null  null
Portable
Computing
16
“The great thing about a
computer notebook is that no
matter how much you stuff into
it, it doesn’t get bigger or
heavier.”
—BILL GATES, BUSINESS @ THE SPEED
OF THOUGHT
In this chapter, you will learn
how to
■
Describe the many types of
portable computing devices
available
■
Enhance and upgrade portable
computers
■
Manage and maintain portable
computers
■
Troubleshoot portable computers
T
here are times when the walls close in, when you need a change of scenery
to get that elusive spark that inspires greatness…or sometimes you just
need to get away from your coworkers for a few hours because they’re driving
you nuts! For many occupations, that’s difficult to do. You’ve got to have
access to your documents and spreadsheets; you can’t function without e-mail
or the Internet. In short, you need a computer to get your job done.
Portable computing devices combine mobility with accessibility to bring
you the best of both worlds; put more simply, portables let you take some or
even all of your computing abilities with you when you go. Some portable
computers feature Windows XP systems with all the bells and whistles and all
your Microsoft Office apps for a seamless transition from desk to café table.
Even the smallest portable devices enable you to check your appointments and
address book, or play Solitaire during the endless wait at the doctor’s office.
This chapter takes an in-depth look at portables, first going through the major
variations you’ll run into and then hitting the tech-specific topics of enhancing,
upgrading, managing, and maintaining portable computers. Let’s get started!
494
Essentials
■
Portable Computing Devices
All portable devices share certain features. For output, they have LCD
screens, although these vary from 20-inch behemoths to microscopic 2-inch
screens. Portable computing devices employ sound of varying quality, from
simple beeps to fairly nice music reproductions. All of them run on DC electricity stored in batteries, although several different technologies offer a
range of battery life, lifespan, and cost. Other than screen, sound, and battery, portable computing devices come in an amazing variety of shapes,
sizes, and intended uses.
LCD Screens
Note that this chapter does
not have an Historical/Conceptual section. Everything in here
is on the CompTIA A+ certification exams, so pay attention!
Cross Check
LCD Monitors
Laptops come in a variety of sizes
Stretching back to the early days of mobile computing, almost every
and at varying costs. One major
make and model of portable device has used an LCD monitor of some
contributor to the overall cost of a
shape or size. You know all about LCD monitors from Chapter 15,
laptop is the size of the LCD screen.
“Understanding Video.” Everything that applies to desktop LCDs
Most laptops offer a range between
applies to screens designed for portable devices as well, so turn to
12-inch to 17-inch screens (meaChapter 15 and cross check your knowledge. What are the variations of
sured diagonally), while a few offer
LCD screen you’ll find today? Which technology offers the best picture?
just over 20-inch screens. Not only
What connectors do you find with LCDs?
are screens getting larger, but also
wider screens are becoming the status quo. Many manufacturers are phasing out the standard 4:3 aspect ratio
screen in favor of the widescreen format. Aspect ratio is the comparison of the
screen width to the screen height. Depending on screen resolution,
widescreens can have varying aspect ratios of 10:6, 16:9, 16:9.5, or 16:10. The
16:9 aspect ratio is the standard for widescreen movies while 16:10 is the standard for 17-inch LCD screens.
Laptop LCD screens come in a variety of supported resolutions, described with acronyms such as XGA, WXGA, WSXGA, and more. The W in
front of the letters indicates widescreen. Table 16.1 lists commonly supported laptop display resolutions.
Table 16.1
Screen Resolutions
Acronym
Name
Native
Resolution
XGA
eXtended Graphics Array
1024 × 768
SXGA
Super eXtended Graphics Array
1280 × 1024
SXGA+
Super eXtended Graphics Array Plus
1400 × 1050
WSXGA+
Widescreen SXGA Plus
1680 × 1050
UXGA
Ultra eXtended Graphics Array
1600 × 1200
WUXGA
Widescreen UXGA
1920 × 1200
Chapter 16: Portable Computing
495
Laptop screens come with two types of finish: matte and high gloss .
The matte finish was the industry standard for many years and offers a good
trade-off between richness of colors and reflection or glare. The better
screens have a wide viewing angle and decent response time. The major
drawback for matte-finished laptop screens is that they wash out a lot in
bright light. Using such a laptop at an outdoor café, for example, is almost
hopeless during daylight.
Manufacturers released high-gloss laptop screens in 2006, and they’ve
rapidly taken over many store shelves. The high-gloss finish offers sharper
contrast, richer colors, and wider viewing angles when compared to the
matte screens. Each manufacturer has a different name for high-gloss coatings. Dell calls theirs TrueLife; Acer calls theirs CrystalBrite; and HP calls
theirs BrightView. The drawback to the high-gloss screens is that, contrary
to what the manufacturers’ claim, they pick up lots of reflection from nearby
objects, including the user! So while they’re usable outside during the day,
you’ll need to contend with increased reflection as well.
Desktop Replacements
Tech Tip
What’s in a Name?
There’s no industry standard
naming for the vast majority of
styles of portable computing devices, so manufacturers let their
marketing folks have fun with
naming. What’s the difference between a portable, a laptop, and a
notebook? Nothing. One manufacturer might call its four-pound
portable system with 12-inch
LCD a notebook, while another
manufacturer might call its much
larger desktop-replacement portable a notebook as well. A laptop
refers in general to the clamshell,
keyboard-on-the-bottom and
LCD-screen-at-the-top design
that is considered the shape of
mobile PCs.
When asked about portable computing devices, most folks describe the traditional clamshell laptop computer, such as the one in Figure 16.1, with
built-in LCD monitor, keyboard, and input device (a touchpad, in this case).
A typical laptop computer functions as a fully standalone PC, potentially
even replacing the desktop. The one in Figure 16.1, for example, has all of
the features you expect the modern PC to have, such as a fast CPU, lots of
RAM, a high-capacity hard drive, CD-RW and DVD drives, an excellent
sound system, and a functioning copy of Windows XP. Attach it to a
• Figure 16.1
496
A notebook PC
Mike Meyers’ CompTIA A+ Guide: Essentials (Exam 220-601)
network and you can browse the Internet and send e-mail. Considering it
weighs almost as much as a mini-tower PC (or at least it feels like it does
when I’m lugging it through the airport!), such a portable can be considered a desktop replacement , because it does everything that most people
want to do with a desktop PC and doesn’t compromise performance just to
make the laptop a few pounds lighter or the battery last an extra hour.
For input devices, desktop replacements (and other portables) used
trackballs in the early days, often plugged in like a mouse and clipped to the
side of the case. Other models with trackballs placed them in front of the
keyboard at the edge of the case nearest the user, or behind the keyboard at
the edge nearest the screen.
The next wave to hit the laptop market was IBM’s
TrackPoint device, a pencil eraser–sized joystick situated
in the center of the keyboard. The TrackPoint enables you
to move the pointer around without taking your fingers
away from the “home” typing position. You use a forefinger to push the joystick around, and click or right-click using two buttons below the spacebar. This type of pointing
device has since been licensed for use by other manufacturers, and it continues to appear on laptops today.
But by far the most common laptop pointing device
found today is the touchpad (Figure 16.2)—a flat,
touch-sensitive pad just in front of the keyboard. To operate a touchpad, you simply glide your finger across its
surface to move the pointer, and tap the surface once or
twice to single- or double-click. You can also click using
buttons just below the pad. Most people get the hang of
this technique after just a few minutes of practice. The
main advantage of the touchpad over previous laptop • Figure 16.2 Touchpad on a laptop
pointing devices is that it uses no moving parts—a fact
that can really extend the life of a hard-working laptop.
Some modern laptops actually provide
both a TrackPoint-type device and a
touchpad, to give the user a choice.
Desktop Extenders
Manufacturers offer desktop extender
portable devices that don’t replace the
desktop, but rather extend it by giving
you a subset of features of the typical
desktop that you can take away from the
desk. Figure 16.3 shows a portable with a
good but small 13.3-inch-wide screen.
The system has 512 MB of RAM, a 2-GHz
processor, a 60-GB hard drive, and a battery that enables you to do work on it for
more than five hours while disconnected
from the wall socket. Even though it
plays music and has a couple of decent,
tiny speakers, you can’t game on this
Chapter 16: Portable Computing
• Figure 16.3
Excellent mid-sized portable computer
497
Tech Tip
Spin the Weight
Manufacturers advertise the
weight of portable PCs, for the most
part, without the weight of the battery or the removable drives. Although this deception is deplorable,
it’s pretty much universal in the
industry because no manufacturer
wants to be the first to say that
their desktop-replacement portable,
including battery and DVD-RW
drive, weighs 15 pounds when their
competitor advertises the same kind
of machine at 7.5 pounds! They’d
lose market share quickly.
When you shop or recommend
portable PCs, take the real weight
into consideration. By the time
you fill your laptop bag with a
power adapter, an external mouse,
a spare battery, and all the extra
accessories, you’ll definitely be
carrying more than the advertised
5–6 pounds.
Tech Tip
Ultralights
Ultralight portables are computers
that normally weigh less than three
pounds and are less than an inch in
thickness. These machines usually
have smaller displays, lowercapacity hard drives, and CPUs
that operate at lower speeds than
their larger-sized brethren. This
class of portable computers is designed for the busy traveler who
wants a nearly full-featured laptop
in a small, easily transported package. Often, these laptops are much
more expensive than larger, faster
machines—think of it as paying
more to get less! You’ll hear the
term subnotebooks used to describe ultralight portables; the
terms aren’t quite synonymous,
but the marketing waters for all
portable computing devices are
pretty muddy.
computer (Solitaire, perhaps, but definitely not Half-Life 2!). But it weighs
only five pounds, nearly half the weight of the typical desktop replacement
portable.
Desktop extenders enable you to go mobile. When I’m on a roll writing,
for example, I don’t want to stop. But sometimes I do want to take a break
from the office and stroll over to my favorite café for a latté or a pint of fine
ale. At moments like these, I don’t need a fully featured laptop with a monster 15-inch or 17-inch screen, but just a good word processing system—and
perhaps the ability to surf the Internet on the café’s wireless network so I can
research other important topics once I finish my project for the day. A lightweight laptop with a 12-inch or 13-inch screen, a reasonably fast processor,
and gobs of RAM does nicely.
PDAs
Having a few computing essentials on hand at all times eases the day and
makes planning and scheduling much more likely to succeed. Several companies, such as Palm, Sony, Toshiba, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Microsoft, manufacture tiny handheld portable computing devices that hold data such as your
address book, personal notes, appointment schedules, and more. Such machines are called personal digital assistants (PDAs) . All modern PDAs have
many applications, such as word processors for jotting down notes or shopping lists, expense reports, and even image viewers. Figure 16.4 shows a
Palm Zire 71 PDA.
PDAs don’t run Windows XP or even 98, but rather require specialized
OSs such as Windows CE, PocketPC, PalmOS, and Linux. All of these OSs
provide a GUI that enables you to interact with the device by touching the
screen directly. Many of today’s PDAs use handwriting recognition combined with modified mouse functions, usually in the form of a pen-like stylus to make a type of input called pen-based computing . To make an
application load, for example, you would slide the stylus out of its holder in
the PDA case and touch the appropriate icon with the stylus tip.
• Figure 16.4
498
Palm Zire 71 displaying a to-do list
Mike Meyers’ CompTIA A+ Guide: Essentials (Exam 220-601)
HotSync
PDAs make excellent pocket companions because you can quickly add a client’s address or telephone number, check the day’s schedule before going to
your next meeting, and modify your calendar entries when something unexpected arises. Best of all, you can then update all the equivalent features on
your desktop PC automatically! PDAs synchronize with your primary PC so
you have the same essential data on both machines. Many PDAs come with a
cradle, a place to rest your PDA and recharge its battery. The cradle connects
to the PC most often through a USB port. You can run special software to synchronize the data between the PDA and the main PC. Setting up the Zire 71
featured previously, for example, requires you to install a portion of the Palm
desktop for Windows. This software handles all the synchronization chores.
You simply place the PDA in the properly connected cradle and click the
button to synchronize. Figure 16.5 shows a PDA in the middle of a HotSync
operation, PalmOS’s term for the process of synchronizing.
• Figure 16.5
HotSync in progress
Beaming
Just about every PDA comes with an infrared port that enables you to transfer data from one PDA to another, a process called beaming . For example,
you can readily exchange business information when at a conference or
swap pictures that you carry around in your PDA. The process is usually as
simple as clicking a drop-down list and selecting Beam or Beaming from the
menu. The PDA searches the nearby area—infrared has a very limited
range—to discover any PDA nearby. The receiving PDA flashes a message
to its owner asking permission to receive. Once that’s granted, you simply
stand there and wait for a moment while the PDAs transfer data. Slick!
PDA Memory
Almost every PDA has both internal flash ROM memory of 1 MB or more,
and some sort of removable and upgradeable storage medium. Secure
Digital (SD) technology has the strongest market share among the many
competing standards, but you’ll find a bunch of different memory card
types out there. SD cards come in a variety of physical sizes (SD, Mini SD,
and Micro SD) and fit in a special SD slot. Other popular media include
CompactFlash (CF) cards and Sony’s proprietary Memory Stick. You’ll find
capacities for all the standards ranging from 128 MB up to 8 GB—on a card
the size of a postage stamp! Figure 16.6 shows some typical memory cards.
• Figure 16.6
Tech Tip
Memory Cards
Memory cards of all stripes made
the leap in 2003 from the exclusive realm of tiny devices such as
PDAs and digital photographic
cameras to full-featured portable
PCs and even desktop models.
Some Panasonic PCs sport SD
card slots, for example, and you
can expect nearly every Sony
PC—portable or otherwise—
made in 2003 and later to offer a
Memory Stick port.
SD, Mini SD, and Micro SD (photos courtesy of SanDisk)
Chapter 16: Portable Computing
499
Tablet PCs
Tech Tip
Power Corrupts, but
in This Case, It’s Good
Handwriting recognition and
speech recognition are two technologies that benefit greatly from
increased CPU power. As
multicore CPUs become more
common, get ready to see more
widespread adoption of these
technologies!
Tablet PCs combine the handwriting benefits of PDAs with the full-fledged
power of a traditional portable PC to create a machine that perfectly meets
the needs of many professions. Unlike PDAs, tablet PCs use a full-featured
PC operating system such as Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition
2005. Instead of (or in addition to) a keyboard and mouse, tablet PCs provide a screen that doubles as an input device. With a special pen, called a
stylus, you can actually write on the screen (Figure 16.7). Just make sure you
don’t grab your fancy Cross ball-point pen accidentally and start writing on
the screen! Unlike many PDA screens, most tablet PC screens are not pressure sensitive—you have to use the stylus to write on the screen. Tablet PCs
come in two main form factors: convertibles, which include a keyboard that
can be folded out of the way, and slates, which do away with the keyboard
entirely. The convertible tablet PC in Figure 16.7, for example, looks and
functions just like the typical clamshell laptop shown back in Figure 16.1.
But here it’s shown with the screen rotated 180 degrees and snapped flat so
it functions as a slate. Pretty slick!
In applications that aren’t “tablet-aware,” the stylus acts just like a
mouse, enabling you to select items, double-click, right-click, and so on. To
input text with the stylus, you can either tap keys on a virtual keyboard
(shown in Figure 16.8), write in the writing utility (shown in Figure 16.9), or
use speech recognition software. With a little practice, most users will find
the computer’s accuracy in recognizing their handwriting to be sufficient
for most text input, although speedy touch-typists will probably still want
to use a keyboard when typing longer documents.
Tablet PCs work well when you have limited space or have to walk
around and use a laptop. Anyone who has ever tried to type with one hand,
while walking around the factory floor holding the laptop with the other
hand, will immediately appreciate the beauty of a tablet PC. In this scenario,
tablet PCs are most effective when combined with applications designed to
• Figure 16.7
500
A tablet PC
Mike Meyers’ CompTIA A+ Guide: Essentials (Exam 220-601)
• Figure 16.8
The virtual keyboard
be used with a stylus instead of a keyboard. An inventory control program,
for example, might present drop-down lists and radio buttons to the user,
making a stylus the perfect input tool. With the right custom application,
tablet PCs become an indispensable tool.
Microsoft encourages software developers to take advantage of a feature they call digital ink, which allows applications to accept pen strokes as
input without first converting the pen strokes into text or mouse-clicks.
Microsoft Journal (Figure 16.10), which comes with Windows-based tablet
PCs, allows you to write on the screen just as though you were writing on a
Chapter 16: Portable Computing
501
• Figure 16.9
• Figure 16.10
502
The writing pad
Microsoft Journal preserves pen strokes as digital ink.
paper legal pad. Many other applications, including Microsoft Office, allow users to add ink annotations. Imagine sitting on an airplane reviewing a
Microsoft Word document and simply scribbling
your comments on the screen (Figure 16.11). No
more printing out hard copy and breaking out the
red pen for me! Imagine running a PowerPoint presentation and being able to annotate your presentation as you go. In the future, look for more
applications to support Microsoft’s digital ink.
There are many useful third-party applications
designed specifically to take advantage of the tablet
PC form factor. In fields such as law and medicine
where tablet PCs have been especially popular, the
choices are endless. One handy free utility that
anyone who spends time in front of an audience
Mike Meyers’ CompTIA A+ Guide: Essentials (Exam 220-601)
(teachers, salespeople, cult leaders, and so on) will appreciate is InkyBoard (http://www.cfcassidy.com/Inkyboard/).
Inkyboard provides a virtual dry-erase board, eliminating
the need to find a flip chart or dry-erase board when holding
meetings. Ever wished you could have a record of everything that was written on the chalkboard in a class (or at a
business meeting)? If the professor had used Inkyboard, creating and distributing a copy would be a snap.
Portable Computer Device Types
Sorting through all the variations of portable computing devices out there would take entirely too much ink (and go
well beyond CompTIA A+). Table 16.2 lists the seven most
common styles of portable computing devices, some of their
key features, and the intended use or audience for the product. This table is in no way conclusive, but lists the
highlights.
Table 16.2
• Figure 16.11
Microsoft Office supports digital ink.
Portable Computing Devices
Screen Size
Weight
Features
Uses
Desktop
replacements
14–20 inch+
8–12+ lbs
Everything on a desktop
Mobile multimedia editing,
presentations, mobile gaming
Desktop
extenders
10–14 inch
4–7 lbs
Almost everything you’ll find
on a desktop; better battery life
than desktop replacements
Presentations, note-taking in
class or meetings, traveling
companion for business folks
Ultralights
6–12 inch
2–3 lbs
Ultimate mobility without
sacrificing full PC status;
excellent battery life; few have
internal optical drives
Long-term traveling
companion, in the purse or
pack for writing or doing
e-mail on the road, coolness
factor
Tablet PCs
10–12 inch
4 lbs
Pen-based interface enables you
to use them like a paper
notepad; no optical drives, but
integrated wireless networking
Niche market for people who
need handwritten notes that
have to be transcribed to the
PC
Ultra-Mobile
PCs
4–7 inch
1–2 lbs
A variation of tablet PCs,
UMPCs run Windows XP
(Tablet or Home edition);
pen-based interface and no
optical drives
More of a niche market than
tablet PCs, but similar
audience; see the “Beyond
A+” section for details
PDAs
3–4 inch
1 lbs
Light, multifunction devices
that carry address book and
scheduler; many offer other
features, such as MP3 and video
playback
Helps busy people get/stay
organized, fun, can carry
many electronic books
(e-books) so you’re never
caught waiting in line and
being bored
PDA phones
2 inch
< 1 lbs
Tiny PDA built into a cell
phone; some offer e-mail and
other Internet connectivity
Reduces the number of
gadgets some folks carry
Chapter 16: Portable Computing
503
Try This!
Variations
Portables come in such a dizzying variety of sizes, styles, features, and
shapes that a simple table in a book cannot do justice to the ingenuity
and engineering of the manufacturers of these devices. Only a hands-on
field trip can bring home the point for you, so try this!
■
1.
Visit your local computer or electronics store and tour the
portable computing devices.
2.
How many variations of laptops are there? Do any offer funky
features, such as a swivel screen or a portrait-to-landscape
mode?
3.
How many variations of PDA are displayed? What operating
systems do they run?
4.
What other devices do you find? What about tablet PCs?
5.
If you want to wander into the realm of extremes, check out
www.dynamism.com. This company specializes in bringing
Japanese-only products to the English-speaking market. You’ll
find the hottest desktop replacement laptops and the sleekest
subnotebooks at the site, with all the details beautifully
converted from native Japanese to English.
Enhance and Upgrade the
Portable PC
In the dark ages of mobile computing, you had to shell out top dollar for any
device that would unplug, and what you purchased was what you got. Upgrade a laptop? Add functions to your desktop replacement? You had few if
any options, so you simply paid for a device that would be way behind the
technology curve within a year and functionally obsolete within two.
Portable PCs today offer many ways to enhance their capabilities. Internal
and external expansion buses enable you to add completely new functions to
portables, such as attaching a scanner or mobile printer or both! You can take
advantage of the latest wireless technology breakthrough simply by slipping
a card into the appropriate slot on the laptop. Further, modern portables offer
a modular interior. You can add or change RAM, for example— the first upgrade that almost every laptop owner wants to make. You can increase the
hard drive storage space and, at least with some models, swap out the CPU,
video card, sound card, and more. Gone forever are the days of buying guaranteed obsolescence! Let’s look at four specific areas of technology that
laptops use to enhance functions and upgrade components: PC Cards, singleand multiple-function expansion ports, and modular components.
504
Mike Meyers’ CompTIA A+ Guide: Essentials (Exam 220-601)
PC Cards
The Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (PCMCIA)
establishes standards involving portable computers, especially when it
comes to expansion cards, which are generically called PC Cards. PC Cards
are roughly credit card–sized devices that enhance and extend the functions
of a portable PC. PC Cards are as standard on today’s mobile computers as
the hard drive. PC Cards are easy to use, inexpensive, and convenient.
Figure 16.12 shows a typical PC Card.
Almost every portable PC has one or two PC Card slots, into which you
insert a PC Card. Each card will have at least one function, but many have
two, three, or more! You can buy a PC Card that offers connections for removable media, for example, such as combination SD and CF card readers.
You can also find PC Cards that enable you to plug into multiple types of
networks. All PC Cards are hot-swappable, meaning you can plug them in
without powering down the PC.
The PCMCIA has established two versions of PC Cards, one
using a parallel bus and the other using a serial bus. Each version,
in turn, offers two technology variations as well as several physical
varieties. This might sound complicated at first, but here’s the map
to sort it all out.
CompTIA uses the older term
PCMCIA cards to describe PC
Cards. Don’t be shocked if you
get that as an option on your exams! You’ll hear many techs use
the phrase as well, though the
PCMCIA trade group has not
used it for many years.
Many manufacturers use the
term hot-pluggable rather than
hot-swappable to describe the
ability to plug in and replace PC
Cards on the fly. Look for either
term on the exams.
Parallel PC Cards
Parallel PC Cards come in two flavors, 16-bit and CardBus , and
each flavor comes in three different physical sizes, called Type I,
Type II, and Type III. The 16-bit PC Cards, as the name suggests,
are 16-bit, 5-V cards that can have up to two distinct functions or
devices, such as a modem/network card combination. CardBus
PC Cards are 32-bit, 3.3-V cards that can have up to eight (!) different functions on a single card. Regular PC Cards will fit into and
work in CardBus slots, but the reverse is not true. CardBus totally
dominates the current PC Card landscape, but you might still run
into older 16-bit PC Cards.
Type I, II, and III cards differ only in the thickness of the card
(Type I being the thinnest, and Type III the thickest). All PC Cards
share the same 68-pin interface, so any PC Card will
work in any slot that’s high enough to accept that
card type. Type II cards are by far the most common
of PC Cards. Therefore, most laptops will have two
Type II slots, one above the other, to enable the computer to accept two Type I or II cards or one Type III
card (Figure 16.13).
Although PCMCIA doesn’t require that certain
sizes perform certain functions, most PC Cards follow their recommendations. Table 16.3 lists the sizes
and typical uses of each type of PC Card.
• Figure 16.12
PC Card
ExpressCard
ExpressCard , the high-performance serial version of
the PC Card, has begun to replace PC Card slots on
Chapter 16: Portable Computing
• Figure 16.13
PC Card slots
505
Tech Tip
Keeping Your PC
Cards Healthy
Most PC Cards normally come
with a hard plastic storage case.
Always be sure to use this case to
store the cards when you’re not
using them. If dust, dirt, or grime
gets into the array of contacts at
the end of the card, the card won’t
work when you try to use it next.
Also, be careful when using PC
Cards that extend out of the PC
Card slot past the edge of your
laptop. One dark night I set my
laptop on the floor with a PC
Card NIC sticking out of it while
I went to get a drink of water. On
my way back, I accidentally
stepped on the card sticking out
of my laptop and nearly snapped
it in half. Luckily, my laptop
wasn’t damaged, but the card
was toast!
Table 16.3
PC Card Types and Their Typical Uses
Type
Length
Width
Thickness
Typical Use
Type I
85.6 mm
54.0 mm
3.3 mm
Flash memory
Type II
85.6 mm
54.0 mm
5.0 mm
I/O (Modem,
NIC, and so on)
Type III
85.6 mm
54.0 mm
10.5 mm
Hard drives
newer laptop PCs. While ExpressCard offers significant performance benefits, keep in mind that ExpressCard and PC Cards are incompatible. You
cannot use your PC Card in your new laptop’s ExpressCard socket. The PC
Card has had a remarkably long life in portable PCs, and you can still find it
on some new laptops, but get ready to replace all your PC Card devices.
ExpressCard comes in two widths: 54 mm and 34 mm. Figure 16.14 shows a
34-mm ExpressCard. Both cards are 75-mm long and 5-mm thick, which
makes them shorter than all previous PC Cards and the same thickness as a
Type II PC Card.
ExpressCards connect to either the Hi-Speed USB 2.0 bus or a PCI Express bus. These differ phenomenally in speed. The amazingly slow-incomparison USB version has a maximum throughput of 480 Mbps. The PCIe
version, in contrast, roars in at 2.5 Gbps in unidirectional communication.
Woot!
Table 16.4 shows the throughput and
variations for the parallel and serial PC
Cards currently or soon to be on the market.
Software Support for PC Cards
• Figure 16.14
34-mm ExpressCard (photo courtesy of PCMCIA)
Table 16.4
506
The PCMCIA standard defines two levels
of software drivers to support PC Cards.
The first, lower level is known as socket
services . Socket services are device drivers
that support the PC Card socket, enabling
the system to detect when a PC Card has
been inserted or removed, and providing
the necessary I/O to the device. The second, higher level is known as card services .
The card services level recognizes the
PC Card Speeds
Standard
Maximum Theoretical Throughput
PC Card using 16-bit bus
160 Mbps
CardBus PC Card using PCI bus
1056 Mbps
ExpressCard using USB 2.0 bus
480 Mbps
ExpressCard using PCIe bus
2.5 Gbps
Mike Meyers’ CompTIA A+ Guide: Essentials (Exam 220-601)
function of a particular PC Card and provides the specialized drivers
necessary to make the card work.
In today’s laptops, the socket services are standardized and are handled
by the system BIOS. Windows itself handles all card services and has a large
preinstalled base of PC Card device drivers, although most PC Cards come
with their own drivers.
ExpressCards don’t require
either socket or card services, at
least not in the way PC Cards do.
The ExpressCard modules automatically configure the software
on your computer, which makes
them truly plug and play.
Limited-Function Ports
All portable PCs and many PDAs come with one or more single-function
ports, such as an analog VGA connection for hooking up an external monitor and a PS/2 port for a keyboard or mouse. Note that contrary to the setup
on desktop PCs, the single PS/2 port on most laptops supports both keyboards and pointing devices. Most portable computing devices have a
speaker port, and this includes modern PDAs. My Compaq iPAQ doubles
as an excellent MP3 player, by the way, a feature now included with most
PDAs. Some portables have line-in and microphone jacks as well. Finally,
most current portable PCs come with built-in NICs or modems for networking support. (See the section “The Modular Laptop” later in this chapter for
more on networking capabilities.)
All limited-function ports work the same way on portable PCs as they
do on desktop models. You plug in a device to a particular port and, as long
as Windows has the proper drivers, you will have a functioning device
when you boot. The only port that requires any extra effort is the video port.
Most laptops support a second monitor via an analog VGA port or a digital DVI port in the back of the box. With a second monitor attached, you can
display Windows on only the laptop LCD, only the external monitor, or
both simultaneously. Not all portables can do all variations, but they’re
more common than not. Most portables have a special Function (FN) key on
the keyboard that, when pressed, adds an additional option to certain keys on the keyboard. Figure 16.15 shows a close-up of a
typical keyboard with the Function key; note
the other options that can be accessed with the
Function key such as indicated on the F5 key.
To engage the second monitor or to cycle
through the modes, hold the Function key
and press F5.
Although many laptops use
the Function key method to
cycle the monitor selections,
that’s not always the case. You
might have to pop into the Display applet in the Control Panel
to click a checkbox. Just be assured that if the laptop has a
VGA or DVI port, you can cycle
through monitor choices!
General-Purpose Ports
Sometimes the laptop doesn’t come with all of
the hardware you want. Today’s laptops usually include several USB ports and a selection
of the legacy general-purpose expansion
ports (PS/2, RS-232 serial ports, and so on) for
installing peripheral hardware. If you’re
lucky, you might even get a FireWire port so
you can plug in your fancy new digital video
camera. If you’re really lucky, you might even
Chapter 16: Portable Computing
• Figure 16.15
Laptop keyboard with Function (FN) key that enables you to
access additional key options, as on the F5 key
507
Cross Check
USB and FireWire
You explored USB and FireWire back in Chapter 14, “Input/Output.”
What kind of connectors do USB and FireWire use? What cable length
limitations are there? How many devices can each support?
Tech Tip
USB and Handheld
Computing Devices
Almost all PDAs and other
handheld devices—such as iPod
music players—connect to PCs
through USB ports. Most come
with a USB cable that has a standard connector on one end and a
proprietary connector on the
other. Don’t lose the cable!
Although portable PCs most
often connect to port replicators
via USB ports, some manufacturers have proprietary connections for proprietary port
replicators. As long as such a
portable PC has a USB port, you
can use either the proprietary
hardware or the more flexible
USB devices.
USB and FireWire
Universal serial bus (USB) and
FireWire (or more properly, IEEE
1394) are two technologies that have their roots in desktop computer technology, but have also found widespread use in portable PCs. Both types of
connections feature an easy-to-use connector and give the user the ability to
insert a device into a system while the PC is running—you won’t have to reboot a system in order to install a new peripheral. With USB and FireWire,
just plug the device in and go! Because portable PCs don’t have multiple internal expansion capabilities like desktops, USB and FireWire are two
of the more popular methods for attaching peripherals to laptops (see
Figure 16.16).
Port Replicators
A port replicator plugs into a single port on the portable computer— often a
USB port, but sometimes a proprietary port—and offers common PC ports,
such as serial, parallel, USB, network, and PS/2. By plugging the port
replicator into your notebook computer, you can instantly connect it to
non-portable components such as a printer, scanner, monitor, or a full-sized
keyboard. Port replicators are typically used at home or in the office with the
non-portable equipment already connected. Figure 16.17 shows an Dell
Inspiron laptop connected to a port replicator.
Once connected to the port replicator, the computer can access any devices attached to it; there’s no need to connect each individual device to
the PC. As a side bonus, port replicators enable you to attach legacy devices, such as parallel printers, to a new laptop that only has modern
• Figure 16.16
508
have a docking station or port
replicator so you don’t have to
plug in all of your peripheral
devices one at a time.
Devices attached to USB or FireWire connector on portable PC
Mike Meyers’ CompTIA A+ Guide: Essentials (Exam 220-601)
multifunction ports such as USB and FireWire, and not
parallel or serial ports.
Docking Stations
Docking stations (see Figure 16.18) resemble port
replicators in many ways, offering legacy and modern
single-function and multifunction ports. The typical
docking station uses a proprietary connection, but has
extra features built in, such as a DVD drive or PC Card
slot for extra enhancements. You can find docking stations for most laptop models, but you’ll find them used
most frequently with the desktop extender and
ultralight models. Many ultralights have no internal
CD or DVD media drive (because the drives weigh too
much), and so must rely on external drives for full PC
functionality. Docking stations make an excellent companion to such portables.
• Figure 16.17
Port replicator for a Dell portable computer
The Modular Laptop
For years, portable PC makers required completely proprietary components
for each system model they developed. For the most part, this proprietary
attitude still prevails, but manufacturers have added some modularity to
today’s portable PCs, enabling you to make basic replacements and upgrades without going back to the manufacturer for expensive, proprietary
components. You need to surf the Web for companies that sell the components, because very few storefronts stock them. The most common modular
components are RAM, hard drives, CPUs, video cards, optical drives, and
network cards.
RAM
Stock factory portable PCs almost always come with a minimal amount of
RAM, so one of the first laptop upgrades you’ll be called on to do is to add
more RAM. Economy laptops running Windows XP Home routinely sit on
• Figure 16.18
Docking station
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509
Cross Check
How Much RAM is Enough?
The amount of RAM needed to run a PC—portable or otherwise—
smoothly and stably depends on both the type of applications that it will
run and the needs of the OS. When making a recommendation to a client
about upgrading a laptop’s memory, you should ask the basic questions,
such as what he or she plans to do on the laptop. If the laptop will be used
for e-mail, word processing, and Web surfing, a medium level of RAM,
such as 256 MB, might be adequate. If the user travels, uses a high-end
digital camera, and wants to use Photoshop to edit huge images, you’ll
need to augment the RAM accordingly. Then you need to add the needs
of the OS to give a good recommendation. Turn to Chapter 12, “Understanding Windows,” and cross check your knowledge about specific OS
RAM needs. What’s a good minimum for Windows 2000? What about
Windows XP Professional?
store shelves and go home to consumers with as little 256 MB of RAM, an
amount guaranteed to limit the use and performance of the laptop. The OS
alone will consume more than half of the RAM! Luckily, every decent laptop
has upgradeable RAM slots. Laptops use one of four types of RAM. Most
older laptops use either 72-pin or 144-pin SO-DIMMs with SDRAM
technology (Figure 16.19). DDR and DDR2 systems primarily use 200-pin
SO-DIMMs although some laptops use micro-DIMMs.
• Figure 16.19
510
How to Add or Replace RAM Upgrading the RAM in a portable PC requires
a couple of steps. First, you need to get the correct RAM. Many older portable
PCs use proprietary RAM solutions, which
means you need to order directly from
Dell, HP, or Sony and pay exorbitant prices
for the precious extra megabytes. Most
manufacturers have taken pity on
consumers in recent years and use
standard SO-DIMMs or micro-DIMMs.
Refer to the manufacturer’s Web site or to
the manual (if any) that came with the
portable for the specific RAM needed.
Second, every portable PC offers a
unique challenge to the tech who wants
to upgrade the RAM because there’s
no standard for RAM placement in
portables. More often than not, you need
to unscrew or pop open a panel on the
underside of the portable (Figure 16.20).
Then you press out on the restraining
clips and the RAM stick will pop up
(Figure 16.21). Gently remove the old
stick of RAM and insert the new one by
reversing the steps.
72-pin SO-DIMM stick (front and back)
Mike Meyers’ CompTIA A+ Guide: Essentials (Exam 220-601)
• Figure 16.20
Removing a RAM panel
• Figure 16.21
Releasing the RAM
Shared Memory Some laptops (and desktops) support shared memory .
Shared memory is a means of reducing the cost of video cards by reducing
the amount of memory on the video card itself. Instead of a video card with
256 MB of RAM, it might have only 64 MB of RAM but can borrow 192 MB
of RAM from the system. This equates to a 256-MB video card. The video
card uses regular system RAM to make up for the loss.
The obvious benefit of shared memory is a less expensive video card
with performance comparable to its mega-memory alternative. The downside is your overall system performance will suffer because a portion of the
system RAM is no longer available to programs. (The term shared is a bit
misleading because the video card takes control of a portion of RAM. The
video portion of system RAM is not shared back and forth between the
video card processor and the CPU.) Shared memory technologies include
TurboCache (developed by NVIDIA) and HyperMemory (developed by
ATI).
Some systems give you control over the amount of shared memory
while others simply allow you to turn shared memory on or off. The settings
are found in CMOS setup and only on systems that support shared memory.
Shared memory is not reported to Windows so don’t panic if you’ve got
1 GB of RAM in your laptop, but Windows only sees 924 MB⎯the missing
memory is used for video!
Adding more system RAM to a laptop with shared memory will improve laptop performance. Although it might appear to improve video performance, that doesn’t tell the true story. It’ll improve overall performance
because the OS and CPU get more RAM to work with. On some laptops, you
can improve video performance as well, but that depends on the CMOS
setup. If the shared memory is not set to maximum by default, increasing
the overall memory and upping the portion reserved for video will improve
video performance specifically.
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511
Hard Drives
• Figure 16.22
The 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drives are mostly the same.
Tech Tip
Modular CPUs
Going Inside
You know from Chapter 3, “Understanding CPUs,” that both AMD and
Intel make specialized CPUs for laptops that produce less heat and consume
less power, yet only now are folks realizing that they can easily upgrade
many systems by removing the old CPU and replacing it with a new one. Be
very careful to follow manufacturer’s specifications! You should keep in
mind, however, that replacing the CPU in a laptop often requires that you
disassemble the entire machine. This can be a daunting task, even for professionals. If you want to upgrade the CPU in your laptop, it’s often best to let
the professionals take care of it.
To reach most modular components on a laptop, you need to do
more than remove an exterior
panel. You need to go inside to
get access to devices directly connected to the motherboard. Many
laptops have an easily removable
keyboard that, once removed,
gives you access to a metal heat
spreader (just a plate that sits
over the motherboard) and a
half-dozen or more tiny screws.
You’ll need a special screwdriver
to avoid stripping the screws—
check a watch or eyeglass shop if
your local hardware store doesn’t
carry anything appropriate.
You need to take major precautions when you remove the keyboard and heat spreader. The
keyboard will be attached to a
small cable that can easily disconnect if you pull hard. Don’t forget
to check this connection before
you reinsert the keyboard at the
end of the procedure! Avoid ESD
like you would with any other
PC, and definitely unplug the
laptop from the wall and remove
the battery before you do any
work inside!
512
ATA drives in the 2.5-inch drive format now
rule in all laptops. Although much smaller than
regular ATA drives, they still use all the same
features and configurations. These smaller hard
drives have suffered, however, from diminished storage capacity compared to their
3.5-inch brothers. Currently, large 2.5-inch hard
drives hold up to 120 GB, while the 3.5-inch
hard drives can hold more than 750 GB of data!
Some manufacturers may require you to set the
drive to use a cable select setting as opposed to
master or slave, so check with the laptop maker
for any special issues. Otherwise, no difference
exists between 2.5-inch drives and their larger
3.5-inch brethren (Figure 16.22).
Video Cards
Some video card makers make modular video cards for laptops. Although
no single standard works in all systems, a quick phone call to the tech support department of the laptop maker often reveals upgrade options (if any).
Modular video cards are the least standardized of all modular components,
but as manufacturers adopt more industry-wide standards, we’ll be able to
replace video cards in laptops more readily.
Modular Drives
In order to add functionality to laptops, manufacturers include “modular
drives” with their machines. CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, CD-R/RW, and
CD-RW/DVD-ROM drives are the most common modular drives that are
included with portables. The beauty of modular drives is that you can swap
easily back and forth between different types of drives. Need more storage
space? Pull out the CD-ROM drive and put in another hard drive. Many
laptops enable you to replace a drive with a second battery, which obviously can extend the time you can go before you have to plug the laptop into
an AC outlet.
I have a laptop that allows me to swap out my CD-ROM drive for a
second battery. If I don’t need to access any CDs and don’t need superextended battery life, I just take out the component that’s currently installed
Mike Meyers’ CompTIA A+ Guide: Essentials (Exam 220-601)
and put a blank faceplate into the empty slot. Traveling with an empty bay
makes my hefty laptop weigh a little bit less, and every little bit helps!
Most modular drives are truly hot-swappable, enabling
you to remove and insert devices without any special software. Many still require you to use the Hardware Removal
Tool (also known as Safely Remove Hardware) located in the
system tray or notification area (Figure 16.23). When in doubt,
• Figure 16.23
always remove modular devices using this tool. Figure 16.24
shows the Safely Remove Hardware dialog box. To remove a
device, highlight it and click the Stop button. Windows will
shut down the device and tell you when it’s safe to remove the device.
Mobile NICs and Mini PCI
Hardware Removal Tool in system tray
See Chapter 18, “Understanding Networks,” for the
scoop on dial-up networking
and Ethernet.
Every laptop made in the last few years comes with networking capabilities
built in. They have modems for dial-up and Ethernet
ports for plugging into a wired network. Because they
run Windows, OS X, or some Linux distro, laptops have
all the networking software ready to go, just like their
desk-bound cousins.
Many laptops now come with integrated wireless
networking support by way of a built-in Wi-Fi adapter
usually installed in a Mini PCI slot on the laptop motherboard. The Mini PCI bus is an adaptation of the standard
PCI bus and was developed specifically for integrated
communications peripherals such as modems and network adapters. Built-in networking support means you
don’t need an additional PC Card to provide a network
adapter. The Mini PCI bus also provides support for
other integrated devices such as Bluetooth, modems, audio, or hard drive controllers. One great aspect of Mini
PCI is that if some new technology eclipses the current
wireless technology or some other technology that uses
the bus, you can upgrade by swapping a card.
• Figure 16.24 Safely Remove Hardware dialog box
Officially released in 1999, Mini PCI is a 32-bit
33-MHz bus and is basically PCI v2.2 with a different
form factor. Like PCI, it supports bus mastering and
DMA. Mini PCI cards are about a quarter the size of a regular PCI card and
can be as small as 2.75 inches by 1.81 inches by .22 inches. They can be found
A typical reason to upgrade a
Mini PCI Wi-Fi NIC is to gain acin small products such as laptops, printers, and set-top boxes.
cess to improved security opTo extend battery life, built-in communication devices such as Wi-Fi and
tions such as better encryption.
Bluetooth adapters can be toggled on and off without powering down the
computer. Many laptops come with a physical switch along the front or side
edge allowing you to power on or off the communications adapter. Similarly, you can often use a keyboard shortcut for this, generally by pressing
the Function (FN) key along with some other key. The FN key, when pressed,
allows other keys to accomplish specific tasks. For example, on my laptop
pressing FN-F2 toggles my Wi-Fi adapter on and off; pressing FN-F10 ejects
my CD-ROM drive.
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513
■
Managing and Maintaining
Portable Computers
Most portable PCs come from the factory solidly built and configured. Manufacturers know that few techs outside their factories know enough to work
on them, so they don’t cut corners. From a tech’s standpoint, your most common work on managing and maintaining portables involves taking care of
the batteries and extending the battery life through proper power management, keeping the machine clean, and avoiding excessive heat.
Everything you normally do to maintain a PC applies to portable PCs.
You need to keep current on Windows patches and Service Packs, and use
stable, recent drivers. Run Check Disk with some frequency, and definitely
defragment the hard drive. Disk Cleanup is a must if the laptop runs Windows XP. That said, let’s look at issues specifically involving portables.
Batteries
Manufacturers use three different types of batteries for portable PCs and
each battery type has its own special needs and quirks. Once you’ve got a
clear understanding of the quirks, you can usually spot and fix battery problems. The three types of batteries commonly used in mobile PCs are
Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cd) , Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) , and Lithium-Ion
(Li-Ion) batteries. Manufacturers have also started working with fuel cell
batteries, although most of that work is experimental at this writing.
Nickel-Cadmium
• Figure 16.25
514
Ni-Cd battery
Ni-Cds were the first batteries commonly used in mobile PCs, which means
the technology was full of little problems. Probably most irritating was a little thing called battery memory , or the tendency of a Ni-Cd battery to lose a
significant amount of its rechargeability if it was charged repeatedly without being totally discharged. A battery that originally kept a laptop running
for two hours would eventually only keep that same
laptop going for 30 minutes or less. Figure 16.25 shows
a typical Ni-Cd battery.
To prevent memory problems, a Ni-Cd battery had
to be discharged completely before each recharging.
Recharging was tricky as well, because Ni-Cd batteries
disliked being overcharged. Unfortunately, there was
no way to verify when a battery was fully charged
without an expensive charging machine, which none of
us had. As a result, most Ni-Cd batteries lasted an extremely short time and had to be replaced. A quick fix
was to purchase a conditioning charger . These chargers
would first totally discharge the Ni-Cd battery, and
then generate a special “reverse” current that, in a way,
“cleaned” internal parts of the battery so that it could
be recharged more often and would run longer on each
recharge. Ni-Cd batteries would, at best, last for 1000
charges, and far fewer with poor treatment. Ni-Cds
Mike Meyers’ CompTIA A+ Guide: Essentials (Exam 220-601)
were extremely susceptible to heat and would self-discharge over time if not
used. Leaving a Ni-Cd in the car in the summer was guaranteed to result in a
fully discharged battery in next to no time!
But Ni-Cd batteries didn’t stop causing trouble after they died. The
highly toxic metals inside the battery made it unacceptable simply to
throw them in the trash. Ni-Cd batteries should be disposed of via specialized disposal companies. This is very important! Even though Ni-Cd batteries aren’t used in PCs very often anymore, many devices, such as
cellular and cordless phones, still use Ni-Cd batteries. Don’t trash the environment by tossing Ni-Cds in a landfill. Turn them in at the closest special
disposal site; most recycling centers are glad to take them. Also, many battery manufacturers/distributors will take them. The environment you
help preserve just might be yours—or your kids’!
You must use disposal companies or battery recycling services to dispose of the highly
toxic Ni-Cd batteries.
Nickel-Metal Hydride
Ni-MH batteries were the next generation of mobile PC batteries and are
still quite common today. Basically, Ni-MH batteries are Ni-Cd batteries
without most of the headaches. Ni-MH batteries are much less susceptible to memory problems, can better tolerate overcharging, can
take more recharging, and last longer between rechargings. Like
Ni-Cds, Ni-MH batteries are still susceptible to heat, but at least they
are considered less toxic to the environment. It’s still a good idea to
do a special disposal. Unlike a Ni-Cd, it’s usually better to recharge a
Ni-MH with shallow recharges as opposed to a complete discharge/
recharge. Ni-MH is a popular replacement battery for Ni-Cd systems
(Figure 16.26).
Lithium Ion
The most common type battery used today is Li-Ion. Li-Ion batteries
are very powerful, completely immune to memory problems, and
last at least twice as long as comparable Ni-MH batteries on one
charge. Sadly, they can’t handle as many charges as Ni-MH types,
but today’s users are usually more than glad to give up total battery
lifespan in return for longer periods between charges. Li-Ion batteries will explode if they are overcharged, so all Li-Ion batteries sold
with PCs have built-in circuitry to prevent accidental overcharging.
Lithium batteries can only be used on systems designed to use them.
They can’t be used as replacement batteries (Figure 16.27).
• Figure 16.26
Ni-MH battery
Other Portable Power Sources
In an attempt to provide better maintenance for laptop batteries,
manufacturers have developed a new type of battery called the
smart battery . Smart batteries tell the computer when they need
to be charged, conditioned, or replaced.
Portable computer manufacturers are also looking at other
potential power sources, especially ones that don’t have the
shortcomings of current batteries. The most promising of these
new technologies is fuel cells . The technology behind fuel cells
is very complex, but to summarize, fuel cells produce electrical
power as a result of a chemical reaction between the hydrogen
Chapter 16: Portable Computing
• Figure 16.27
Li-Ion battery
515
and oxygen contained in the fuel cell. It is estimated that a small fuel cell
could power a laptop for up to 40 hours before it needs to be replaced or refilled. This technology is still a year or two from making it to the consumer
market, but it’s an exciting trend!
The Care and Feeding of
Batteries
Try This!
Recycling Old Portable PC Batteries
Got an old portable PC battery lying around? Well, you’ve got to get rid
of it, and since there are some pretty nasty chemicals in that battery, you
can’t just throw it in the trash. Sooner or later, you’ll probably need to
deal with such a battery, so try this:
1.
Do an online search to find the battery recycling center nearest
to you.
2.
Sometimes, you can take old laptop batteries to an auto parts
store that disposes of old car batteries—I know it sounds odd,
but it’s true! See if you can find one in your area that will do
this.
3.
Many cities offer a hazardous materials disposal or recycling
service. Check to see if and how your local government will help
you dispose of your old batteries.
In general, keep in mind the following basics. First, always store
batteries in a cool place. Although a freezer is in concept an
excellent storage place, the moisture, metal racks, and food make
it a bad idea. Second, condition
your Ni-Cd and Ni-MH batteries
by using a charger that also conditions the battery; they’ll last
longer. Third, keep battery contacts clean with a little alcohol or
just a dry cloth. Fourth, never
handle a battery that has ruptured or broken; battery chemicals are very dangerous. Finally,
always recycle old batteries.
Power Management
Many different parts are included in the typical laptop, and each part uses
power. The problem with early laptops was that every one of these parts
used power continuously, whether or not the system needed that device at
that time. For example, the hard drive would continue to spin whether or
not it was being accessed, and the LCD panel would continue to display,
even when the user walked away from the machine.
The optimal situation would be a system where the user could instruct the
PC to shut down unused devices selectively, preferably by defining a maximum period of inactivity that, when reached, would trigger the PC to shut
down the inactive device. Longer periods of inactivity would eventually enable
the entire system to shut itself down, leaving critical information loaded in
RAM, ready to restart if a wake-up event (such as moving the mouse or pressing a key) would tell the system to restart. The system would have to be sensitive to potential hazards, such as shutting down in the middle of writing to a
drive, and so on. Also, this feature could not add significantly to the cost of the
PC. Clearly, a machine that could perform these functions would need specialized hardware, BIOS, and operating system to operate properly. This process
of cooperation among the hardware, the BIOS, and the OS to reduce power
use is known generically as power management.
System Management Mode (SMM)
Intel began the process of power management with a series of new features
built into the 386SX CPU. These new features enabled the CPU to slow down or
516
Mike Meyers’ CompTIA A+ Guide: Essentials (Exam 220-601)
stop its clock without erasing the register information, as well as enabling
power saving in peripherals. These features were collectively called System
Management Mode (SMM) . All modern CPUs have SMM. Although a
power-saving CPU was okay, power management was relegated to special
“sleep” or “doze” buttons that would stop the CPU and all of the peripherals
on the laptop. To take real advantage of SMM, the system needed a specialized
BIOS and OS to go with the SMM CPU. To this end, Intel put forward the Advanced Power Management (APM) specification in 1992 and the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) standard in 1996.
Requirements for APM/ACPI
APM and ACPI require a number of items in order to function fully. First is
an SMM-capable CPU. As virtually all CPUs are SMM-capable, this is easy.
Second is an APM-compliant BIOS, which enables the CPU to shut off the
peripherals when desired. The third requirement is devices that will accept
being shut off. These devices are usually called “Energy Star” devices,
which signals their compliance with the EPA’s Energy Star standard. To be
an Energy Star device, a peripheral must have the ability to shut down without actually turning off and show that they use much less power than the
non–Energy Star equivalent. Last, the system’s OS must know how to request that a particular device be shut down, and the CPU’s clock must be
slowed down or stopped.
ACPI goes beyond the APM standard by supplying support for
hot-swappable devices—always a huge problem with APM. This feature
aside, it is a challenge to tell the difference between an APM system and an
ACPI system at first glance.
Don’t limit your perception of
APM, ACPI, and Energy Star just
to laptops! Virtually all desktop
systems also use the power
management functions.
APM/ACPI Levels
APM defines four different power-usage operating levels for a system.
These levels are intentionally fuzzy to give manufacturers considerable leeway in their use; the only real difference among them is the amount of time
each takes to return to normal usage. These levels are as follows:
■
Full On Everything in the system is running at full power. There is
no power management.
■
APM Enabled CPU and RAM are running at full power. Power
management is enabled. An unused device may or may not be shut
down.
■
APM Standby CPU is stopped. RAM still stores all programs. All
peripherals are shut down, although configuration options are still
stored. (In other words, to get back to APM Enabled, you won’t have
to reinitialize the devices.)
■
APM Suspend Everything in the PC is shut down or at its lowest
power-consumption setting. Many systems use a special type of
Suspend called hibernation , where critical configuration information
is written to the hard drive. Upon a wake-up event, the system is
reinitialized, and the data is read from the drive to return the system
to the APM Enabled mode. Clearly, the recovery time between
Suspend and Enabled will be much longer than the time between
Standby and Enabled.
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ACPI handles all these levels plus a few more, such as “soft power
on/off,” which enables you to define the function of the power button.
Configuration of APM/ACPI
You configure APM/ACPI via CMOS settings or through Windows. Windows settings will override CMOS settings. Although the APM/ACPI standards permit a great deal of flexibility, which can create some confusion
among different implementations,
certain settings apply generally to
CMOS configuration. First is the
ability to initialize power management; this enables the system to enter the APM Enabled mode. Often
CMOS will then present time
frames for entering Standby and
Suspend mode, as well as settings
to determine which events take
place in each of these modes. Also,
many CMOS versions will present
settings to determine wake-up
events, such as directing the system to monitor a modem or a particular IRQ (Figure 16.28). A true
ACPI-compliant CMOS provides
• Figure 16.28 Setting a wake-up event in CMOS
an ACPI setup option. Figure 16.29
shows a typical modern BIOS that
provides this setting.
APM/ACPI settings can be found in the Windows 2000/XP control
You can also access your
panel applet Power Options. The Power Options applet has several built-in
Power Options by right-clicking
power schemes such as Home/Office and Max Battery that put the system
on the Desktop, selecting Propinto standby or suspend after a certain interval (Figure 16.30). You can also
erties, and then clicking the
require the system to go into standby after a set period of time or turn off the
Power button on the Screen
Saver tab.
monitor or hard drive after a time, thus creating your own custom power
scheme.
Another feature, Hibernate mode,
takes everything in active memory and
stores it on the hard drive just before
the system powers down. When the PC
comes out of hibernation, Windows
reloads all the files and applications into
RAM. Figure 16.31 shows the Power Options Properties applet in Windows XP.
Cleaning
Most portable PCs take substantially
more abuse than a corresponding desktop model. Constant handling, travel,
airport food on the run, and so on can
• Figure 16.29
518
CMOS with ACPI setup option
Mike Meyers’ CompTIA A+ Guide: Essentials (Exam 220-601)
• Figure 16.30
The Power Options applet’s Power
Schemes tab
• Figure 16.31
Hibernation settings in the Power
Options applet
radically shorten the life of a portable if you don’t take action. One of
Try This!
the most important things you
should do is clean the laptop reguAdjusting Your System’s Power Management
larly. Use an appropriate screen
Go into the Power Options applet and take a look at the various settings.
cleaner (not a glass cleaner!) to reWhat is the current power scheme for your computer? If you’re using a
move fingerprints and dust from
laptop, is your system still using the Home/Office Desktop power
the fragile LCD panel.
scheme? If this is the case, go ahead and change the power scheme to
If you’ve had the laptop in a
Portable/Laptop.
smoky or dusty environment where
Try changing the individual settings for each power scheme. For inthe air quality alone causes probstance, set a new value for the System Standby setting—try making
lems, try compressed air for cleanyour computer go into standby after five minutes. Don’t worry, you
ing. Compressed air works great for
aren’t going to hurt anything if you fiddle with these settings.
blowing out the dust and crumbs
from the keyboard and for keeping
PC Card sockets clear. Don’t use water on your keyboard! Even a minor
amount of moisture inside the portable can toast a component.
Heat
To manage and maintain a healthy portable PC, you need to deal with issues
of heat. Every portable has a stack of electronic components crammed into a
very small space. Unlike their desktop brethren, portables don’t have lots of
freely-moving air space that enables fans to cool everything down. Even
with lots of low-power-consumption devices inside, portable PCs still crank
out a good deal of heat. Excessive heat can cause system lockups and
Chapter 16: Portable Computing
519
hardware failures, so you should handle the issue wisely. Try this as a
starter guide.
■
Use power management, even if you’re plugged into the AC outlet.
This is especially important if you’re working in a warm (more than
80 degrees Fahrenheit) room.
■
Keep air space between the bottom of the laptop and the surface on
which it rests. Putting a laptop on a soft surface like a pillow on your
lap, for example, creates a great heat retention system—not a good
thing! Always use a hard, flat surface!
■
Don’t use a keyboard protector for extended amounts of time.
■
Listen to your fan, assuming the laptop has one. If it’s often running
very fast—you can tell by the high-pitched whirring sound—
examine your power management settings and your environment
and change whatever is causing heat retention.
■
Speaking of fans, be alert to a fan that suddenly goes silent. Fans do
fail on laptops, causing overheating and failure. All laptop fans can
be replaced easily.
Protect the Machine
While prices continue to drop for basic laptops, a fully loaded system is still
pricey. To protect your investment, you’ll want to adhere to certain best
practices. You’ve already read tips in this chapter to deal with cleaning and
heat, so let’s look at the “portable” part of portable computers.
Tripping
Pay attention to where you run the power cord when you plug in a laptop.
One of the primary causes of laptop destruction is people tripping over the
power cord and knocking the laptop off a desk. This is especially true if you
plug in at a public place such as a café or airport. Remember, the life you
save could be your portable PC’s!
Storage
If your laptop or PDA isn’t going to be used for a while, storing it safely will
go a long way toward keeping it operable when you do power it up again.
It’s worth the extra few dollars to invest in a quality case also—preferably
one with ample padding. Smaller devices such as PDAs are well protected
inside small shock-resistant aluminum cases that clip on to your belt while
laptops do fine in well-padded cases or backpacks. Not only will this protect
your system on a daily basis when transporting it from home to office, but it
will keep dust and pet hair away as well. Lastly, remove the battery if you’ll
be storing your device for an extended period of time to protect from battery
leakage.
Travel
If traveling with a laptop, take care to protect yourself from theft. If possible, use a case that doesn’t look like a computer case. A well-padded
backpack makes a great travel bag for a laptop and appears less tempting
520
Mike Meyers’ CompTIA A+ Guide: Essentials (Exam 220-601)
to would-be thieves. Don’t forget to pack any accessories you might
need, like modular devices, spare batteries, and AC adapters. Make sure
to remove any disks, such as CD/DVD or floppies, from their drives.
Most importantly—back up any important data before you leave!
Make sure to have at least a little battery power available. Heightened
security at airports means you might have to power on your system to prove
it’s really a computer and not a transport case for questionable materials.
And never let your laptop out of your sight. If going through an x-ray machine, request a manual search. The x-ray won’t harm your computer like a
metal detector will, but if the laptop gets through the line at security before
you do, someone else might walk away with it. If flying, keep your laptop
out of the overhead bins and under the seat in front of you where you can
keep an eye on it.
If you travel to a foreign country, be very careful about the electricity.
North America uses ~115-V power outlets, but the most of the rest of the
world uses ~230-V outlets. Many portable computers have auto-switching
power supplies , meaning they detect the voltage at the outlet and adjust accordingly. For these portables, a simple plug converter will do the trick.
Other portable computers, however, have fixed-input power supplies, which
means they run only on ~115-V or ~230-V power. For these portables, you
need a full-blown electricity converting device, either a step-down or
step-up transformer. You can find converters and transformers at electrical
parts stores, such as Radio Shack in the U.S.
Shipping
Much of the storage and travel advice can be applied to shipping. Remove
batteries and CD/DVD/floppies from their drives. Pack the laptop well and
disguise the container as best you can. Back up any data and verify the warranty coverage. Ship with a reputable carrier and always request a tracking
number and, if possible, delivery signature. It’s also worth the extra couple
of bucks to pay for the shipping insurance. And when the clerk asks what’s
in the box, it’s safer to say “electronics” rather than “a new 20-inch laptop
computer.”
Security
The fact is, if someone really wants to steal your laptop, they’ll find a way.
There are, however, some things you can do to make yourself, and your
equipment, a less desirable target. As you’ve already learned, disguise is a
good idea. While you don’t need to camouflage your laptop or carry it in a
brown grocery bag on a daily basis, an inconspicuous carrying case will
draw less attention.
Another physical deterrent is a laptop lock. Similar to a steel bicycle cable, there is a loop on one end and a lock on the other. The idea is to loop the
cable around a solid object, like a bed frame, and secure the lock to the small
security hole on the side of the laptop. Again, if someone really wants to
steal your computer, they’ll find a way. They’ll dismantle the bed frame if
they’re desperate. The best protection is to be vigilant and not let the computer out of your sight.
Chapter 16: Portable Computing
521
An alternative to physically securing a laptop with a lock is to use a software tracking system. Software makers, such as Computer Security Products, Inc. at www.computersecurity.com, offer tracking software that
transmits a signal to a central office if the laptop is stolen and connected to a
phone line or the Internet. The location of the stolen PC can be tracked, and
sensitive files can even be deleted automatically with the aid of the stealth
signal.
■
Tech Tip
Battery Won't Charge
If you have a laptop with a battery that won't charge, it could be
one of two things: the battery is
cooked or the AC adapter isn't
doing its job. To troubleshoot, replace the battery with a known
good battery. If the new battery
works, then you've found the
problem. Just replace the battery.
Alternatively, remove the battery
and run the laptop on AC only. If
that works, you know the AC
adapter is good. If it doesn't, then
replace the AC adapter.
Troubleshooting Portable
Computers
Many of the troubleshooting techniques you learned about for desktop systems can be applied to laptops. Additionally, there are some laptopspecific procedures to try.
Laptop Won’t Power On
■
Verify AC power by plugging another electronic device into the wall
outlet. If the other device receives power, the outlet is good.
■
If the outlet is good, connect the laptop to the wall outlet and try to
power on. If no LEDs light up, you may have a bad AC adapter.
Swap it out with a known-good power adapter.
■
A faulty peripheral device might keep the laptop from powering up.
Remove any peripherals such as USB or FireWire devices.
Screen Doesn’t Come On Properly
■
If the laptop is booting (you hear the beeps and the drives), first
make sure the display is on. Press the FN key and the key to activate
the screen a number of times until the laptop display comes on.
■
If the laptop display is very dim, you may have lost an inverter. The
clue here is that inverters never go quietly. They can make a nasty
hum as they are about to die and an equally nasty popping noise
when they actually fail. Failure often occurs when you plug in the
laptop’s AC adapter, as the inverters take power directly from the
AC adapter.
Wireless Networking Doesn’t Work
522
■
Check for a physical switch along the front, rear, or side edges of the
laptop that toggles the internal wireless adapter on and off.
■
Try the special key combination for your laptop to toggle the wireless
adapter. You usually press the FN key in combination with another key.
■
You might simply be out of range. Physically walk the laptop over to
the wireless router or access point to ensure there are no “out of
range” issues.
Mike Meyers’ CompTIA A+ Guide: Essentials (Exam 220-601)
Handwriting Is Not Recognized
■
If your PDA or tablet PC no longer recognizes your handwriting or
stylus, you may need to retrain the digitizer. Look for an option in
your PDA OS settings to “align the screen.” On Windows tablet PCs,
you will find a similar option under Start | Settings | Control Panel.
Keypad Doesn’t Work
■
If none of the keys work on your laptop, there’s a good chance
you’ve unseated the keypad connector. These connectors are quite
fragile and are prone to unseating from any physical stress on the
laptop. Check the manufacturer’s disassembly procedures to locate
and reseat the keypad.
■
If you’re getting numbers when you’re expecting to get letters, the
number lock (NUMLOCK) function key is turned on. Turn it off.
Touchpad Doesn’t Work
■
A shot of compressed air does wonders for cleaning pet hair out of
the touchpad sensors. You’ll get a cleaner shot if you remove the
keyboard before using the compressed air. Remember to be gentle
when lifting off the keyboard and make sure to follow the
manufacturer’s instructions.
■
The touchpad driver might need to be reconfigured. Try the various
options in the Control Panel | Mouse applet.
Beyond A+
Centrino Technology
As mentioned previously in this chapter, consumers have always, and will
always, demand better performance, more features, and longer battery life
from their portable PCs. Intel, for example, promotes a combination of three
components—extremely low-power, yet speedy, CPUs; integrated wireless
networking technology; and an Intel chipset—that, when combined, produce portable PCs that not only are exceptionally powerful, but also boast
an extremely long battery life!
Origami—Ultra-Mobile PCs
Microsoft started pushing the Ultra-Mobile PC (UMPC) standard in 2005
and has started to get some traction in the industry. UMPCs are a small
form-factor tablet PC, designed to fill the spot between PDAs and tablet
PCs. Most of the versions use a 7-inch widescreen, touch-enabled LCD
(although at least one model on the market has a 4.3-inch widescreen
LCD) and feature everything you would expect to find in their bigger
Chapter 16: Portable Computing
Microsoft initially called the
UMPC project “Origami.” The
name has stuck, even though
Microsoft has since shifted over
to the more generic UMPC
name.
523
cousins, with the exception of optical drives. They have internal 30–80
GB hard drives, 512 MB to 1 GB of RAM, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for
connectivity, and more. Some even have USB and FireWire ports! All
weigh under 2 pounds and come in at under 1 inch thick.
The feature that most distinguishes UMPCs from PDAs is that the former runs a fully featured version of Windows XP, just like your desktop and
laptop PCs. Most UMPCs run Windows Tablet PC edition, although a few
devices run Windows XP Home or Windows Vista. (A few übergeeks have
even installed versions of Linux on UMPCs!) Figure 16.32 shows a Sony
VAIO UX UMPC.
• Figure 16.32
524
Sony VAIO UX (photo courtesy of Sony Electronics)
Mike Meyers’ CompTIA A+ Guide: Essentials (Exam 220-601)
Chapter 16 Review
■ Chapter Summary
After reading this chapter and completing the
exercises, you should understand the following about
portable computers.
■
Portable Computing Devices
■
All portable devices share certain features: video
output using LCD screens, some kind of PC sound,
and DC battery power. There’s no industry standard
naming for the vast majority of styles of portable
computing devices.
■
A laptop refers in general to the clamshell, keyboardon-the-bottom, and LCD-screen-at-the-top design
that is considered the shape of mobile PCs. The
traditional clamshell laptop computer features a
built-in LCD monitor, keyboard, and input device,
and functions as a fully standalone PC. A portable PC
can be considered a desktop replacement if it does
everything that most people want to do with a
desktop PC.
■
Desktop extender portable devices don’t replace
the desktop, but rather extend it by giving you a
subset of features of the typical desktop that you
can take away from the desk. They are usually
smaller and lighter than desktop replacement
portables. Ultralight portables (sometimes called
subnotebooks, although the terms aren’t necessarily
synonymous) normally weigh less than three pounds
and are less than an inch in thickness. These
machines usually have smaller displays, lowercapacity hard drives, and CPUs that operate at
lower speeds than their more full-sized brethren.
■
Personal digital assistants (PDAs) are handheld
portable computing devices that hold data such as
your address book and appointment schedules.
PDAs require specialized OSs such as Windows CE,
PocketPC, PalmOS, or Linux. All of these OSs
provide a GUI that enables you to interact with
the device by touching the screen directly. PDAs
synchronize with your PC, most often using a
cradle and USB port, so you have the same
essential data on both machines.
Chapter 16: Portable Computing
Over the years, input devices for portables have
ranged from trackballs that clipped to the case or
were built in near the keyboard to IBM’s
TrackPoint pencil eraser–sized joystick embedded
in the keyboard. The most common laptop
pointing device found today, the touchpad, is a
flat, touch-sensitive pad that you slide your finger
across to move the cursor or pointer around the
screen, and tap on to perform “mouse clicks.”
Enhance and Upgrade the Portable PC
■
PC Cards are roughly credit card–sized devices
that enhance and extend the functions of a portable
PC. Still commonly known by their older name,
PCMCIA cards, PC Cards are as standard on
today’s mobile computers as the hard drive.
Almost every portable PC has one or two PC Card
slots. All PC Cards are hot-swappable.
■
Parallel PC Cards come in two flavors, 16-bit and
CardBus, and each flavor comes in three different
physical sizes called Type I, Type II, and Type III.
Type I, II, and III cards differ only in the thickness of
the card (Type I being the thinnest, and Type III the
thickest). Type II cards are by far the most common.
All parallel PC Cards share the same 68-pin
interface. The 16-bit PC Cards are 16-bit, 5-V cards
that can have up to two distinct functions or devices,
such as a modem/network card combination.
CardBus PC Cards are 32-bit, 3.3-V cards that can
have up to eight different functions on a single card.
The 16-bit PC Cards will fit into and work in
CardBus slots, but the reverse is not true.
■
The serial ExpressCard comes in two widths:
54 mm and 34 mm. Both cards are 75 mm long and
5 mm thick, which makes them shorter than all
previous PC Cards and the same thickness as a
Type II PC Card. ExpressCards connect to either
the Hi-Speed USB 2.0 bus (480 Mbps) or a PCI
Express bus (2.5 Gbps).
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■
■
■
■
■
526
The PCMCIA standard defines two levels of
software drivers to support PC Cards. The first,
lower level is known as socket services. Socket
services are device drivers that support the PC
Card socket, enabling the system to detect when a
PC Card has been inserted or removed, and
providing the necessary I/O to the device. The
second, higher level is known as card services. The
card-services level recognizes the function of a
particular PC Card and provides the specialized
drivers necessary to make the card work. In today’s
laptops, the socket services are standardized and
are handled by the system BIOS. Windows itself
handles all card services and has a large preinstalled
base of PC Card device drivers, although most PC
Cards come with their own drivers.
Every portable PC and many PDAs come with one
or more single-function ports, such as an analog
VGA connection for hooking up an external
monitor and a PS/2 port for a keyboard or mouse.
The single PS/2 port on most laptops supports
both keyboards and pointing devices. Most
portable computing devices have a speaker port,
and some have line-in and microphone jacks as
well. Most current portable PCs come with built-in
NICs or modems for networking support. Simply
plug a device into a particular port and, as long as
Windows has the proper drivers, you will have a
functioning device when you boot. The only port
that requires any extra effort is the video port.
Most laptops support a second monitor, giving
the user the option to display Windows on the
laptop only, the external monitor only, or both
simultaneously. Usually, a special function key on
the keyboard cycles through the different monitor
configurations.
Most portable PCs have one or more generalpurpose expansion ports that enable you to plug in
many different types of devices. Older portables
sport RS-232 serial and IEEE 1284 parallel ports
for mice, modems, printers, scanners, external
CD-media drives, and more. USB and FireWire are
popular and widespread methods for attaching
peripherals to laptops. Both have easy-to-use
connectors and can be hot-swapped.
Port replicators are devices that plug into a single
port (usually USB, but sometimes proprietary) and
offer common PC ports, such as serial, parallel,
USB, network, and PS/2. Docking stations
resemble port replicators in many ways, offering
legacy and modern single-function and multifunction
ports, but have extra features built in, such as DVD
drives or PC Card slots.
■
In the past, manufacturers required proprietary
components for portable PCs, but today’s portable
PCs offer some modularity, making it possible to
do basic replacements and upgrades without
buying expensive proprietary components from
the manufacturer. These replaceable components
include RAM, hard drives, video cards, floppy
drives, and CD-media devices. Modular video
cards are the least standardized of all modular
components, but manufacturers are beginning to
adopt industry-wide standards. Many manufacturers
use modular floppy disk drives and CD-media
devices, even allowing users to swap easily between
different types of drives.
■
Laptops use one of four types of RAM. Most older
laptops use either 72-pin or 144-pin SO-DIMMs
with SDRAM technology. DDR SDRAM systems
primarily use 200-pin SO-DIMMs, although you’ll
also find 172-pin micro-DIMMs. Every decent
laptop has upgradeable RAM slots. Get the correct
RAM; many portable PC makers use proprietary
RAM solutions. No standard exists for RAM
placement in portables. More often than not, you
need to unscrew or pop open a panel on the
underside of the portable and press out on the
restraining clips to make the RAM stick pop up so
that you can remove and replace it.
■
Laptops that support shared memory benefit from
more affordable video cards. The video card has
less built-in RAM and uses a portion of the
computer’s system RAM to make up the difference.
This results in a lower cost, but system performance
suffers because RAM that is shared with the video
card is not available to programs. Shared memory
technologies include TurboCache (by NVIDIA) and
HyperMemory (by ATI).
■
ATA drives in the 2.5-inch drive format now rule
in all laptops. Currently, the larger 2.5-inch hard
drives holds up to 120 GB while the larger 3.5-inch
hard drives hold more than 750 GB.
■
Both Intel and AMD have long sold specialized,
modular CPUs for laptops; however, replacing the
CPU in a laptop often requires disassembling the
entire machine.
Mike Meyers’ CompTIA A+ Guide: Essentials (Exam 220-601)
■
■
To add functionality to laptops, manufacturers
include modular drives with their machines.
Modular drive bays can accommodate various
optical drives, hard drives, or batteries. Most
modular drives are truly hot-swappable, enabling
you to remove and insert devices without any
special software.
Many laptops now come with integrated wireless
networking support by way of a built-in Wi-Fi
adapter usually installed in a Mini PCI slot on the
laptop motherboard. The Mini PCI bus is an
adaptation of the standard PCI bus and was
developed specifically for integrated communications
peripherals such as modems and network adapters.
To extend battery life, built-in communication
devices such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth adapters can
be toggled on and off without powering down the
computer.
■
A new type of battery called the smart battery tells
the computer when it needs to be charged,
conditioned, or replaced.
■
Research continues on other power sources, with
the most promising technology being fuel cells that
produce electrical power as a result of a chemical
reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. A small
fuel cell may be able to power a laptop for up to 40
hours before it needs to be replaced or refilled.
■
Batteries should be stored in a cool place, but not in
the freezer because of moisture, metal racks, and
food. Condition Ni-Cd and Ni-MH batteries to
make them last longer. You can clean battery
contacts with alcohol or a dry cloth. Batteries
contain dangerous chemicals; never handle one
that has ruptured. Always recycle old batteries
rather than disposing of them in the trash.
■
The process of cooperation among the hardware,
the BIOS, and the OS to reduce power use is
known generically as power management. Early
laptops used power continuously, regardless of
whether the system was using the device at the
time or not. With power management features,
today’s laptops can automatically turn off unused
devices or can shut down the entire system,
leaving the information in RAM ready for a restart.
■
Starting with the 386SX, Intel introduced System
Management Mode (SMM), a power management
system that would make the CPU and all
peripherals go to “sleep.” In 1992, Intel introduced
the improved Advanced Power Management
(APM) specification, followed by the Advanced
Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI)
standard in 1996.
■
To use APM or ACPI, the computer must have an
SMM-capable CPU, an APM-compliant BIOS, and
devices that can be shut off. Referred to as “Energy
Star” devices, these peripherals can shut down
without actually turning off. The OS must also
know how to request that a particular device be
shut down. ACPI extends power-saving to include
hot-swappable devices.
■
Virtually all laptops and desktops use power
management functions. APM defines four
power-usage levels, including Full On, APM
Enabled, APM Standby, and APM Suspend.
Managing and Maintaining Portable Computers
■
Portable computers use three different types of
batteries: Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cd), Nickel-Metal
Hydride (Ni-MH), and Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion).
■
The first batteries used in mobile PCs were
Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cd). If a Ni-Cd battery
was not completely discharged before each
recharge, it would lose a significant amount of its
rechargeability, a condition referred to as battery
memory. At best, Ni-Cd batteries would last for
1000 charges, but they were very susceptible to
heat. Because of the toxic metals inside these
batteries, they had to be disposed of via specialty
disposal companies. Although no longer used in
PCs, Ni-Cd batteries are still found in cellular and
cordless phones.
■
The second generation of mobile PC batteries,
the Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) batteries are
less susceptible to memory problems, tolerate
overcharging better, take more recharging, and
last longer between rechargings, but they are still
susceptible to heat.
■
Although some portable PCs still use Ni-MH
batteries, Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) is more common
today. This third-generation battery takes fewer
charges than Ni-MH, but it lasts longer between
charges. Li-Ion batteries can explode if they are
overcharged, so they have circuitry to prevent
overcharging.
Chapter 16: Portable Computing
527
■
Configure APM/ACPI through CMOS or through
the Power Options Control Panel applet in Windows
2000/XP, with Windows settings overriding CMOS
settings. Many CMOS versions enable configuration
of wake-up events, such as having the system
monitor a modem or particular IRQ.
■
Hibernation writes information from RAM to the
hard drive. Upon waking up, the data is returned
to RAM, and programs and files are in the same
state as when the computer entered hibernation.
■
Use an appropriate screen cleaner (not glass cleaner)
to clean the LCD screen. Use compressed air
around the keyboard and PC card sockets. Never
use water around the keyboard.
■
To combat the inevitable heat produced by a
portable computer, always use power management,
keep an air space between the bottom of the laptop
and the surface on which it rests, don’t use a
keyboard protector for an extended period of time,
and be aware of your fan.
■
Store your portable computer in a quality case
when traveling. Laptops benefit from a cushy
carrying case; hard aluminum cases keep your
PDA from getting banged up. Well-padded
backpacks not only keep your laptop protected, but
make your system less appealing to would-be
thieves. When traveling, don’t forget accessories
like AC power cords, additional batteries, or
modular devices. Remove all discs from drives and
make sure you have enough battery power to boot
up for security personnel. If shipping your
computer, go with a reputable carrier, keep your
tracking number, and request a delivery signature.
Use a laptop lock or a software tracking system to
protect your laptop when traveling.
Troubleshooting Portable Computers
■
If your laptop won’t power on, try a different wall
outlet. If it still fails to power up, remove all
peripheral devices and try again.
■
If the screen doesn’t come on properly, verify the
laptop is configured to use the built-in LCD screen
by pressing the appropriate key to cycle through
the internal and external monitors. If you hear a
popping sound, you may have blown an inverter.
■
If wireless networking is not working, check for the
physical switch that toggles the internal wireless
adapter on and off. If your laptop doesn’t have a
switch, check for a key combination that toggles
the wireless adapter. You also may be out of range.
Physically walk the laptop closer to the wireless
router or access point.
■
If your PDA or tablet PC fails to recognize
handwriting, retrain the digitizer. PDAs often have
a setting to align the screen; tablet PC users can
check the Control Panel for the appropriate applet.
■
If the keypad or touchpad doesn’t work, try a shot
of compressed air, reseat the physical internal
connection, or reconfigure the driver settings through
the Keyboard or Mouse Control Panel applets.
■ Key Terms
16-bit (505)
Advanced Configuration and
Power Interface (ACPI) (517)
Advanced Power Management
(APM) (517)
aspect ratio (495)
auto-switching power supply (521)
battery memory (514)
beaming (499)
card services (506)
CardBus (505)
conditioning charger (514)
desktop extender (497)
desktop replacement (497)
528
docking station (509)
ExpressCard (505)
fuel cell (515)
hibernation (517)
high gloss (496)
HotSync (499)
laptop (496)
Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) (514)
matte (496)
Mini PCI (513)
Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cd) (514)
Nickel-Metal Hydride
(Ni-MH) (514)
PC Card (505)
pen-based computing (498)
personal digital assistant
(PDA) (498)
port replicator (508)
shared memory (511)
smart battery (515)
socket services (506)
stylus (498)
System Management Mode
(SMM) (517)
Tablet PC (500)
touchpad (497)
TrackPoint (497)
Mike Meyers’ CompTIA A+ Guide: Essentials (Exam 220-601)
■ Key Term Quiz
Use the Key Terms list to complete the sentences that
follow. Not all terms will be used.
1. PC Cards require two levels of software drivers:
____________ to allow the laptop to detect when
a PC Card has been inserted or removed and
____________ to provide drivers to make the
card work.
2. Although ____________ were the first batteries
for mobile PCs, they are limited now to cellular
and cordless phones because of their problems
with battery memory.
3. The ____________ tells the computer when it
needs to be charged, conditioned, or replaced.
4. John read an ad recently for a ____________
portable PC that had everything he could
possibly want on a PC, desktop or portable!
5. Small, reduced-function portable computing
devices, called ____________, use cut-down
operating systems such as Windows CE or
Palm OS.
6. Using a chemical reaction between hydrogen and
oxygen, ____________ may in a few years be able
to provide laptops with electrical power for up to
40 hours.
7. With the 386SX, Intel introduced ____________,
the first power management system with the
ability to make the CPU and all peripherals go to
sleep.
8. Many newer laptops feature ____________
screens offering richer color, higher contrast, and
wider viewing angles.
9. Laptops using ____________ are less expensive,
as the video card has less built-in memory, but
the RAM it borrows from the system results in
less memory available to programs.
10. A(n) ____________ combines the best of PDAs
and fully featured laptops.
■ Multiple-Choice Quiz
1. What infrared process enables you to transfer
data from one PDA to another wirelessly?
A. Beaming
B. Flashing
C. Panning
D. Sending
2. Which of the following statements best describes
hard drives typically found in laptops?
A. They are 2.5-inch ATA drives, but they do
not hold as much data as the 3.5-inch hard
drives found in desktop PCs.
B. They are 3.5-inch ATA drives just like those
found in desktop PCs, but they usually
require “cable select” settings rather than
master or slave.
C. They are 3.5-inch ATA drives that hold more
data than the 2.5-inch hard drives found in
desktop PCs.
D. They are 2.5-inch PCMCIA drives while
desktops usually have 3.5-inch SCSI drives.
Chapter 16: Portable Computing
3. Which of the following APM power levels writes
information from RAM to the hard drive and
then copies the data back to RAM when the
computer is activated again?
A. Full On
B. APM Enabled
C. APM Standby
D. Hibernation
4. Portable PCs typically use which of the following
kinds of upgradeable RAM?
A. 68-pin and 72-pin RIMMs
B. 30-pin and 72-pin SIMMs
C. 72-pin and 144-pin SO-DIMMs
D. 30-pin and 72-pin SO-RIMMs
5. Where do you configure APM/ACPI in
Windows XP? (Select all that apply.)
A. The Power Options applet in the
Control Panel
B. The Display applet in the Control Panel
529
C. The Power Management applet in the
Control Panel
D. The Power and Devices applet in the Control
Panel
6. Which of the following kinds of PC Cards is the
most commonly used, especially for I/O
functions?
A. Type I
B. Type II
C. Type III
D. Type IV
7. Which of the following input devices will you
most likely find on a portable PC?
A. TrackPoint
B. Touchpad
C. Trackball
D. Mouse
8. When a new USB mouse is plugged in, the
laptop does not recognize that a device has been
added. What is the most likely cause of this
problem?
A. The device was plugged in while the system
was running.
B. The device was plugged in while the system
was off and then booted.
C. The system is running Windows 98.
D. The system does not yet have the proper
drivers loaded.
9. How should you remove a modular drive?
A. Use the Hardware Removal Tool in the
System Tray.
B. Shut down, remove the drive, and power
back on.
C. Simply remove the drive with no additional
actions.
D. Use Device Manager to uninstall the device.
10. Which buses do ExpressCards use?
11. Convertibles and slates describe what type of
device?
A. Multicore processor
B. Clamshell laptop computer
C. PDA
D. Tablet PC
12. If wireless networking is not working, what
should you check?
A. Check the switch on the side of the laptop
that toggles power to the network card.
B. Make sure the Ethernet cable is plugged into
the laptop.
C. Make sure the digitizer has been trained.
D. Make sure Power Management is enabled.
13. Which bus was developed specifically for
integrated communications peripherals such as
modems and network adapters?
A. FireWire
B. Mini PCI
C. PCI
D. USB
14. Erin has an older laptop with a switch on the
back that says 115/230. What does this indicate?
A. The laptop has an auto-switching power
supply.
B. The laptop has a fixed-input power supply.
C. The laptop has a step-down transforming
power supply.
D. The laptop has a step-up transforming power
supply.
15. John’s PDA suddenly stopped recognizing his
handwriting. What’s a likely fix for this problem?
A. Replace the stylus.
B. Retrain the digitizer.
C. Replace the digitizer.
D. Retrain the stylus.
A. Hi-Speed USB and FireWire
B. Hi-Speed USB and PCI Express
C. PCI and PCI Express
D. Mini PCI and Parallel
530
Mike Meyers’ CompTIA A+ Guide: Essentials (Exam 220-601)
■ Essay Quiz
1. At the upcoming training seminar for new techs,
your boss wants to make sure they understand
and use power management settings. You’ve
been asked to prepare a short presentation
showing the range of power management
settings available in Windows 2000 and XP and
demonstrating how to set them. What will you
include in your presentation?
2. You’ve been tasked to advise your group on
current portable computer technology so they
can purchase ten new laptops by the end of the
quarter. In a short essay, weigh the pros and cons
of getting desktop replacements versus smaller
laptops that would come with docking stations.
3. Your boss has a new portable computer and is
planning to take it with him on a business trip to
Paris. He’s not all that tech-savvy or much of a
traveler, so write a memo that tells him what to
do or avoid while traveling, especially overseas.
4. Norm wants to upgrade his laptop’s hard drive,
CPU, and RAM. He’s upgraded all of these
components on his desktop, so he doesn’t think
that he’ll run into much trouble. What advice
will you give him about selecting the
components and upgrading the laptop?
5. Monica just received her aunt’s old laptop. It
uses a Ni-Cd battery, but no matter how long she
charges it, it only runs her PC for about 30
minutes before it dies. She can’t understand why
the battery runs out so fast, but she figures she
needs a new battery. The local computer store
has two kinds of batteries, Ni-MH and Li-Ion,
both of which will physically fit into her
computer. She’s not sure which of these to buy or
whether either of them will work with her PC.
She’s asked you whether her old battery is
indeed bad and to help her select a new battery.
What will you tell her?
Lab Projects
• Lab Project 16.1
This chapter mentioned that, although they are
more expensive, portable PCs typically provide less
processing power, have smaller hard drives, and in
general are not as full-featured as desktop computers.
Use the Internet to check sites such as www.ibm.com,
www.gateway.com, www.dell.com, and www.hp
.com to compare the best equipped, most powerful
laptop you can find with the best equipped, most
powerful desktop computer you can find. How do
their features and prices compare? Now find a less
expensive laptop and try to find a desktop computer
that is as similar as possible in terms of capabilities,
and compare their prices.
• Lab Project 16.2
A local company just donated ten laptops to your
school library. They are IBM ThinkPad 600x PIII
500-Mhz laptops with 128 MB of RAM and two Type
II PC slots. The school would like to let distance
education students check out these computers, but
the laptops do not have modems. Your hardware
Chapter 16: Portable Computing
class has been asked to select PC Card modems for
these laptops. What features will you look for in
selecting the right modem? Either go to the local
computer store or search the Internet to find the
modem cards you will recommend.
531
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