the most commonly used batteries used today. They can hold
a charge much longer than their predecessors, although cannot be recharged as many times.
If a lithium-ion battery is overcharged, it can explode which is why devices that use these
batteries have a built-in mechanism to prevent overcharging.
Most laptops and other portables can be plugged into a docking station which extends the
funtionality of the device. For example, your laptop might not have a DVD player, but if the docking
station does, then you can use it when the laptop is "docked".

The PCMCIA bus was developed for smaller computing devices and is hot-swappable. PCMCIA cards,
now referred to as PC Cards, are very thin and provide connectivity for everything from removable
media to ethernet connections. There are 3 types of PC cards:
• Type I - 3.3mm thick and used as memory expansion units.
• Type II - 5mm thick and supports most expansion functions except removable hard drives.
Type I cards will work in them.
• Type III - 10.5mm thick and used mainly for removable drives. Type I and II cards will work
in them.
You will probably not see much, if anything, on PDAs on the exam, but here are a couple of basic
things to remember about them.
• PDAs use can synch with your computer once they are placed into their cradle. This cradle
usually connects via a serial port and uses software to update changes to whichever device
(your PC or PDA) has not received them.
• PDAs (along with digital cameras ) use different memory types depending on the
manufacturer. Common types are CompactFlash and SanDisk.