IT Fundamentals/Hardware

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Hardware refers to the physical parts or components of a computer. Hardware includes components such as the monitor, keyboard, hard drive disk, mouse, printers, graphic cards, sound cards, memory, motherboard and chips, etc.[1] This lesson covers internal computer components.

Objectives and Skills[edit]

Objectives and skills for the hardware portion of IT Fundamentals certification include:[2]

  • Identify the purpose of internal computer components
    • CPU
    • Power Supply
    • RAM
    • Storage
      • Optical drive
      • Hard drive
      • Solid state drive
    • Expansion cards
      • Video card
      • Audio card
      • Network card
      • Modem
    • Motherboard/mainboard
    • System cooling
      • Case fans
      • CPU fans
      • Liquid cooling

Readings[edit]

  1. Wikipedia: Personal computer
  2. Wikipedia: BIOS

Multimedia[edit]

  1. YouTube: IT Fundamentals - Computer Hardware
  2. YouTube: Computer Basics: Inside a Desktop Computer
  3. YouTube: How to Identify the Components Inside Your Computer
  4. YouTube: Hardware Resources
  5. YouTube: HowTo - Basics Of BIOS
  6. YouTube: Binary Numbers
  7. YouTube: Conversion of Decimal Number to Binary/Hexadecimal/Octal Number and Vice Versa Using a Calculator

Activities[edit]

  1. Run the System Information or List Hardware utility for your operating system:
    • Windows: Review Microsoft: What is System Information?. Run System Information on Windows and observe the System Summary, Hardware Resources, Components, and Software Environment available on the system.
    • OS X: Review Apple: OS X: About System Information. Run System Information on OS X and observe the hardware available on the system.
    • Linux: Review Linux Man Page: lshw. Search the Internet for how to run the lshw (List Hardware) utility on your Linux distribution. Run lshw and observe the hardware available on the system.
  2. Create an inventory list of all internal hardware components in your system. Using your preferred hardware vendor, check the hardware specifications for a new system. How recent is your hardware? Is the same technology still in use on current systems?
  3. Review the Consumer Reports "Computer Buying Guide". Visit your favorite computer retailer's website and go "shopping" for a new computer or familiarize yourself with the hardware of a computer at PCPartPicker and build your own system.
  4. Search the Internet for either RAM upgrade wizard or RAM upgrade tool. Using one of the vendor options available, test your system to determine how much RAM and what type is installed in your system. How much RAM will your system support? What would it cost to 'max out' your system's RAM?
  5. Review PCWorld.com: How to Enter Your PC's BIOS. Restart your system and access the BIOS configuration screen. Review all options available. Exit and restart the system without saving any configuration changes.
  6. Check your computer or motherboard manufacturer's web site to see if there are any BIOS or firmware updates available for your system. If there are, research the problems the updates resolve and determine whether or not you want to upgrade your system. If so, be sure to back up your system first, and follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. In particular, do not remove power during a firmware upgrade process.
  7. To understand how a CPU works, review MathsIsFun: Binary, Decimal and Hexadecimal Numbers and MathsIsFun: Binary to Decimal to Hexadecimal Converter. Experiment with converting decimal values to hexadecimal and binary, and then back to decimal again. Then use your operating system's calculator and change the view to programmer mode. Perform simple math calculations in binary and hexadecimal. Convert the values to decimal to check your work.

Lesson Summary[edit]

  • The central processing unit, or CPU, is that part of a computer which executes software program instructions.[3]
  • The power supply unit, or PSU, converts general purpose electric current from the mains to direct current for the other components of the computer.[4]
  • A PC's main memory is a fast storage area that is directly accessible by the CPU, and is used to store the currently executing program and immediately needed data. PCs use semiconductor random access memory (RAM) of various kinds such as DRAM, SDRAM or SRAM as their main memory.[5]
  • Mass storage devices such as hard drives store programs and data even when the power is off; they do require power to perform read and write functions during usage.[6]
  • Optical drives, including CD, DVD, and Blu-ray Disc, are data storage devices using rapidly rotating discs coated with reflective material and read using a laser diode.[7][8]
  • Hard disk drives (HDD) are data storage devices used for storing and retrieving digital information using rapidly rotating disks (platters) coated with magnetic material.[9]
  • Solid state drives (SSD) are data storage devices using integrated circuit assemblies as memory to store data persistently.[10]
  • Video cards—otherwise called graphics cards, graphics adapters or video adapters—process the graphics output from the motherboard and transmit it to the display.[11]
  • Audio cards are internal computer expansion cards that facilitate economical input and output of audio signals to and from a computer under control of computer programs, also known as a sound card.[12]
  • A network interface controller (NIC, also known as a network interface card, network adapter, LAN adapter, and by similar terms) is a computer hardware component that connects a computer to a computer network.[13]
  • A modem (modulator-demodulator) is a device that modulates signals to encode digital information and demodulates signals to decode the transmitted information, initially used for telephone line data transmission, but also used with DSL and cable high speed connections.[14]
  • The motherboard, also referred to as system board or main board, is the primary circuit board within a personal computer, and other major system components plug directly onto or cable into the motherboard.[15]
  • System cooling is required to remove the waste heat produced by computer components, to keep components within permissible operating temperature limits. Methods include case fans, CPU fans, and liquid cooling.[16]
  • Liquid cooling uses a liquid rather than air as the heat conductor, with the most common heat transfer fluid in desktop PCs being (distilled) water.[17][18]
  • The fundamental purposes of the BIOS are to initialize and test the system hardware components, and to load a boot loader or an operating system from a mass storage device.[19]

Key Terms[edit]

Basic Input/Output System (BIOS)
A de facto standard defining a firmware interface for personal computers, and the first software run by a PC when powered on.[20]
bit (binary digit)
The basic unit of information in computing and digital communications which can have only one of two values, most commonly represented as either a 0 or 1.[21]
byte
A unit of digital information in computing and telecommunications that consists of eight bits, permitting the values 0 through 255 and used to encode a single character of text.[22]
CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computing)
A CPU design where single instructions can execute several low-level operations or are capable of multi-step operations or addressing modes within single instructions.[23]
computer fan
Any fan inside, or attached to, a computer case used for active cooling, and may refer to fans that draw cooler air into the case from the outside, expel warm air from inside, or move air across a heat sink to cool a particular component.[24]
DDR (Double Data Rate)
A computer bus that transfers data on both the rising and falling edges of the clock signal.[25]
DDR RAM (Double Data-Rate Random Access Memory) / DDR SDRAM (Double Data-Rate Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory)
A class of memory integrated circuits used in computers that makes higher transfer rates possible by more strict control of the timing of the electrical data and clock signals.[26]
DIMM (dual in-line memory module)
A series of dynamic random-access memory integrated circuits.[27]
Gb (Gigabit)
A unit of digital information equal to 109 (1 billion) bits.[28]
GB (Gigabyte)
A unit of digital information equal to 109 (1 billion) bytes.[29]
GHz (Gigahertz)
A unit of frequency defined as 109 (1 billion) cycles per second.[30]
heat sink
A passive heat exchanger that cools a device by dissipating heat into the surrounding medium.[31]
Hertz (Hz)
A unit of frequency defined as one cycle per second.[32]
IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics)
The original name for what became the ATA / ATAPI / PATA interface standard for the connection of computer storage devices such as hard disks, floppy drives, and optical disc drives.[33]
Kb (Kilobit)
A unit of digital information equal to 103 (1 thousand) bits.[34]
KB (Kilobyte)
A unit of digital information equal to 103 (1 thousand) bytes.[35]
Mac (Macintosh)
A series of personal computers manufactured by Apple Inc. and running the OS X operating system.[36]
Mb (Megabit)
A unit of digital information equal to 106 (1 million) bits.[37]
MB (Megabyte)
A unit of digital information equal to 106 (1 million) bytes.[38]
MHz (Megahertz)
A unit of frequency defined as 106 (1 million) cycles per second.[39]
OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer)
A term that refers either to a company that makes a part or subsystem used in another company's end product or collectively to all of the various manufacturers involved in the final assembly of an end product.[40]
PC (Personal Computer)
A personal computer running Microsoft Windows, used in contrast with Mac.[41]
PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect)
A local computer bus for attaching hardware devices in a computer, which replaced the original ISA and VESA bus configuration.[42]
PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express)
A high-speed serial computer expansion bus standard designed to replace the older PCI, PCI-X, and AGP bus standards.[43]
PCI-X (Peripheral Component Interconnect Extended)
A computer bus and expansion card standard that enhances the 32-bit PCI Local Bus for higher bandwidth.[44]
POST (Power-On Self-Test)
A process performed by firmware or software routines immediately after a computer or other digital electronic device is powered on.[45]
RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing)
A CPU design strategy based on the insight that a simplified instruction set provides higher performance when combined with a microprocessor architecture capable of executing those instructions using fewer cycles per instruction.[46]
SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment)
A computer bus interface that connects host bus adapters to mass storage devices such as hard disk drives and optical drives, which replaced IDE / Parallel ATA.[47]
TB (Terabyte)
A unit of digital information equal to 1012 (1 trillion) bytes.[48]
Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI)
A specification that defines a software interface between an operating system and platform firmware, meant to replace the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) firmware interface.[49]

Review Questions[edit]

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  1. The central processing unit, or CPU, is that part of a computer which _____.
    The central processing unit, or CPU, is that part of a computer which executes software program instructions.
  2. The power supply unit, or PSU, converts _____ to _____.
    The power supply unit, or PSU, converts general purpose electric current from the mains to direct current for the other components of the computer.
  3. A PC's main memory is _____, and is used to _____.
    A PC's main memory is a fast storage area that is directly accessible by the CPU, and is used to store the currently executing program and immediately needed data.
  4. Mass storage devices such as _____ store _____.
    Mass storage devices such as hard drives store programs and data even when the power is off; they do require power to perform read and write functions during usage.
  5. Optical drives, including _____, are _____.
    Optical drives, including CD, DVD, and Blu-ray Disc, are data storage devices using rapidly rotating discs coated with reflective material and read using a laser diode.
  6. Hard disk drives (HDD) are _____.
    Hard disk drives (HDD) are data storage devices used for storing and retrieving digital information using rapidly rotating disks (platters) coated with magnetic material.
  7. Solid state drives (SSD) are _____.
    Solid state drives (SSD) are data storage devices using integrated circuit assemblies as memory to store data persistently.
  8. Video cards—otherwise called _____—process _____ and transmit it to _____.
    Video cards—otherwise called graphics cards, graphics adapters or video adapters—process the graphics output from the motherboard and transmit it to the display.
  9. Audio cards are _____.
    Audio cards are internal computer expansion cards that facilitate economical input and output of audio signals to and from a computer under control of computer programs, also known as a sound card.
  10. A network interface controller (NIC, also known as _____) is a _____.
    A network interface controller (NIC, also known as a network interface card, network adapter, LAN adapter, and by similar terms) is a computer hardware component that connects a computer to a computer network.
  11. A modem (modulator-demodulator) is a _____, initially used for _____, but also used with _____.
    A modem (modulator-demodulator) is a device that modulates signals to encode digital information and demodulates signals to decode the transmitted information, initially used for telephone line data transmission, but also used with DSL and cable high speed connections.
  12. The motherboard, also referred to as _____, is the _____.
    The motherboard, also referred to as system board or main board, is the primary circuit board within a personal computer, and other major system components plug directly onto or cable into the motherboard.
  13. System cooling is required to _____. Methods include _____.
    System cooling is required to remove the waste heat produced by computer components, to keep components within permissible operating temperature limits. Methods include case fans, CPU fans, and liquid cooling.
  14. Liquid cooling uses a liquid rather than air as _____, with the most common _____ in desktop PCs being _____.
    Liquid cooling uses a liquid rather than air as the heat conductor, with the most common heat transfer fluid in desktop PCs being (distilled) water.
  15. The fundamental purposes of the BIOS are to _____, and to _____.
    The fundamental purposes of the BIOS are to initialize and test the system hardware components, and to load a boot loader or an operating system from a mass storage device.

Assessments[edit]

See Also[edit]

References[edit]

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