A+ Guide to Managing and Maintaining Your PC / Edition 5

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Overview

Completely redesigned in engaging full color, this edition features new pedagogical features and coverage of the latest technologies, including DVD-Rs, Tablet PCs, Itanium chips, and more.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780619213244
  • Publisher: Cengage Learning
  • Publication date: 3/28/2004
  • Edition description: Comprehensive, Book & CD-ROM
  • Edition number: 5
  • Pages: 1221
  • Product dimensions: 7.56 (w) x 9.38 (h) x 1.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Jean Andrews has more than 30 years of experience in the computer industry, including more than 13 years in the college classroom. She has worked in a variety of businesses and corporations designing, writing, and supporting application software; managing a PC repair help desk; and troubleshooting wide area networks. She has written numerous books on software, hardware, and the Internet, including the bestselling A+ Guide to Managing and Maintaining Your PC, A+ Guide to Hardware: Managing, Maintaining and Troubleshooting, and A+ Guide to Software: Managing, Maintaining and Troubleshooting. Jean lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Read an Excerpt


Chapter 14: Purchasing a PC or Building Your Own

SELECTING A PERSONAL COMPUTER TO MEET YOUR NEEDS So far, this book has been chock-full of information to help you make decisions concerning which computers, peripheral devices, operating systems, and software to buy and how to manage and maintain them once they are yours. However, hardware and software are changing daily, and it's important to stay informed if you make buying decisions or give advice about these decisions. There are three alternatives from which to choose when selecting a PC: buy a brand-name PC, buy a clone, or buy parts and assemble a PC yourself, which, in effect, results in your own personally designed clone.

A brand-name PC, sometimes called an IBM-compatible PC, is a PC with a recognizable name such as Compaq, Packard Bell, Dell, Gateway, or IBM. A clone is generally understood to mean a PC that has been assembled by local companies without readily recognizable brand names and parts. (Brand-name PCs and clones once had entirely different meanings. Originally, the one and only brand-name PC was the IBM, and all other personal computers were called clones.) Brand-name and clone PCs each have advantages and disadvantages when considering warranties, service contracts, and ease of obtaining replacement and added parts. For instance, while it may seem advantageous that brand-name PCs and most clones come with some software already installed, the software is not necessarily standard, brand-name software. The pre-installed software may be any variety of shareware, unknown software, or the like, and the documentation and original installation disks for the software may not be included in the total package.

When selecting a computer system that will include both hardware and software, begin by taking a high-level view of the decisions you must make. Start by answering these questions:

In order to make the best possible decision, consider the first question to be the most important, and each succeeding question less important than the one before it. For example, if you intend to use the computer for playing games and accessing the Internet, the functionality required is considerably different than for a computer used for software development. Listed below are some examples of possible answers to the first question. A computer may be intended for these purposes:

  • To access the Internet
  • To play games
  • To use software stored on a file server while connected to a LAN
  • For Windows software development
  • For business applications on a standalone PC or on a LAN
  • For computing-intensive engineering or mathematical applications such as CAD/CAM
  • To provide help-desk support with online remote control of other computers
  • For multimedia presentations before large and small groups
  • For use in a retail store, including cash register support
  • For network administration

After you have identified the intended purpose of the computer, list the finictionality required to meet the needs of the intended purpose. If the computer is to be used for playing games, some required functionality might be:

  • Ability of the hardware to support games software
  • Excellent video and sound
  • Sophisticated input methods

If the computer is to be used for Windows software development, required functionality might include:

  • Standard hardware and software environment that most customers using the developed software might have
  • Software development tools and hardware to support the software
  • Comfortable keyboard and mouse for long work hours
  • Removable, high-capacity storage device for easy transfer and storage of developed software
  • Reliable warranty and service to guarantee minimal "downtime"

Once the required functionality is defined, the next step--defining what hardware and software are needed-is much easier. Research what hardware and software meet the desired functions. For example, if a comfortable keyboard designed for long work hours is a required functionality, begin by researching the different types of keyboards available, and try out a few in the stores if necessary. It would be a mistake to purchase the cheapest keyboard in the store for this intended purpose. However, for game playing, an expensive, comfortable keyboard is not needed. For game playing, spend the least amount of money on a keyboard and put your resources into a sophisticated joystick.

In the last example above, the least possible amount of downtime is a required functionality. This is a required functionality for many business-use computers, and the one most important reason a business chooses a brand-name computer over a clone.

BRAND-NAME PC VS. CLONE

As you have most likely noticed, brand-name PCs generally cost more than clone PCs with similar features. One reason that brand-name PCs cost more is that you are paying extra money for after-sales service. For example, an IBM personal computer comes with a three-year warranty, a 24-hour service help line with a toll-free number, and parts delivered to your place of business. A clone manufacturer may also give good service, but this may be due to the personalities of a few employees, rather than to company policies. Most likely, clone company policies will not be as liberal and all-encompassing as those of a brand-name manufacturer.

On the other hand, many brand-name manufacturers use nonstandard parts with their hardware and nonstandard approaches to setting up their systems, making their computers more proprietary than clones. Proprietary systems are ones that are unique to a particular vendor (or proprietor), often forcing customers to use only parts and service from that vendor. One of the most common things a brand-name manufacturer does to make its computer more proprietary is put components on the systemboard rather than use more generic expansion cards. Remember from earlier chapters that an easy way to tell if ports are coming directly off a systemboard is to look at the back of the PC. If ports are aligned horizontally on the bottom of a desktop PC or vertically down the side of the tower-case PC, these ports most likely come directly off the systemboard, making it more likely to be a proprietary-type board.

For example, a brand-name system may include video, sound, or network logic on the systemboard rather than on an expansion card. Or rather than CMOS setup being updated by a setup program in BIOS, the setup program may be stored on the hard drive.The shape and size of the computer case may be such that a standard systemboard does not fit; only the brand-name board will do. These kinds of things make upgrading and repair of brand-name PCs more difficult.You are forced to use the brand-name parts and brand-name service to maintain and/or upgrade the PC.

SELECTING SOFTWARE

When selecting software, go back to the required functionality that you have identified, which drives your decisions about software selection. Choose the operating system first, according to guidelines presented in Chapter 2.When choosing applications software consider these things: a What do you want the software to do? (This will be defined by your answer to the functionality question above.)

  • Is compatibility with other software or data required?
  • Is training available, if you do not already have the skills needed to use the software?
  • How good is the documentation?
  • What are upgrade policies?
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Table of Contents

1. Introducing Hardware 2. How Hardware and Software Work Together 3. Understanding the Boot Process and Command Line 4. Electricity and Power Supplies 5. The Motherboard 6. Managing Memory 7. Floppy Drives 8. Understanding and Installing Hard Drives 9. Optimizing and Protecting Hard Drives 10 Supporting I/O Devices 11. Multimedia Devices and Mass Storage 12. Supporting Windows 9x 13. Understanding and Installing Windows 2000 and Windows NT 14. Managing and Troubleshooting Windows 2000 15. Installing and Using Windows XP Professional 16. Managing and Supporting Windows XP 17. Supporting Modems 18. PCs on a Network 19. PCs on the Internet 20. Notebooks, Tablet PCs and PDAs 21. Supporting Printers 22. All About SCSI 23. Purchasing a PC or Building Your Own 24. Troubleshooting and Maintenance Fundamentals Appendices A: Error Messages and Their Meanings B: ASCII Character Set and Ansi.sys C: The Hexadecimal Number System and Memory Addressing D: FAT Details E: Electricity and Multimeters F: The Professional PC Technician G: Introducing Linux

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2005

    Very disappointing book

    This book is poorly written, full of errors, and superficial. It is cheaply bound. The page count is inflated with screen shots and step-by-step instructions for Windows utilities. The computer will lead you through the steps. What you need to know is what effect choosing an option will have. I had the feeling the book was hastily thrown together and tries to cover subject matter that is broader than the author's expertise.

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