CompTIA Certifications

A+ Certification: Part 3 – Hardware: Upgrades, Troubleshooting and Preventative Maintenance

Section Objectives

After you complete this section you will:

Understand what takes place when upgrading a PC.

Learn how to upgrade memory.

Learn how to upgrade a hard drive.

Learn how to upgrade CPU and BIOS.

Learn how to upgrade laptop components.

Upgrading a PC

There are many reasons you would consider upgrading a PC or components within a PC. With processor speeds increasing daily, upgrading an older system with a new CPU is an inexpensive way to have an up-to-date system without the cost of purchasing an entirely new computer.

The best bang for the buck in upgrades is in memory. Upgrading the memory on a machine with a low amount increases the perceived speed significantly.

You may also need to upgrade the storage on a machine, add new ports, or add new peripherals.

Upgrading Memory

Upgrading the memory on a PC is a fairly simple task. You first have to determine what kind of memory your motherboard supports. If you are using SIMMs, you will need to replace memory in pairs of sets of four. If you are using DIMMs, you can replace the memory a chip at a time.

Once you have determined the type of memory and purchased it, you will need to power down the machine and open the case to your computer.

Remember to use caution with static electricity and wear a wrist strap whenever working on a PC.

Remove any memory if all of the slots are full. Open the two side latches which hold the memory secure and press the RAM chip firmly into its socket. Memory chips are all designed to fit in only one direction so you have no fear of putting the wrong side in. Once the memory is in the slot, close the two latches.

Power on the PC. Your BIOS setup program will probably recognize the new memory automatically and reboot to save the changes. Once the changes are saved by the BIOS, your upgrade is complete!

Upgrading the Hard Drive

With the ever expanding amount of software and data being generated, adding an additional hard drive or replacing the hard drive is a common upgrade in computer systems.

Adding a Hard Drive

Adding an additional hard drive takes a little more advanced knowledge than upgrading the memory, though the task isn’t too difficult.

Many retail hard drive upgrade kits contain easy to use instructions and procedures to help the common person upgrade their computer. With your understanding of computer systems, adding an additional hard drive will be easy.

To add an additional hard drive, you will need to power down your machine, remove the power cord, and open the case. Remember to use a wrist strap to ground yourself prior to working inside the computer.

Locate an empty hard drive bay in the case and mount the hard drive into the case. If you current hard drive has an EIDE cable, check to see if it has an additional open port for the new HD. If the cable is a single port variety, you will need to install an EIDE cable which has two ports.

Check the setting on the first hard drive and see if it is set to Master or Cable Select. If it is not yet set, set it now. Set the new hard drive as the Slave and plug the IDE cable into it. In addition, find an available power cord and plug it into the hard drive. Typically, the power cable has a white connector with five small holes in it.

Close the case and plug the computer back in. When the computer starts booting, it may detect the new hard drive or you may need to set it up in the BIOS.

Next, load your operating system and perform a high level format on the drive (or partition it if needed).

Upgrading the Existing Hard Drive

Upgrading an existing hard drive is similar to the process for adding a hard drive except that you will need to replace the hard drive in the steps above. If it is the primary hard drive on the system, you will either need to backup your previous hard drive and restore the data into the new HD, or reinstall your operating system on the replacement HD.

Upgrading a CPU

There are two main types of upgradeable sockets, ZIF and LIF, Zero Insertion Force and Low Insertion Force.

There are several things you need to keep in mind when upgrading a CPU. A CPU is only as fast as the bus on the motherboard and you should keep this in mind. You can upgrade a CPU but if the bus speed on the motherboard is not fast enough, you will not gain the speed increase you are looking for.

Also, one of the other important things to keep in mind when wishing to upgrade the CPU is the socket type on the motherboard. There are many different sizes of slots on the motherboard for the chip to fit into, you can see the socket sizes in the CPU section of the System Architecture course.

Upgrading the BIOS

When you need to upgrade the HD or other peripherals, your BIOS may be out of date and need upgraded as well.

Newer BIOSs have upgradeable EEPROMs so they can be upgraded without replacing the actual chip.

Upgrading a Laptop Battery

Laptop or notebook computers usuall
y come with around a 2-3 hour battery and your requirements may demand a higher capacity battery. Many notebook manufacturers sell extended life batteries to replace your primary battery or an extended battery which fits in one of the laptop expansion slots.

Upgrading a Laptop Hard Drive

Typically, a notebook computer has only one hard drive slot containing a 2.5” EIDE drive. You can either upgrade this hard drive, or there are some other choices in upgrading your storage space.

An alternative is to purchase a hard drive adapter for your expansion bay, if your computer has one. Or, alternatively, you can purchase a Type III PCMCIA hard drive which occupies two Type II PCMCIA expansion slots.

Additionally, you may be able to purchase an external portable hard drive which operates off your USB, Firewire, or Parallel ports.

Adding Additional PCMCIA Cards

A typical laptop has two Type II PCMCIA slots, though on most sub-notebooks, there is only one slot available.

There is a wide range of devices available which fit the Type II PCMCIA slots such as IEEE1394 expansion cards, Type III hard drives, NIC cards, cellular modems, GPS units, and more.

Adding these devices is relatively simple. PCMCIA cards are hot swappable so you can add a device while the computer is turned on (though my experience has been to add a new card before the computer comes on, makes installation and discovery easier).

Adding a Docking Station

A docking station allows your laptop to replicate its ports so you can leave the network, an external monitor, keyboard, mouse, expansion cards, etc. plugged in and just remove and insert your laptop or notebook computer as needed.

Expanding Laptop Memory

Typically, laptop memory is a bit more expensive than desktop memory and you are more limited in the number of memory chips you can fit on the notebook motherboard.

Typically, laptops either have a access panel which can be unscrewed to add additional (or replace) memory, or it is accessible under the keyboard. On Compaq Armada notebook computers, there are several tabs you slide down to open the keyboard and insert the memory under the keyboard.

After studying this section you should:

Understand what takes place when upgrading a PC.

Learn how to upgrade memory.

Learn how to upgrade a hard drive.

Learn how to upgrade CPU and BIOS.

Learn how to upgrade laptop components.

Congratulations! You have completed the A+ Hardware Service Technician Upgrades, Troubleshooting, and Preventative Maintenance course.