Chapter 1 First Look at Computer Parts and Tools
A+ Guide to Managing & Maintaining Your PC, 8th Edition
Chapter 1
First Look at Computer Parts and Tools
At a Glance
Instructor’s Manual Table of Contents
Teaching Tips
Quick Quizzes
Class Discussion Topics
Additional Projects
Additional Resources
Key Terms
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A+ Guide to Managing & Maintaining Your PC, 8th Edition
Lecture Notes
This chapter serves as an introduction to the basic hardware components in a computer.
Students will learn how to identify basic PC hardware devices as well as how to identify
different power connectors used in connecting devices. Safety techniques for the handling of
electronic components is also covered.
Chapter Objectives
After reading this chapter and completing the exercises, the student will learn:
• About the various parts inside a computer case and how they connect together and are
• How to protect yourself and the equipment against the dangers of electricity when
working inside a computer case
• About tools you will need as a PC hardware technician and safety precautions when
working around computer equipment
Teaching Tips
What’s Inside the Case
1. Introduce the two different kinds of cases typically available, the tower case and the
desktop case.
2. Point out and identify common ports that exist on computers, such as the VGA and
DVI ports for video, network or Ethernet port, and USB ports.
3. Locate and identify components within a PC, and note where to find the CPU, RAM,
and power supply. Students should be aware of how to identify a hard drive or disc
4. Define the following components and discuss how each is used once they have been
a. Motherboard, central processing unit (CPU), and heat sink
b. Expansion cards
c. Memory modules
d. Hard drives
e. Power supply
Form Factors Used by Computer Cases, Power Supplies, and Motherboards
1. Explain how form factors help ensure that components will fit within a computer case,
and that power requirements will be met properly.
2. Define the Advanced Technology Extended, or ATX form factor, and demonstrate how
to identify the various power connectors common for the ATX form factor:
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A+ Guide to Managing & Maintaining Your PC, 8th Edition
a. 20-pin P1 connector
b. 4-pin and 8 pin auxiliary connectors
c. 24-pin or 20+4-pin P1 connector
d. 6-pin and 8-pin PCIe connectors
3. Discuss the pinouts for both 20 pin and 24 pin P1 connectors. Students should
understand what voltages are represented by the different colors.
4. Explain the microATX (MATX) form factor as a reduced size variation of the ATX
form factor, and discuss the differences between these two standards.
Many different form factors exist, all with different intended uses. MiniITX
motherboards, for example, are designed to be extremely low power, and are
typically used in small form factor computers.
Drives, Their Cables, and Connectors
1. Discuss the serial ATA (SATA) standard, and the older parallel ATA (PATA) standard,
and note that both technologies can be used to connect devices such as hard drives and
optical drives.
2. Compare the two connectors used to provide power to SATA or PATA devices, the
SATA power connector and the Molex power connector.
3. Describe how PATA devices interface with the motherboard using a 40 pin IDE cable,
and note that a maximum of two devices per IDE connector exists. Note that PATA
drives might use a larger 80-conductor Enhanced IDE (EIDE) cable.
4. Explain that floppy drives make use of a 34 pin cable similar to the 40 pin IDE cable,
and typically have a twist in the cable. Floppy drives also use a 4-pin Berg power
Protecting Yourself and the Equipment Against Electrical Dangers
Measures and Properties of Electricity
1. Define the units of measurement involved when dealing with electricity:
a. Volt
b. Amp or ampere
c. Ohm
d. Joule
e. Watt
2. Explain that surge suppressors are rated in joules, and are used to protect circuits from
power surges.
3. Discuss the differences between Alternating Current (AC) and Direct Current (DC).
Students should understand that a rectifier converts AC to DC, and an inverter converts
DC to AC.
4. Define a transformer as a device that changes the ratio of voltage to current, noting that
a computer’s power supply is considered to be both a rectifier and a transformer.
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5. Elaborate on how electricity flows, and provide explanations for electrical shorts and
proper grounding of electrical components.
For more information about inverters, see:
For more information about rectifiers, see:
Protect Yourself Against Electrical Shock and Burns
1. Explain basic safety practices to follow when working on electronic equipment, such as
completely disconnecting power when working on a component, or checking for
damaged cables and exposure to moisture.
2. Describe a field replaceable unit (FRU) as components that a technician should know
how to replace, but not service, such as a monitor or power supply.
3. Discuss how to put out an electrical fire, and note the differences between the following
different classes of fire extinguisher:
a. Class A, used on fires caused by wood, paper, and other combustibles
b. Class B, used on fires caused by liquids such as gasoline, kerosene, and oil
c. Class C, used to put out fires caused by electricity
Protect the Equipment Against Static Electricity or ESD
1. Define how Electrostatic discharge (ESD), or static electricity, occurs and can damage
electrical components in a computer.
2. Demonstrate how to use a ground bracelet or ESD strap to ensure that electrical
components are not damaged when worked on.
3. Note the use of ground mats or ESD mats to help protect components from ESD when
they are placed on the mat.
4. Static shielding bags, or antistatic bags, should be explained as bags that act as a
Faraday cage, protecting components inside from electromagnetic fields.
5. Demonstrate what antistatic gloves look like, and explain that they are typically used
when moving, packing, or unpacking equipment.
6. Describe the self-grounding technique, where static electricity is discharged by
touching a metal object prior to handling components.
7. Discuss the rules to follow for protecting against ESD, and describe proper handling
procedures for the installation and storage of components.
8. List some of the tools used by a typical PC technician, such as a flathead screwdriver
and Phillips-head screwdriver, torx screw driver, tweezers, or extractors.
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A+ Guide to Managing & Maintaining Your PC, 8th Edition
Quick Quiz 1
1. A processor, or CPU, typically has a fan and ____________________ mounted on top
of it to keep it cool.
Answer: heat sink
2. True or False: The PATA interface is the successor to the SATA interface, and uses a
special power connector that differs from a Molex connector.
Answer: False
3. Which electronic component below has a dual voltage selector switch?
A. Hard drive
B. Power supply
D. Processor
Answer: B
4. Select the power connector that is specified by the ATX Version 2.2 standard, which
allows more power to the motherboard for PCI Express (PCIe) devices.
A. 20 pin P1 connector
B. 8 pin auxiliary connector
C. 24+4 pin P1 connector
D. 20+4 or 24 –pin P1 connector
Answer: D
5. A single IDE port on a motherboard can interface with as many as ________ devices.
A. 1
B. 2
C. 3
D. 4
Answer: B
You should also cover some common electrical symbols used on electronic
devices, such as the ground symbol, for example:
Tools Used by a PC Repair Technician
POST Diagnostic Cards
1. Describe the POST process, and explain how the basic input / output system (BIOS)
stores system settings such as system time and motherboard configuration settings
within a battery powered CMOS.
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A+ Guide to Managing & Maintaining Your PC, 8th Edition
2. Elaborate on the three purposes served by the BIOS:
a. System BIOS
b. Startup BIOS
c. BIOS setup or CMOS setup
3. Discuss the power-on self test (POST) process in testing critical hardware components
for proper functionality, and explain how a POST card can help a technician determine
why a POST test fails.
Power Supply Tester
1. Describe how a power supply tester can be used to help determine if a power supply is
providing the proper power to electrical components.
1. Demonstrate how to use a multimeter to test electrical circuits, such as by determining
continuity and voltages present.
Loopback Plugs
1. Describe how a loopback plug can be used to test a network cable or port. Note that
USB loopback plugs exist also.
Proper Use of Cleaning Pads and Solutions
1. Discuss how to use proper cleaning materials when cleaning computer components and
accessories, and note the use of a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) in proper
handling of substances.
Managing Cables
1. Stress the importance of cable management in preventing trip hazards or other
dangerous situations.
Lifting Heavy Objects
1. Emphasize the importance of proper lifting techniques when lifting heavy electronic
components, such as using knees to lift.
Quick Quiz 2
1. The ________ is the measure of electrical force, and uses the V symbol.
Answer: volt
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A+ Guide to Managing & Maintaining Your PC, 8th Edition
2. True or False: Alternating current is a current that oscillates back and forth, where
voltage in the system alternates between positive and negative.
Answer: True
3. The device used for converting AC to DC is called a _______
Answer: rectifier
4. Which portion of the BIOS manages essential devices before the operating system is
A. System BIOS
B. BIOS Setup
C. CMOS Setup
D. Startup BIOS
Answer: A
5. Loopback plugs can test which of the following components?
A. Power supply
B. Network ports
C. Expansion slots
D. RAM sticks
Answer: B
Class Discussion Topics
1. Many students may have had experience changing out a computer component or even
building their own computers. What had to be replaced? If they built their own PC,
have them discuss with classmates what parts they had to purchase.
2. Electricity is often explained using the water hose analogy. Task students with
researching this analogy and explaining how each measurement compares in the
Additional Projects
1. If possible, demonstrate basic electronic circuits. This can usually be done using basic
electricity lab kits, using a breadboard, power source, and LED light. Note how the
electricity flows from one side of the circuit to the other.
2. Show some basic circuit troubleshooting by using a multimeter. For example, students
can benefit from seeing how to test if a circuit board has continuity between test points.
© Cengage Learning 2014
A+ Guide to Managing & Maintaining Your PC, 8th Edition
Additional Resources
1. How Electricity Works
2. Computer case / form factor guide from Newegg
Key Terms
 4-pin motherboard auxiliary connector A connector on the motherboard used to
provide additional power to the processor other than that provided by the P1 connector.
 8-pin motherboard auxiliary connector A connector on the motherboard used to
provide additional power to the processor other than that provided by the P1 connector
or the earlier 4-pin auxiliary connector.
 20-pin P1 connector Used by an older ATX power supply and motherboard and
provided +3.3 volts, +5 volts, +12 volts, −12 volts, and an optional and rarely used −5
 24-pin P1 connector Used by ATX Version 2.2 power supply and motherboard and
provides additional power for PCI Express slots.
 alternating current (AC) Current that cycles back and forth rather than traveling in
only one direction. In the United States, the AC voltage from a standard wall outlet is
normally between 110 and 115V. In Europe, the standard AC voltage from a wall outlet
is 220V.
 amp A measure of electrical current.
 antistatic bags Static shielding bags that new computer components are shipped in.
 antistatic gloves Gloves designed to prevent an ESD discharge between you and a
device, as you pick it up and handle it.
 antistatic wrist strap See ground bracelet.
 ATX (Advanced Technology Extended) The most common form factor for PC
systems presently in use, originally introduced by Intel in 1995. ATX motherboards and
cases make better use of space and resources than did the earlier AT form factor.
 ATX12V power supply An ATX Version 2.1 power supply that provides a 12V power
cord with a 4-pin connector to be used by the auxiliary 4-pin power connector on
motherboards used to provide extra power for processors.
 Berg power connector A type of power connector used by a power cord to provide
power to a floppy disk drive.
 BIOS (basic input/output system) Firmware that can control much of a computer’s
input/output functions, such as communication with the keyboard and the monitor.
 BIOS setup The program in system BIOS that can change the values in CMOS RAM.
Also called CMOS setup.
 central processing unit (CPU) Also called a microprocessor or processor. The
component where almost all processing of data and instructions takes place. The CPU
receives data input, processes information, and executes instructions.
 Class C fire extinguisher A fire extinguisher rated to put out electrical fires.
 CMOS setup See BIOS setup.
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 DB-15 port A 15-pin female port that transmits analog video.
 desktop case A computer case that lies flat and sometimes serves double-duty as a
monitor stand.
 DIMM (dual inline memory module) A miniature circuit board installed on a
motherboard to hold memory. DIMMs can hold up to 16 GB of RAM on a single
 direct current (DC) Current that travels in only one direction (the type of electricity
provided by batteries). Computer power supplies transform AC to low DC.
 DisplayPort A port that transmits digital video and audio (not analog transmissions)
and is slowly replacing VGA and DVI ports on personal computers.
 dual voltage selector switch A switch on the back of the computer case where you can
switch the input voltage to the power supply to 115 V used in the United States or 220
V used in other countries.
 DVI (Digital Video Interface) port A port that transmits digital or analog video.
 electrostatic discharge (ESD) Another name for static electricity, which can damage
chips and destroy motherboards, even though it might not be felt or seen with the naked
 ESD gloves See antistatic gloves.
 ESD mat See ground mat.
 ESD strap See ground bracelet.
 Ethernet port See network port.
 expansion card A circuit board inserted into a slot on the motherboard to enhance the
capability of the computer.
 external SATA (eSATA) A standard for external drives based on SATA that uses a
special external shielded SATA cable up to 2 meters long. eSATA is up to six times
faster than USB or FireWire.
 field replaceable unit (FRU) A component in a computer or device that can be
replaced with a new component without sending the computer or device back to the
manufacturer. Examples: power supply, DIMM, motherboard, hard disk drive.
 FireWire port A port used for high-speed multimedia devices such as camcorders.
Also called an IEEE 1394 port.
 firmware Software that is permanently stored in a chip. The BIOS on a motherboard is
an example of firmware.
 floppy disk drive (FDD) A drive that can hold either a 5½ inch or 3¼ inch floppy disk.
Also called floppy drive.
 floppy drive See floppy disk drive (FDD).
 form factor A set of specifications on the size, shape, and configuration of a computer
hardware component such as a case, power supply, or motherboard.
 ground bracelet A strap you wear around your wrist that is attached to the computer
case, ground mat, or another ground so that ESD is discharged from your body before
you touch sensitive components inside a computer. Also called static strap, ground
strap, ESD bracelet.
 ground mat A mat that dissipates ESD and is commonly used by technicians who
repair and assemble computers at their workbenches or in an assembly line.
 hard disk drive (HDD) See hard drive.
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 hard drive The main secondary storage device of a computer. Two technologies are
currently used by hard drives: magnetic and solid state. Also called hard disk drive
 HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) port A digital audio and video
interface standard currently used on televisions and other home theater equipment and
expected to ultimately replace DVI.
 heat sink A piece of metal, with cooling fins, that can be attached to or mounted on an
integrated chip (such as the CPU) to dissipate heat.
 IEEE1394 port See FireWire port.
 internal components The main components installed in a computer case.
 inverter A device that converts DC to AC.
 joule A measure of work or energy. One joule of energy produces one watt of power
for one second.
 loopback plug A device used to test a port in a computer or other device to make sure
the port is working and might also test the throughput or speed of the port.
 main board See motherboard.
 Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) A document that explains how to properly
handle substances such as chemical solvents; it includes information such as physical
data, toxicity, health effects, first aid, storage, disposal, and spill procedures.
 MicroATX (MATX) A version of the ATX form factor. MicroATX addresses some
new technologies that were developed after the original introduction of ATX.
 microprocessor See central processing unit (CPU).
 modem port A port used to connect dial-up phone lines to computers.
 Molex power connector A 4-pin power connector used to provide power to a PATA
hard drive or optical drive.
 motherboard The main board in the computer, also called the system board. The CPU,
ROM chips, DIMMs, RIMMs, and interface cards are plugged into the motherboard.
 multimeter A device used to measure the various attributes of an electrical circuit. The
most common measurements are voltage, current, and resistance.
 network port A port used by a network cable to connect to the wired network.
 ohm (Ω) The standard unit of measurement for electrical resistance. Resistors are rated
in ohms.
 parallel ATA (PATA) An older IDE cabling method that uses a 40-pin flat or round
data cable or an 80-conductor cable and a 40-pin IDE connector. See also serial ATA.
 parallel port An outdated female 25-pin port on a computer that transmitted data in
parallel, 8 bits at a time, and was usually used with a printer. The names for parallel
ports are LPT1 and LPT2. Parallel ports have been replaced by USB ports.
 PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) A bus common to desktop computers that
uses a 32-bit wide or a 64-bit data path. Several variations of PCI exist. One or more
notches on a PCI slot keep the wrong PCI cards from being inserted in the PCI slot.
 PCI Express (PCIe) The latest evolution of PCI, which is not backward-compatible
with earlier PCI slots and cards. PCIe slots come in several sizes, including PCIe x1,
PCIe x4, PCIe x8, and PCIe x16.
 POST (power-on self test) A self-diagnostic program used to perform a simple test of
the CPU, RAM, and various I/O devices. The POST is performed by startup BIOS
when the computer is first turned on, and is stored in ROM-BIOS.
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 POST card A test card installed in a slot on the motherboard that is used to help
discover and report computer errors and conflicts that occur when a computer is first
turned on and before the operating system is launched.
 POST diagnostic card See POST card.
 power supply A box inside the computer case that receives power and converts it to
provide power to the motherboard and other installed devices. Power supplies provide
3.3, 5, and 12 volts DC. Also called a power supply unit (PSU).
 power supply tester A device that can test the output of each power cord coming from
a power supply.
 power supply unit (PSU) See power supply.
 processor See central processing unit (CPU).
 PS/2 port A round 6-pin port used by a keyboard or mouse.
 RAM (random access memory) Memory modules on the motherboard containing
microchips used to temporarily hold data and programs while the CPU processes both.
Information in RAM is lost when the PC is turned off.
 RJ-11 See RJ-11 jack.
 RJ-11 jack A phone line connection or port found on modems, telephones, and house
phone outlets.
 RJ-45 A port that looks like a large phone jack and is used by twisted-pair cable to
connect to a wired network adapter or other hardware device. RJ stands for registered
 rectifier An electrical device that converts AC to DC. A computer power supply
contains a rectifier.
 S-Video port A 4-pin or 7-pin round video port that sends two signals over the cable,
one for color and the other for brightness, and is used by some high end TVs and video
 S/PDIF (Sony-Phillips Digital Interface) sound port A port that connects to an
external home theater audio system, providing digital audio output and the nest signal
 SATA power connector A 15-pin flat power connector that provides power to SATA
 self-grounding A method to safeguard against ESD that involves touching the
computer case or power supply before touching a component in the computer case.
 serial ATA (SATA) An ATAPI interface standard that uses a narrower and more
reliable cable than the 80-conductor cable and is easier to configure than PATA
systems. See also parallel ATA.
 serial port A male 9-pin or 25-pin port on a computer system used by slower I/O
devices such as a mouse or modem. Data travels serially, one bit at a time, through the
port. Serial ports are sometimes configured as COM1, COM2, COM3, or COM4.
 startup BIOS Part of system BIOS that is responsible for controlling the computer
when it is first turned on. Startup BIOS gives control over to the OS once it is loaded.
 system board See motherboard.
 Thunderbolt A port that transmits both video and data on the same port and cable. The
port is shaped the same as the DisplayPort and is compatible with DisplayPort devices.
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A+ Guide to Managing & Maintaining Your PC, 8th Edition
 tower case The largest type of personal computer case. Tower cases stand vertically
and can be as high as two feet tall. They have more drive bays and are a good choice
for computer users who anticipate making significant upgrades.
 transformer An electrical device that changes the ratio of current to voltage. A
computer power supply is basically a transformer and a rectifier.
 trip hazard Loose cables or cords in a traffic area where people can trip over them.
 USB (Universal Serial Bus) port A type of port designed to make installation and
configuration of I/O devices easy, providing room for as many as 127 devices daisychained together.
 VGA (Video Graphics Adapter) port A 15-pin analog video port popular for many
 video memory Memory used by the video controller. The memory might be contained
on a video card or be part of system memory. When part of system memory, the
memory is dedicated by Windows to video.
 volt A measure of potential difference in an electrical circuit. A computer ATX power
supply usually provides five separate voltages: +12V, –12V, +5V, –5V, and +3.3V.
 watt The unit of electricity used to measure power. A typical computer may use a
power supply that provides 500W.
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