All you need to know about 64bit computers

Copyright © Eric Legge 2004-2010. All rights reserved.

64-bit processor support

All of the latest Socket AM2 and Socket AM2+ and Socket AM3 (for AMD processors) and Socket LGA775 and Socket 1366 (for Intel processors) motherboards support 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems and software. To make the best use of 64-bit technology, the system must be running a 64-bit operating system, which requires 64-bit device drivers for all of the devices that are attached to the PC, and it must be using 64-bit applications and utilities. 64-bit versions of Windows XP Professional, Windows Vista and Windows 7 are available. Linux is also capable of running a 64-bit system. There is no 64-bit version of Windows XP Home Edition.

Note that a desktop or laptop PC that is running a 64-bit version of Windows XP/Windows Vista/Windows 7 requires twice as much RAM memory (up to 4GB – the maximum that can be installed in a 32-bit version) as one running a 32-bit version of those versions of Windows.

AMD’s Socket AM2+ and AM3 platforms

AMD’s new ranges of Socket AM2+ and Socket AM3 desktop processors are now available together with motherboards from the major manufacturers.
If you can run a PC for two or three years before you upgrade it or buy a new one, they are worth buying. But if AMD is your preferred manufacturer and you want to run one of its processors on the fastest platform, with the latest DDR2 RAM memory, you should buy a Socket Socket AM2+ motherboard. AMD’s new Phenom II triple- and quad-core processors use DDR3 memory on an Socket AM3 motherboard, but can be run on a Socket AM2+ motherboard that uses DDR2 memory.
AMD’s AM2+ and AM3 processors have an on-board memory controller that supports the latest DDR2 RAM and DDR3 memory, respectively.

Motherboards for Intel’s Core 2 Extreme and Core 2 Duo desktop processors

July 12, 2006. – Asus has announced its first two motherboards to support the Core 2 Extreme and Core 2 Duo dual-core desktop processors from Intel, code-named Conroe. The motherboards – the P5B and the P5B Deluxe WiFi-AP – also support a number of older Intel processors, all the way back to the Pentium 4. Both boards still use Socket LGA775. The P5B Deluxe WiFi-AP provides a pair of PCI Express x16 slots for two graphics cards, while the regular P5B includes just one such slot. Both boards support up to 8GB of 800MHz DDR2 RAM memory through four DIMM slots, and are expected to ship later this month (July 2006).
Announcing Intel® Core™2 Processor Family Brand

Intel’s new Socket LGA1366 Core i7 quad core desktop PC processors

November 18, 2008. – Intel has released three of its new Socket LGA1366 quad-core processors. Here is a good review:
Intel Core i7http://www.pcpro.co.uk/reviews/233892/intel-core-i7.html
And here is the information on the new processors on Intel’s website:
Intel® Core™ i7 Processor
http://www.intel.com/products/processor/corei7/…
The major motherboard manufacturers have brought out motherboards that support the new Intel desktop PC processors.
Asushttp://www.asus.com/products.aspx?l1=3&l2=179
MSIhttp://global.msi.com.tw/index.php…
Gigabytehttp://www.gigabyte.com.tw/Products/Motherboard/…
User manuals are available from all three of those manufacturers, so you can download copies and have a look at what is on offer.

The latest Socket LGA1156 Intel Core i5 and Core i7 quad-core desktop-PC processors

The latest Socket LGA1156 Intel Core i5 and Core i7 quad-core desktop-PC processors were made available on September 8, 2009.
September 8, 2009. – Intel has released three new quad-core desktop-PC processors – the first Core i5 processor (Core i5-750) and two Core i7 processors (Core i7-860 and Core i7-870), all of which use new Socket LGA1156 platform, manufactured using the latest 45-nanometer (45nm) fabrication process. The new Core i7 processors feature Intel’s HyperThreading technology, which effectively allows them to function as eight-core processors, but the Core i5 processor can only function as a non-enhanced quad-core processor. No Extreme Editions of these processors are available, so overclockers are not able to tweak the processors’ frequency multipliers; overclocking can only be achieved by increasing the system-bus speed.

Extreme P55: Four LGA 1156 Motherboards Over $250 [20/01/2010] –
Here are reviews of each of the three processors:
Intel Core i5-750
Intel Core i7-860
Intel Core i7-870

Intel’s new Core i7 quad-core processors can use three-channel mode

Until the Socket LGA1366 Intel Core i7 quad-core processors first became available in November 2008, only AMD’s Athlon 64 (single-core and dual-core) and Phenom (quad-core) processors could use dual-channel mode, because it requires the memory controller to be built into the processor, and Intel’s processors did not provide that feature. Dual-channel mode requires two memory modules to be used in tandem. If the motherboard has four DIMM memory slots, it can run two pairs in tandem in dual-channel mode. But now the Core i7 processors also have an built-in memory controller. Core i7 is Intel’s first platform to use only DDR3 RAM memory. Moreover, it uses a built-in three-channel memory controller, so DDR3 DIMM modules will soon be available in packs of three to make use of the six DIMM memory slots that Socket LGA1366 motherboards have in order to use three-channel mode. The first Socket LGA1366 motherboards, such as the MSI MS-7522 motherboard, that run the Core i7 processors, provide six memory slots. The motherboard’s user manual shows which slot can be used for a single memory module, and which slots can be used for dual-channel and three channel mode. If all six slots are filled with identical modules, you will have two sets of modules running in three-channel mode. As with dual-channel mode, three-channel mode provides a small gain in performance.
Intel Core i7http://www.pcpro.co.uk/reviews/233892/intel-core-i7.html

The websites of the most popular motherboard manufacturers

You can visit one or more of the following motherboard manufacturers’ websites to find out which Socket AM2/AM2+/AM3 (AMD) and Intel Socket LGA775/LGA 1366/LGA1156 (Intel) motherboards they make.

Annotated Images of ATX Socket LGA775, Socket A and Socket 939 Motherboards

Click here! to view an annotated images of an ATX AMD Socket A motherboard for the first Athlon socketed processors, and an annotated image of an ATX AMD Socket 939 motherboard for Athlon 64 anf 64 FX processors. – Click your browser’s Back button to backtrack.
Visit the Processors pages on this site for more information on them.
Visit the Disk Drives pages on this site for more information on them.

RECENT ARTICLES ON MOTHERBOARDS/PROCESSORS

USB 3.0 To The Front Panel: ASRock Leads The Way
“ASRock was the first company to respond to our impassioned pleas for a front-panel USB 3.0 connector. As other companies attempt to catch up, we examine the boards that started it all to see if the implementation maintains full USB 3.0-class performance.” –
X58 To The Max: Three New Flagship LGA 1366 [Intel-based] Motherboards
“Supporting Intel’s highest-performance processors with twice the bandwidth of its mainstream counterpart, the X58 chipset proves the staying power of good ideas. We take a closer look at what makes the latest generation of premium motherboards special.” – http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/…
Mainstream Or Hardcore? Two [Intel-based] X58 Motherboards Compared – “You need Intel’s LGA 1366 interface and an X58-based platform in order to run the latest six-core processors [from Intel. AMD uses its own motherboards and chipsets] for its six-core processors], but which board should you pick? We’re comparing a mainstream and flagship platform from the same company [MSI] to explore the worth of high-end X58.” – http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/x58-core-i7-motherboard,review-31938.html
Five AMD 890FX-Based Motherboards Compared
“Adding SATA 6 Gb/s and two more USB 2.0 ports, AMD’s flagship northbridge has evolved into the 890FX. Just as important are the evolutionary steps several manufacturers have taken in motherboard design. Today we examine five examples.” –
X58 In 2010: Four [Intel-CPU] LGA 1366 Boards With USB 3.0 And SATA 6Gb/s – “The March 2010 launch of Intel’s hexa-core Core i7-980X gave us a good reason to revisit the LGA 1366 interface. Today, we’re looking at four new X58 Express-based motherboards that tie USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s support in to Intel’s flagship platform.”
USB 3.0, SATA 6Gb/s, Motherboards, And Overcoming Bottlenecks
“Soon, 4.8 Gb/s USB 3.0 and 6 Gb/s SATA will be hitting the mainstream. But be careful when you buy your next mainstream motherboard; some don’t handle these technologies very well. We compare three implementations and recommend best practice solutions.” –
AMD 890GX Unveiled: Three Motherboards Compared
“AMD’s new chipset promises big performance increases with its Radeon HD 4290 graphics core and built-in SATA 6Gb/s controller. Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI sent their latest motherboards to help us find out how well 890GX and SB850 deliver on those promises.” –
Budget Computing: Nine H55 And H57 Motherboards Compared
“Realizing that a majority of our readers are indeed interested in the value attainable from a more affordable platform, we decided to dedicated our largest H55 motherboard comparison to getting the most for your money. We requested that manufacturers send us their products best representing the greatest combination of features per dollar.” –
Compact P55: Four MicroATX Motherboards Tried And Tested : Compact MicroATX Platforms For Core i5 And Core i3
“ASRock, Foxconn, Gigabyte, and MSI sent us their latest P55-based microATX motherboards for users wanting smaller solutions. We benchmarked, overclocked, and measured the efficiency of these diminutive platforms that work with Lynnfield and Clarkdale.” –
Extreme P55: Four LGA 1156 Motherboards Over $250 [20/01/2010] –
MSI Big Bang Fuzion: Pulling The Covers Off Of Lucid’s Hydra Tech
Usually you can only use SLI or CrossFire graphics cards on a motherboard, but MSI have produced a motherboard called Big Bang Fuzion that is supposed to allow the user to mix and match AMD/ATI and nVidia graphics cards.
Enthusiast P55: Eight LGA 1156 Boards Between $150 And $200 – “Upper-range P55 motherboards cost around $100 less than similarly-equipped X58 products, but are these still good enough for enthusiasts? We take a closer look at eight different models, dissect their features, benchmark them, and come away with a winner.” –
Seven AMD 785G-Based Motherboards Rounded Up
“With the relatively new AMD 785G offering plenty of value in the mainstream, we’re taking the opportunity to look at a wide assortment of motherboards with this chipset, including ATX-, microATX-, AM3/DDR3-, and AM2+/DDR2-based offerings.” –
X58 On A Budget: Seven Sub-$200 Core i7 Boards: More For Less, More Or Less“With our $300+ and $200-300 Core i7 motherboard comparisons distant memories, it’s time for a sub-$200 roundup. Recent price fluctuations have pushed two contenders over the mark after we tested them, but readers get to see those as well.” – http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/cheap-x58-motherboard,review-31642.html
Make your PC go faster for free – “It may sound daunting, but overclocking your PC is actually quite simple – and, as Antony Leather explains, it can give your system a real power boost.” –
[Motherboard] Capacitor plague
How To: Overclocking Your AMD Processor : Introduction: The Basics Of Overclocking
Gigabyte: Asus Lied & Fooled Customers –
“Gigabyte pointed out that the capacitors used on all of its boards are made directly from high-quality Japanese manufacturers. Specifically, Gigabyte said it prefers to use those from Chemico or Fujitsu. Gigabyte engineers said that capacitors used on Asus boards are ones that are known to blow under load.” –
Is Cache Size Really The Key To Boosting Performance? –
Keeping Your CPU Going If Your Cooler Fails
“We took low-cost and high-end processors from both AMD and Intel and put them to the test with regular cooling, as well as in a simulation of a broken CPU fan. In so doing, we discovered that there still are considerable differences between AMD and Intel…” –

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/cpu-cooler-fails,review-29650.html
                                                                        
                                                                  Motherboard LED lights

Some motherboards now have LED lights on the board itself showing the status of the components. The main status colours are green if the component is working and red if it is not. The image below is a drawing of an MSI MS-7522 Socket LGA1366 motherboard for Intel’s new Core i7 quad-core processors. It shows which components have LED(s). The motherboard’s user manual provides the colour codes.
Showing the component  LED lights on an MSI MS-7522  Socket LGA1366 motherboard

Integrated graphics solutions provided by motherboards and processors

Note that both Intel and AMD now have some of processors that provide an integrated (onboard) graphics chip. PCs with motherboards that provide an integrated graphics chip and which run an Intel or AMD processor with an integrated graphics chip, will have to have the motherboard graphics chip disabled, either via a setting in the BIOS or via the Device Manager in Windows if the same cannot be achieved for the graphics chip integrated into the processor. If both integrated solutions can be disabled, the user can choose with of the two integrated graphics solution to use. The following article deals with the prospects for integrated graphics:
Talking Heads: Motherboard Manager Edition, Q4’10, Part 1 –
“We’ve already talked to product managers representing the graphics industry. But what about the motherboard folks? We are back with ten more unidentified R&D insiders. The platform-oriented industry weighs in on Intel’s, AMD’s, and Nvidia’s prospects.” –
Motherboards that incorporate features that are usually added by adapter cards fitted into their PCI/AGP/PCI Express slots, such as video, sound, and network cards, are becoming more desirable, because, as techlology advances, integrated electronics can compete effectively with adapter cards.
For example, with the new PCI Express motherboard bus there is little or no loss in performance if an integrated video chip that shares system RAM is used. Indeed, because of this, inexpensive video cards that use only system RAM instead of their own RAM are now available.
However, if you want to play the latest PC games or use graphic-intensive applications, such as video-editing and computer-aided design (CAD) applications, you would always choose a desktop or laptop PC that has its own dedicated video/graphics card instead of graphics integrated into the motherboard. This is because integrated graphics are still currently inadequate for such tasks. No integrated graphics chip, whether provided by the motherboard or processor, is currently powerful enough to play the latest PC games at high screen resolutions and detailed settings. However, most integrated graphics chips can play 1080p video playback that includes playing the latest Blu-ray movies.

Can Integrated Graphics Cut It For Gaming Or HTPC [Home Theatre PC]?
“According to market data, integrated chipsets outnumber the number of discrete graphics cards sold each quarter. The obvious reason behind this phenomenon is that systems with graphics integrated into the chipset are less expensive than a separate graphics card. While these integrated platforms may help keep money in your wallet, these systems are generally underpowered compared to ones that have a dedicated graphics card…” –
http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/integrated-graphics-gaming,review-29643.html

Click here! to go to information on PCI Express video/graphics cards on this site.
Click here! to go to more information on integrated motherboards on Page 3. Use your browser’s Back button to return to this point on this page.

The form factor of a motherboard

The description of a motherboard that indicates its type is called its form factor.
Since motherboards of the AT form factor are no longer being manufactured, you should only consider buying a computer that contains a motherboard that is of these two form factors: ATX (in standard desktop cases), or the SFF (in mini PC cases). m-ATX stands for micro-ATX, which is an ATX form-factor motherboard that can fit in a standard ATX case but which is smaller than a standard ATX motherboard.
SFF stands for Small Form Factor, and it is used in mini PCs, such as the MSI Mega 865, the Shuttle XPC SB81P, and the Abit DigiDice Deluxe. To find out what a mini PC is, enter any one of the names of those models within quotation marks in the Google search box at the top of this page.
A new form factor, created by Intel, called BTX, which stands for Balanced Technology Extended, looked set to replace the ATX form factor. However, to date (December, 2007) , it has not been able to make much headway against the ATX form factor.
The design of a BTX motherboard swaps the location of the adapter slots and ports around so that a single heatsink and fan unit keeps the processor and the north bridge chip of the motherboard’s chipset cool. This is a necessity as the power requirements of high-end proccessors and video cards increases. A BTX case has a large fan at its front that sucks air in so that it cools all of the components on a BTX motherboard. This makes BTX PCs run cooler and quieter that standard ATX PCs. The only disadvantage of the design is that there is less space in the case for extra adapter cards and drives. The current downside is the cost. BTX cases and the motherboards are currently more expansive than their ATX counterparts. New hardware always starts out being more expensive than outgoing hardware, so that state of affairs is not going to be a prohibitive factor for long. The Gigabyte 89115G-YFD is a BTX motherboard, and the Dell Dimension 5000 is a BTX computer given a Best Buy award by Computer Shopper (now called Expert Reviews).
The Gateway FX530XT PC uses a BTX case and motherboard. Images of its components are shown in the following article. The large green duct that keeps the processor and the north bridge chip cool is shown.
Gateway Goes Gaming: FX530XT Review
http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/gateway-goes-gaming-uk,review-2077.html
In June 2007, AMD announced its own DTX form factor, which is similar to Intel’s BTX form factor.
The DTX motherboard design is similar to Intel’s BTX design. The main design change from the current ATX form factor is that the processor is positioned in the middle of the motherboard. The processor’s heatsink fan takes its air directly from a side panel in the DTX case and is large enough to blow air on to the surrounding components and heatsinks. It is to be used with AMD’s dual-core processors.
AMD’s DTX Form Factor – A new Concept for the HTPC –
“Could the DTX form factor created by AMD be the next evolutionary step, despite the existence of microATX and mini-ITX? In this article, Tom’s Hardware looks back on the development form factors have taken over the years and takes a closer look at AMD’s DTX concept.” –
http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/DTX-form-factor-AMD-HTPC,review-29795.html
If you want to read technical information on the different form factors, visit http://www.formfactors.org/.

Mini-ITX form factor motherboards and cases

A tiny mini-ITX motherboard is 170mm square and forms the basis of a fully-featured desktop PC when housed in a suitable case, such as the Antec ISK 300-65, that makes it a little larger but significantly more powerful than a nettop PC, which unlike a nettop can be built to your own specifications. The Zotac H55-ITX WiFi is the first mini-ITX motherboard that supports the new Intel Core i3/i5/i7 processors. It is the ideal motherboard for a self-built low-powered HTPC capable of full 1080p video playback. If you install an i5 or i7 processor and a dedicated graphics card on the single PCI Express x16 slot, you would have a decent mid-range gaming system.
Zotac H55-ITX Review – The World’s First mini-ITX H55 Motherboard

Speed is really the operating frequency

Note that anything measured in Hz or MHz is measuring its frequency, not its speed – the term that is often used instead of frequency. In electronics, when the frequency is increased, the electronically generated wave pulse isn’t actually going any faster – it always approaches the speed of light – it is just able to carry more data, because the wave is compressed as the frequency of the wave increases. There are more up and down cycles per metre, so the higher the frequency of a wave, the more data it can carry, in much the same way as compressed print can place more data on a page.

Barebones systems: Small Form Factor (SFF)

Computers that use SFF motherboards, micro-ATX, customised motherboards and small square cases are often called barebones systems.
Barebones systems are reviewed by Expert Reviews on this page – http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/barebones.
Note that a barebones system is also a term generally used to designate computers (ATX and SFF) that have only the essential components installed, such as a case with a power supply unit and motherboard. You have to buy and install the other components, such as the RAM, processor, hard disk drive, and CD/DVD drive, monitor, video and sound cards, etc. You should find out which components are installed and then work out which components you’ll have to buy and install before you buy a barebones system. Most of the barebones kits available in the UK only have the motherboard and the power supply installed in the case.
More than meets the Eye – Barebone PC for Quad-Core and Crossfire –
“High performance, small footprint – Shuttle’s SX38P2 Pro can house two graphics cards, three hard drives and a four-core processor…” –
http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/Shuttle-SX38P2-Pro,review-30107.html
Good Looks, Terrible Workmanship – 4 Barebone Cases Compared –
“Tom’s Hardware has checked out four current mini-PC cases, all of which were sent to us as “brand new” designs by their respective manufacturers. The models reviewed here all cost about €70, which is a lot of money for a case of this size. After all, these enclosures don’t contain any hardware whatsoever. You’ll need to buy a motherboard, PSU and all other components separately. By the time you’re done, that can add up to a couple of hundred quid.” –
http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/Barebones-Mini-PC-HTPC,review-29752.html

How to replace the motherboard in a PC running Windows XP

Read the Q&A called How can I replace the motherboard in my PC without having to reinstall Windows XP? to find out what the considerations are and how to do it.
At the time of writing, the situation with regard to replacing a motherboard in Windows Vista was unclear, because I don’t know if Startup Repair in Vista can be used in the same way as a repair install in Windows XP. Note that there is no longer a Recovery Console in Windows Vista. You only have System Restore and Startup Repair.
Note the best way of restoring any version of Windows is to make a restorable backup or image of the whole system, which should be stored on recordable DVDs or an external hard disk drive. This is the page devoted to backups on this website:
Startup Repair: frequently asked questions
Windows Vista Repair Options –
The situation with regard to Windows 7 is the same as that with regard to Windows Vista. Visit the Windows 7 section of this website for the methods of restoring or recovering those versions of Windows.

Using a laptop/notebook Pentium M notebook processor in a desktop PC

If you want a quiet desktop computer that uses only a minimal amount of power and that runs so cool that it can be fitted with a passive heatsink (one without a fan), ATX desktop PC motherboards are available that use the processors normally only found in laptop/notebook computers. It is also possible to buy an adapter that fits to particular standard motherboards that allows a mobile notebook processor to be used.
Click here! to go directly to information on these motherboards, processors, and adapters on Page 3 of this article.

Motherboards that support both the AGP and the PCI Express video standards

If you have an AGP graphics card that you want to reuse while upgrading your PC’s motherboard, processor, or RAM, motherboards are available that support the AGP and the new PCI Express standards. Such a motherboard has an AGP and a PCI Express slot. Having such a motherboard will allow you to upgrade to a PCI Express graphics card at a later date. An example of such a motherboard is the Asrock 939 DUAL-SATA2 Socket 939 board for AMD Athlon 64 and Athlon 64 FX processors. With a BIOS update, you’ll probably be able to use the Athlon 64 X2 (dual-core) processors into the bargain.
Enter “Asrock 939 DUAL-SATA2” in the Google search box at the top of this page, with its Web radio button enabled, for links to information and vendor sites. To find other such motherboards, try using this search: motherboard + support + “agp and pci express”.

Motherboard reviews

Expert Reviews – Motherboard reviews –
http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/motherboards
Motherboard reviewshttp://www.pcpro.co.uk/reviews/motherboards
Motherboards.org – http://www.motherboards.org/
Tom’s Hardware – Motherboards: Articles & Reviews –
http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/review/Components,1/Motherboards,2/

How to identify a computer’s motherboard

The make and model of the motherboard installed in a computer is not identified in the Device Manager, and it might also not be possible to identify it by examining it. If you need to know the make and model in order to download a user manual, driver updates, and software patches from its manufacturer’s site, click here! to go directly to the links of some free ID utilities on the second of the four Links pages on this site.
If you want a quick way to identify a PC’s processor, motherboard, and RAM, the free CPU-Z is ideal. It provides plenty of information on those components in Windows XP/Windows Vista/Windows 7.

It displays all of the information about the processor that you might need to know, such as its make and model, clock speed, FSB and clock multiplier settings in MHz, etc. – http://www.cpuid.org/cpuz.php

The driver updates for a motherboard include the USB Controller, IDE busmaster driver file, and the AGP bus driver file. BIOS file updates should also be available.
Another useful source of system information is provided by the System Information utility. In a Windows 9x and in a Windows XP system, this can be accessed via System Tools under Programs => Accessories, or quickly by entering msinfo32 in the Start => Run box. In Windows Vista, enter msinfo32 in the Start => Start Search box, because the Run box is no longer provided by default but can be restored. In Windows 7, enter msinfo32 in the Start => Search programs and files box.


The safest way to upgrade RAM memory: Use the UK and US Crucial Memory Advisors

Paul Mullen, who was the highly-respected computer guru of the Helpfile at ComputerShopper.co.uk – “I have recently been buying my memory only from Crucial Technology. I would rather pay the extra cost than waste time trying to track down the obscure program faults that bad memory can cause.”
The best way to choose RAM memory for a brand-name desktop or laptop computer, or memory for a particular make/model of PC motherboard is to make use of the Crucial Memory Advisors (provided under the brief guideline on the minimum memory requirements for Windws XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7). If the Crucial memory you receive does not work, you are guaranteed a refund and standard shipping is free.

The memory requirements of the versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7

Most of the versions of Windows Vista require more RAM memory to run optimally on a computer that doesn’t use memory-hungry applications than Windows XP. A video-editing application is an example of memory-intensive software. Only Windows Vista Home Basic has a recommended minimum amount of memory of 512MB, which is the same amount recommended for Windows XP. Windows Vista Home Premium, the most popular version, and Windows Vista Ultimate require a recommended minimum of 1GB (1024MB) of memory, which is twice the amount of minimum memory recommended to run Windows XP. Note that if you are using a 64-bit version of Windows, up to 4.0GB, it requires twice the amount of memory as a 32-bit version, which can only use a maximum of about 3.5GB. For more information on computer memory, read the RAM pages of this site, which includes information on the lower memory requirements of Windows 7.

UK – Crucial Memory Advisor – UK

The Crucial Memory Advisor™ Select your system and press go!
Select a manufacturer A Open A Trend ABIT Acer Adaptec Advantech Advent AIR AJP Albatron Alienware ALR Altima Amptron AMS Tech Apaq Apple Apricot ARM Armari ASRock AST ASUS AT&T ATI Atlas Averatec Axil Biostar Broadax Systems Brother Campus Canon Carrera Chaintech ChemUSA Cisco Clevo Cobalt Networks Commax Compaq Compuadd CTX Daewoo Dan Data General Dell Diamond – Micronics Diamond Flower (DFI) Digital Elite Group (ECS) Elonex eMachines Encad EPoX Epson Ergo Everex Evesham FIC Fluke Networks FOSA Fujitsu-Siemens Gateway Gericom Giga-Byte Hi-Grade Hitachi HP HyperData IBM Intel Intergraph Iwill Jetta Jetway KDS Kyocera Lexmark MAG Matsonic Maxdata Maxtech Media-On Medion Mesh Micronics MicronPC (now MPC) Microworkz Mitac Monorail Motion Computing Motorola MSI (Micro Star) Multivision My Favorite PC NCD NEC NetFRAME Nokia Olivetti Packard Bell Panasonic Panrix PC Chips Pico Pionex Polar Polywell Power Computing ProStar QDI Quantex Rock Samsung Sceptre SGI (Silicon Graphics) Sharp Shuttle Soltek Sony Soyo Sun Supermicro Tadpole Tekram Tektronix TI Time Tiny Toshiba Twinhead Tyan Ultra Umax Unisys VIA Technologies Viewsonic Viglen Vobis vpr Wedge WinBook WinSystems Xerox Zenith Zeos

USA – Crucial Memory Advisor – USA

The Crucial Memory Advisor™ Select your system and press go!
Select a manufacturer A Open A Trend ABIT Acer Adaptec Advantech Advent AIR AJP Albatron Alienware ALR Altima Amptron AMS Tech Apaq Apple Apricot ARM Armari ASRock AST ASUS AT&T ATI Atlas Averatec Axil Biostar Broadax Systems Brother Campus Canon Carrera Chaintech ChemUSA Cisco Clevo Cobalt Networks Commax Compaq Compuadd CTX Daewoo Dan Data General Dell Diamond – Micronics Diamond Flower (DFI) Digital Elite Group (ECS) Elonex eMachines Encad EPoX Epson Ergo Everex Evesham FIC Fluke Networks FOSA Fujitsu-Siemens Gateway Gericom Giga-Byte Hi-Grade Hitachi HP HyperData IBM Intel Intergraph Iwill Jetta Jetway KDS Kyocera Lexmark MAG Matsonic Maxdata Maxtech Media-On Medion Mesh Micronics MicronPC (now MPC) Microworkz Mitac Monorail Motion Computing Motorola MSI (Micro Star) Multivision My Favorite PC NCD NEC NetFRAME Nokia Olivetti Packard Bell Panasonic Panrix PC Chips Pico Pionex Polar Polywell Power Computing ProStar QDI Quantex Rock Samsung Sceptre SGI (Silicon Graphics) Sharp Shuttle Soltek Sony Soyo Sun Supermicro Tadpole Tekram Tektronix TI Time Tiny Toshiba Twinhead Tyan Ultra Umax Unisys VIA Technologies Viewsonic Viglen Vobis vpr Wedge WinBook WinSystems Xerox Zenith Zeos

How to Use the Crucial Memory Advisor

For example, if your computer has an Asus motherboard, open the menu, scroll down to ASUS, and click GO. If, say, you have a Dell computer, scroll down to DELL, and do likewise. You will be taken to the relevant information on Crucial’s website.

If you don’t know the make and model of the motherboard installed in your computer, here is a good free utility – Belarc Advisor – that creates an analysis of the hardware and software on a personal computer. Look under FREE DOWNLOAD – http://www.belarc.com/. Another utility that also provides detailed information on the memory itself is CPU-Z.


Motherboards rated and reviewed by Expert Reviews

To find vendors and other reviews for the following motherboards reviwed by Expert Reviews, enter the make and model (enclosed within double quotation marks) in the Google search box at the top of this page (with its Web radio button enabled). Note that you can download illustrated user manuals for all motherboards from their manufacturers’ websites that provide information on the processors that each motherboard supports and all of its other features and specifications. If you need advice on the choice of motherboard, the following article is a good place to visit.
Best Of Tom’s Hardware: Beginner’s Guide To Motherboard Selection : Which Features Matter Most To You?
“Tom’s Hardware has supported new PC builders since 1997 with tips, tricks, and sage advice. Our most complete motherboard-selection guide was published back in 2006. Today’s updates address the latest interfaces for current PC builders. Enjoy!” –

The latest Intel-based and AMD-based motherboard reviews can be read on Expert Reviews: http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/motherboards
Here are some sample reviews:
1.Expert Reviews gave the Asus M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3 AMD-based Socket AM3 motherboard that provides USB 3.0 ports a five-star rating.
Asus M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3 review – “An AMD[-based] [mother]board with everything you need, plus some great features for easily getting the most out of AMD’s cheaper processors.” The new SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports are provided. –
http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/motherboards/278761/asus-m4a88td-v-evo-usb3
2.Expert Reviews gave the Gigabyte GA-MA785GMT-UD2H AMD-based Socket AM3 motherboard a five-star rating.
Specificationshttp://www.overclock.net/hardware-news/…
Reviewhttp://www.expertreviews.co.uk/motherboards/268915/…
3.Expert Reviews gave the following Socket LGA1156 motherboard that runs the latest Intel Core i5 and Core i7 quad-core processors a five-star rating:

Product reviews – Gigabyte P55M-UD4 motherboard – SPECIFICATIONS: Socket LGA1156, Intel P55 Express chipset, 4x DDR3 800/1066/1333/2200 RAM memory slots, 2x PCI Express x16 slots for graphics cards, 1x PCI Express x4 slot, 1x PCI slot, 1x IDE port, 7x SATA II ports.
4.Expert Reviews gave a five-star ratings to the following Intel-based Socket LGA1366 motherboard:
MSI X58 Pro – Five stars – Best Buy award – Socket LGA1366 for Intel Core i7 processors – Intel X58/Intel ICH10R chipset – 6 DDR3 800/1066/1333 slots – 3 PCI-Express x16 slots – 2 PCI-Express x1 and 2 PCI slots – 7 SATA 300 and 6 USB ports – Two-year return-to-base (RTB) warranty – £162 in May 2009.

The motherboard specifications and features that you should know about

The table below shows the motherboard features and specifications that you should know about. Click the headings that appear as blue links to go to information on this site about that particular specification.



Make and model of motherboard and its form factor


Supported processors


Socket


RAM – Type and maximum amount


PCI Express slots


AGP


Additional features – See the Key below
ATX


CPU support
(Too many to list)


AM3


DDR3 800 / 1066 / 1333 / 1600 (Overclocked)
Gen2 (1×16, 1×8) N/A

HDMI
RAID

eSATA



Asus A8N-VM CSM-UAYGZ

m-ATX


AMD Athlon 64, Athlon 64 FX, Athlon 64 X2 (dual-core)


939


DDR – 4GB


One x16 graphics and one x1 slots




V/SATA II/A
IDE/RAID

D-sub/DVI

F (bracket)


Asus A8N-SLI Premium
ATX

Two SLI video card slots


AMD Athlon 64, Athlon 64 FX, Athlon 64 X2 (dual-core)


939


DDR – 4GB


Two x16 graphics, one x1, and one x4 slots




A/SATA/SATA II/IDE/RAID
F(bracket)


MSI K8N SLI
ATX

Two SLI video card slots


AMD Athlon 64, Athlon 64 FX, Athlon 64 X2 (dual-core)


939


DDR – 4GB


Two x16 graphics, two x1 slots




A/SATA II/IDE
RAID


ECS 945P-A
ATX

The two video card slots can be used for two ATI cards using CrossFire technology


Celeron D, Pentium D (both duel-core), Pentium 4


LGA775


DDR2 – 4GB


Two x16 graphics, one x1 slots




A/SATA II/IDE
RAID


Abit AX8
ATX


AMD Athlon 64, Athlon 64 FX, Athlon 64 X2 (dual-core)


939


DDR – 4GB


One x16 graphics and three x1 slots




A/SATA/IDE
RAID


Epox 5NVA+ SLI
ATX

Two SLI video card slots


Celeron D, Pentium D (both duel-core), Pentium 4


LGA775


DDR2 – 4GB


Two x16 graphics, two x1 slots




A/SATA/IDE
RAID

Key for the information in the Additional features column

Click on the make-and-model links to visit the manufacturers sites to download the user manuals for any of their motherboards/mainboards that should contain the full specifications, installation instructions, and settings.
mATX stands for the micro-ATX form factor, which is a small ATX form-factor motherboard that should fit in a standard ATX case. There is more on motherboard and case form factors further down this article.
All current motherboards have USB 2.0 ports and some now have USB 3.0 ports, but not all of them have FireWire ports, which are used for attaching a MiniDV camcorder or external FireWire hard disk drive, so you need to look for this feature if, say, you need it for using that kind of device with your computer.
Note that if FireWire and USB brackets that connect to connection headers (built into the surface area of some motherboards) are used, the bracket (backplate) containing the ports usually has to be installed in an outlet used by a PCI slot. The ports on the bracket are then connected to the headers by cables.
A = onboard audio (sound). Most motherboards provide onboard sound, which can be disabled if you make use of a dedicated internal or external sound card/device. Visit the Sound section of this website for more information on this subject. The motherboard must have a block od 6 (not 3) connectors for all of the sound options to be used at the same time.
V = onboard (integrated) video/graphics chip. Visit the Graphics section of this website for more information on this subject.
AGP = Accelerated Graphics Port. None of the motherboards in the table above has an AGP graphics port, so an AGP graphics card cannot be used with them.
D-sub / DVI = the motherboard has integrated graphics and provides a standard analog D-sub VGA graphics port and/or a digital graphics port that connects the computer to one or more monitors.
Note that SLI motherboards use a chipset made by nVidia, the developer of SLI dual-graphics-card technology, so the motherboard cannot be used to run two CrossFire compliant graphics cards made by ATI (now called AMD), but you can use two ATI cards connected to two monitors. The cards just won’t be able to work together to play a PC game, etc. See the Monitors pages on this site for information on using two monitors from two graphics cards or from a single graphics card that supports dual monitors.
IDE = connector(s) for standard IDE PATA hard drives. All of the motherboards in the table above provide both IDE and SATA connectors. Note that some of the latest motherboards do not provide an IDE connector, but many still provide a legacy IDE port. An IDE hard disk drive can be connected to an SATA connector on a motherboard via an adapter and an SATA drive can also be connected to an IDE connector by using special adapter.
IDE (PATA) to SATA Adapter for IDE Hard Driveshttp://www.satacables.com/html/IDE_to_SATA_adapter_JM20330.html
SATA Hard Drive to IDE (ATA-133/100) UDMA PATA Adapterhttp://www.satacables.com/html/sata_to_ide_adapter.html
SATA = Serial ATA hard-disk-drive connection, which all new motherboards provide. SATA II is the latest type of SATA. Some motherboards provide an eSATA port for the attachment of and external SATA hard drive or CD/DVD drive. There are three SATA standards – SATA 1, SATA 2/SATA II and SATA 3. SATA 3 and SATA 2 devices can run on an SATA 1 motherboard or adapter-card host controller, which is called backward compatibility. These three standards are also forward-compatible. An SATA 1 drive will run on an SATA 3 controller, etc., but a drive using the earlier standard cannot run at the faster data-transfer speeds of a later version.
SATA versions and backwards compatability
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ua685ReXFnI
eSATA – (External Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) is an external interface for SATA technologies, used mainly for external hard disk drives and CD/DVD/Blu-ray optical drives, competing with USB and FireWire.
F = FireWire port(s). The motherboard provides a FireWire port from the motherboard itself or from a bracket containing a FireWire port that is connected to a header on the motherboard by a cable.
HDMI – “HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) is a compact audio/video interface for transmitting uncompressed digital data. It represents a digital alternative to consumer analog standards, such as radio frequency (RF) coaxial cable, composite video, S-Video, SCART, component video, D-Terminal, or VGA. HDMI connects digital audio/video sources—such as set-top boxes, upconvert DVD players, HD DVD players, Blu-ray Disc players, personal computers (PCs), video game consoles such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and AV receivers—to compatible digital audio devices, computer monitors, and digital televisions.[1] HDMI supports, on a single cable, any TV or PC video format, including standard, enhanced, and high-definition video; up to 8 channels of digital audio; and a Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) connection.” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HDMI
RAID – The motherboard supports using the RAID configurations of hard disk drives. Check the motherboard’s user manual for more information.
L = onboard Local Area Network (LAN) connection. None of the motherboards in the table above provides a LAN port, which, if required can be added by installing an adapter card.
S = SCSI hard-disk-drive controller (none of the above boards has one).
ACR = slot for an Advanced Communications Riser card (none of the above motherboards has one).
CNR = slot for a Communication Network Riser card (none of the above motherboards has one).
Note that most of the latest motherboards have a x16 PCI Express slot for the video/graphics card instead of an AGP slot. In addition to PCI slots, such motherboards usually have at least one x1 PCI Express slot that is used for other adapter cards, such as PCI Express sound cards, network cards, and dial-up modems, etc., that are not available yet (September, 2005). One or more of the larger x4 PCI Express slots used to be provided on most motherboards, but they have mostly disappeared from the latest motherboards, undoubtedly because no devices for the slot are planned.
The image of a MSI KN8 Neo4 Platinum Edition Socket 939 motherboard for AMD Athlon 64 and Athlon 64 FX processors, shows all of the PCI Express slots. Since standard PCI slots are still available on all motherboards, apart from video cards, the device manufacturers have decided not to make the change to PCI Express.
There is information on the PCI Express standard a little further down this page.


The motherboard’s chipset

Reputable motherboards use the best chipsets. Equivalent to the conductor in an orchestra, these vital components run the show. Without them nothing would work.
The performance of a motherboard and its features are mostly determined by its chipset, which usually consists of two chips – a north bridge and a south bridge.
The new BTX form-factor motherboards are designed so that a single cooling heatsink and fan unit keeps both the processor and the northbridge chip cool, whereas with the current ATX form factor only the processor is covered by the cooling unit.
The north bridge chip of the chipset is often kept cool by a passive (no fan) heatsink, or by a heatsink and fan unit, because it links and has control over the high-speed components – the processor, the video card, the RAM – and also links to the south bridge chip, which links to the north bridge chip and to the slower components – the IDE and PCI buses, and communications and input devices.
There are hundreds of motherboards available at any one time, but only a relatively small number of chipsets that provide their core functionality.
Different motherboards that use the same chipsets offer similar performance and features, but the difference between chipsets can be quite marked, with those motherboards that offer the best performance and features usually being the most expensive from manufacturers such as Asus, Abit, MSI, ECS, and Gigabyte.
The manufacturers of motherboards use new chipsets made by chipset manufacturers, such as VIA, Intel, ALi, and SiS, for every motherboard they bring out these days, so I am not going to provide any examples here. The end of the third Motherboard page of this article provides links to sites that provide motherboard reviews. If you know the make and model of a motherboard, you can download the user manual from its manufacturer’s site. It contains all of the technical information about the motherboard, including information on the chipset.

The web sites of the most popular motherboard chipset manufacturers

Intel – http://www.intel.com/ and – http://support.intel.com/support/chipsets/
VIA Technologies Inc. – http://www.via.com.tw/
Silicon Integrated Systems (SiS) http://www.sis.com/
Acer Laboratories Inc. (ALi) – http://www.ali.com.tw/
NEChttp://www.nec.com/
ATI/AMD – http://www.amd.com/ (ATI is now named after its owner, AMD)
nVidia – http://www.nvidia.com/
If you want to know about a particular motherboard, video card, sound card, USB, FireWire, or modem chipset, just enter its name in the Google search box at the top of this page in order to find the links that should provide you with all of the information you need.


The Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 caches

A cache is the part of a processor of a computer designed to reduce the time to access RAM memory because the access speed works at the speed of the processor instead of at the speed of the slower system bus that serves the system memory. The cache stores data that is in the main memory locations that are used most frequently. As long as most memory accesses are cached memory locations, the average latency (delay between data accesses) of memory accesses will be closer to the cache latency than to the slower latency of main RAM memory that is driven by the system bus.
Most modern desktop and server processors have at least three independent caches called Level 1 (L1), Level 2 (L2) and Level 3 (L3) caches. Multilevel caches function by the processor checking the smallest Level 1 (L1) cache for data first. If it is successful, the processor proceeds at its own high speed. If the smaller cache doesn’t contain frequently-used data, the next larger cache (L2) is checked, followed by the next larger cache (L3), before the main system memory is checked.
The first cached single-core processors made by Intel and AMD only had L1 and L2 caches. AMD introduced the Level 3 (L3) cache with its early single-core K6-3 processors.
A current (March 2010) AMD Phenom II quad-core processor has up to 6MB on-die unified L3 cache, while a current Intel Core i7 quad-core processor has an 8 MB on-die unified L3 cache that is inclusive, shared by all cores. The advantages of an L3 cache depends on how the program being used makes use of a multi-core processor – that is, whether or not the program has been written to take advantage of a two, three or four-core processor (at the time of writing, Intel had just introduced a 6-core or hexacore processor). If you want performance from a processor, it’s best to ignore the number of caches and other features, such as a memory controller and onboard graphics, and just read the reviews of processors that provide comparative benchmark tests.

CPU cachehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CPU_cache#Multi-level_caches
How Caching Works: http://computer.howstuffworks.com/cache.htm

Is Cache Size Really The Key To Boosting Performance? –
Does Cache Size Really Boost Performance?
“While cache size only had a limited impact on the synthetic benchmarks such as PCMark05, the performance difference in most real-life benchmarks was significant. This was surprising at first, because experience tells us that performance differences can typically be found in most synthetic benchmarks, while little of it is eventually reflected in real-life benchmarks.” –

Visit the AMD or Intel sites to find out what the technical specifications, including the cache sizes, for their current processors are.
Click Sockets for more information on processor sockets on this site.


What kind of computer meets your requirements?

Before choosing a computer (containing a particular motherboard), or motherboard to purchase you have to determine what kind of system meets your requirements.
Do you need the fastest processing power currently available, special features for specialist computing needs, or value for money?
Once you know the answer to that question, you will be better able to make the necessary technical decision.
The first choice to make is whether to purchase a computer or motherboard that uses a processor made by AMD or Intel – currently the only two manufacturer’s of PC processors worth considering.
Visit the Processors pages on this site for the kind of information you need to make a choice of processor, which are now avilable as dual-core processors (two processor cores housed in a single unit), and will soon be available as quad-core processors (four processor cores housed in a single unit.)


Motherboard-monitoring and/or controlling software

Information on processor cooling is provided further down this page and on the Processors pages on this site.
You should also know that the many motherboards that run the latest processors from AMD and Intel have power-down or power-off hardware and software solutions that are designed to prevent the destruction of the processor from overheating should its heatsink and fan unit fail.

Most of the major motherboard manufacturers, such as MSI, provide hardware-monitoring software for their motherboards. The utility that MSI currently provides (October 2006) is called PCAlert4.
If the computer’s motherboard manufacturer doesn’t provide monitoring software with the motherboard or free from its site, there are shareware alternatives such as Hmonitor from http://www.hmonitor.net/.
Hmonitor (for Windows XP/2000/2003/Vista) provides motherboard and processor temperatures for two processors (for use on a motherboard that can support two processors), the temperatures of three hard disk drives, the processor temperatures for two processors, reports the system voltages, and can report the fan speed, graphics processing unit (GPU) and video RAM temperatures, and the voltages of the system’s AGP video card.
“Hardware sensors monitor is another program nobody should be without. This program is one of the best hardware sensor programs that allows you to check the temperature of any component on your computer with a sensor. It also has alarms that can be set when the temperature goes too high and even has built in software cooling.”
February 6 2005. – Motherboard Monitor is no longer supported, but it still works on most systems, and is still available (free) from many download sites. Locate it by entering “motherboard monitor”, as is in the Google search box provided at the top of this page (with its Web radio button enabled).
This site provides links to other sites that provide motherboard monitoring software:
http://www.passmark.com/products/temperature.htm
SpeedFan – freeware: http://www.almico.com/speedfan.php
“SpeedFan is a freeware program that monitors fan speeds, temperatures and voltages in computers with hardware monitoring chips. SpeedFan can even access S.M.A.R.T. info for those hard disks that support this feature and show hard disk temperatures too, if supported. SpeedFan can even change the FSB on some motherboards (but this should be considered a bonus feature). At the lowest level, SpeedFan is hardware monitoring software, but its main feature is that it can control the speed of the fans (depending on the capabilities of your sensor chip and your hardware) according to the temperatures inside your pc, thus reducing noise and power consumption.”

Hardware case fan controls

If your computer runs two or more case fans to keep it cool, they can produce quite a bit of noise. The slower the fans run, the less noise they produce. If your fans don’t have speed-control dials on them, it is possible to purchase a fan controller that can slow them down.
Fan Control Pro made by Akasa is a good example of a fan controller. The unit has fan control dials that can control four fans and it plugs into a spare 5 1/4″ drive bay. You have to connect the fans to the unit, which also provides thermal monitoring, instead of to the motherboard, or power supply unit. You should also use the hardware-monitoring software that is provided by your motherboard’s manufacturer. By reducing the speed of the fans carefully and watching the temperatures, you can maintain adequate cooling with the fans running as slowly and as silently as possible.

Google searches

You can make use of the Google search box provided at the top of this page (with its Web radio button enabled) to locate other hardware fan controllers. I tried using fan + controllers + uk as the search term and it brought up many interesting-looking links.

How to save power with regard to using computers

Read these two articles if you’re interested in finding out how to go about saving power with regard to using computers. The first article starts off by discussing “power requirement differences of idle and load system states, and how to save energy on an existing system by utilizing power saving options and paying attention to certain components.” –
The Power Saving Guide –
The Power Saving Guide, Part 2

Upgrading, replacing, or installing a motherboard in a new system

Microsoft ends support for Windows 98/98 SE/Me

June 24, 2006. – On July 11, 2006, Microsoft ended support for both Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition (SE) and Windows Millennium Edition (Me). This means that Microsoft will no longer provide security updates for these operating systems, and will no longer provide (paid) incident support. Only self-help support will be available until at least July 10, 2007. You can still use those versions of Windows, but, unless Microsoft changes its mind, they will not be updated after that date.

The Build a PC section of this site contains all of the information you need on how to build a computer from its components, the most important of which is the motherboard.
If you just want to see how to install a motherboard in a case, view this video:
Tiger How To: Install a Motherboard –
There is no need to use an anti-static wriststrap, just touch metal that is not insulated from the ground, such as the PC’s case.
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=x4Mx1n7qRTE
Removing a motherboard is the same as the process of installing it done in reverse.
You should note that you can remove a motherboard and install a new one and Windows 95, 98, and Me will detect new hardware and install the new device drivers for the chipset, or require the user to browse to the source of the drivers on a disk (CD/DVD or floppy disk, etc.) or as a download in a particular folder.
With these versions of Windows, the user should press the F8 key before Windows begins its start-up and boot into Safe mode after the new motherboard has been installed. All of the drivers to do with the old motherboard’s chipset should be removed so that Windows can load the chipset drivers for the new motherboard. Doing this isn’t essential, because Windows 95/98/Me will install the new drivers in any case, but it clears the system of the old drivers, which may still be listed in the Device Manager in Safe mode, but not be visible in the Device Manager in normal mode.
Note that Windows XP is not nearly as tolerant of numerous hardware changes as Windows 95, 98, and Me are, probably due to Product Activation, and that is also the case with Windows Vista and Windows 7, which both still use it.
Most sources advise users to perform a clean installation and reactivation of Windows if the motherboard is replaced due to failure or is upgraded, because system problems are common after Windows XP installs the new device drivers for the motherboard. This situation also applies to Windows Vista and Windows 7.
However, How can I replace the motherboard in my PC without having to reinstall Windows XP? show you how to do that.
There are also issues involved with Windows Product Activation when installing a new motherboard if it is a system-locked OEM copy of Windows XP. In this case, read this article on this site called: Windows Product Activation on a computer with an OEM licence (US: license).

****

Click here! to go directly to information on the first Build a PC page on this site about taking the precautions you must take against static electricity before you install a computer component.
Click here! to go directly to the Disclaimer on the same page. It contains other important information that you should be aware of before working on a computer. Use your browser’s Back button to return to this page.

Computer hardware troubleshooting flowcharts

As you can see from looking at any of the diagnostic charts made available from the following links, there are no photo-illustrations or explanations of basic computer functions. The intended audience is the hobbyist or technician who already has some experience of repairing computers.
If you can understand a particular flowchart, it would be a good idea to print them just in case you can’t boot your computer and you need the information.
CPU, RAM, and Motherboard Troubleshooting:


IDE ATA and Serial ATA drives

IDE ATA hard disk and CD/DVD drives are most commonly fitted to the primary and secondary IDE connectors provided by ATX motherboards, but Serial ATA (SATA) hard disk drives are now supported by most new motherboards. CD/DVD drives, being much slower to access, don’t require a faster standard than IDE ATA, but, no doubt, they will also soon increasingly migrated over to SATA.
For more information on this subject on this site, visit the Disk Drives pages.


PCI version 3 (PCI Extended)

21 April 2004 – The PCI Special Interest Group announced the release of version 3.0 of PCI (the Peripheral Component Interconnect standard), known as PCI Extended (PCI-X) to distinguish it from the emerging PCI Express standard that is covered a little further down this page.
If you see PCIe or PCI-E shown in the specification list of a computer or motherboard this stands for PCI Express.
Don’t confuse PCI-X (or PCIx) with the PCI Express standard, because it stands for PCI Extended, which is an much improved extension of the PCI standard that is fully backwardly compatible with the previous versions of the PCI standard.
The new PCI standard migrates from supporting 5V to using 3.3V, which current PCI adapter cards use. However, PCI cards that are keyed to use both 5V and 3.3V continue to be supported.
You can make use of the Google search box (with its Web radio button enabled) to locate more information about PCI-E.


The latest PCI Express graphics standard

Click here! to go to information on the PCI Express graphics standard in the Video and Graphics section of this site. Use your browser’s Back button to return to this point on this page.

Click here! to go to information on nVidia’s SLI implementation of PCI Express dual-graphics-card technology on this site.
Click here! to go to information on ATI’s CrossFire implementation of PCI Express dual-graphics-card technology on this site.
Note that the video/graphics card manufacturer, ATI, which was purchased by AMD, is now called AMD.

The motherboard’s CMOS (BIOS) battery

Click here! to go directly to information on the CMOS battery on the BIOS page of this site.
There is also information there about how to set the Reset CMOS jumper that is found on most motherboards. In short, you set the jumper to clear or retain the customised CMOS data (BIOS settings).
Motherboard manufacturers can have the jumper set to the clear setting, because the battery is disconnected and therefore won’t run down while the motherboard is in storage. The computer will boot, but will use the the default BIOS settings. If that is the case, the jumper has to be reset to connect the battery in order for customised settings to be retained and used whenever the computer boots. This happens because the default settings are hard-coded into the CMOS chip, therefore they can always be recovered, while the customised settings are held in the chip’s volatile memory, and will disappear if the battery is disconnected or runs down.
Some new motherboards now have rechargeable batteries that are kept fully charged by the motherboard when the computer is in use.
Clearing the CMOS by using the relevant jumper setting can often fix boot problems.


Keeping the processor cool

The latest super-fast processors have to be kept cool to function.
You don’t want the protective measures built into the motherboard and BIOS to suddenly kick in while you’re using a computer, because the system will shut down, and you’ll probably lose anything that wasn’t saved to disk in time.
Note well that older motherboards/processors that don’t have build-in shutdown protection will probably be destroyed by overheating, so if this is the case with your motherboard, make sure that you check that the heatsink and fan unit over the processor is working properly on a regular basis.
Because of its crucial importance, the Intel Pentium 4/Core 2 Duo and AMD Athlon 64 motherboards all have built-in overheating protection.
You can buy heatsink and fan cooling units that provide superior cooling to the cooling units that come with Intel and AMD boxed, retail processors. Here is a review of such a cooling unit:
Vigor’s Monsoon II TEC CPU Cooler –
http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/…review-2114.html
Keeping Your CPU Going If Your Cooler Fails
“We took low-cost and high-end processors from both AMD and Intel and put them to the test with regular cooling, as well as in a simulation of a broken CPU fan. In so doing, we discovered that there still are considerable differences between AMD and Intel…” –
http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/cpu-cooler-fails,review-29650.html
Zalman is a manufacturer of quality power supplies and processor (CPU) coolers. You can visit the company’s website to get an idea of what is on offer: http://www.zalman.co.kr/.

Water cooling systems

Water-cooled systems have been available for some time, but it is expensive compared to using the usual heatsink and fan coolers. Here is an illustrated article on how to install a water-cooling system:
A Beginner’s Guide For WaterCooling Your PC
http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/…review-2126.html
Comparing Water Coolers: We Follow Your Lead –
“Water cooling in the PC is still pretty far removed from the mainstream, but Swiftech aims to change that with an affordable system for CPUs designed to make water cooling more accessible to the power user who wants to get their feet wet (pun intended) with liquid cooling…” – http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/comparing-water-coolers,review-29667.html
And here is an article on hybrid coolers that are mixture of fan and water cooling:
Radical CPU Coolers from CoolIT –
“With its Freezone and Eliminator coolers, CoolIT brings hybrid Peltier/liquid cooling to the masses. How do the two coolers stand up against cooling systems using other methods?” –
http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/…review-2338.html
Zalman Reserator 2 Water Cooling System [Video review] –
http://www.tomsgames.com/us/site/../zalman_reserator_2_water_cooling_system.html
For information on heatsink and fan units, and thermal paste and thermal pads, visit the Processors pages on this site.


Desktop PC Cases and Case Fans

ATX PC case with transparent side, without a power supply

The PC case with its power supply unit (PSU) are crucial components whose importance is often overlooked. This is a serious oversight, because the case (with its power supply) is as important to a PC’s stability and performance as its RAM memory, motherboard and processor. The case should be well designed so that it is quiet (has no whining fans) and keeps the internal hardware adequately cooled. The case should also provide easy access to its components so that it is easy to work on.
A power supply unit (PSU) usually comes with a PC case, but PC cases without a power supply can be purchased, requiring the power supply to be purchased separately.
They also come in several different sizes and types – mini-tower, midi-tower, full tower, and desktop (the case lies horizontally on the desk instead of vertically like a tower case). Since most users don’t require anything more than a midi-tower case, it is the type most commonly used in the construction of a personal computer.
Most of the current PC cases have some tool-free features, such as clips that retain adapter cards, thumbscrews for the side panels, and tool-free drive bays that have plastic rails that clip to the side of the hard disk drive(s) and CD/DVD drive(s).
AT (redundant technology), and ATX cases and motherboards are the most common types used in personal computers.
AT cases and motherboards have been superseded by the ATX standard, which, was expected to be superseded by the BTX standard that Dell already uses for all of its Intel-based desktop PCs. However, that succession has not happened and the ATX form factor is still king.
Home Theater PC (HTPC) cases, which usually lie horizontally as opposed to vertically, can usually accommodate standard ATX components, so it isn’t necessary to buy specially-sized motherboards or half-height adapter (video, sound, etc.) cards.
The description of a motherboard that indicates its type is called its form factor. ATX form-factor motherboards fit inside ATX cases.
An article on Tom’s Hardware Guide, made available on December 6, 2005, called Either Way ATX or BTX Cases, which was still available in February 2008, discusses both types of PC case. –
http://www.tomshardware.com/2005/12/06/either_way_atx_or_btx_cases/index.html
More information will be provided in this article and others on this site, such as Build a PC, but if you want to read technical information on the different form factors, visit http://www.formfactors.org.
Expert Reviews gave the following ATX cases five-star reviews. Click on the links to go to the manufacturers’ sites. Note that none of them comes with a power supply unit, which would have to be purchased separately. Other cases reviewed by Expert Reviews on this page – http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/cases – have power supplies. Therefore, make sure that a case comes with a power supply unit of quality if you don’t want to buy one yourself. Note that many cheap cases that come with a power supply unit (PSU), provide a cheap unit that should be replaced with a unit of quality.
1.Antec Three Hundred – Midi-tower case – Priced at £39 in February 2009.
2.Antec Solo – Midi-tower case – Best Buy award – Priced at £73 in February 2009.
3.Akasa AK-ZEN-01 BK – Midi-tower case – Budget Buy award – Priced at £38 in February 2009.
Note that Antec, Cooler Master, and Silverstone manufacture cases and power supply units.
Small Water Versus Big Air, Part 3: Cooling Questions Answered
“Parts one and two of our air and self-contained water cooler reviews compared components on an open bench with each model’s included fan. Understanding that performance will differ in an enclosure, what happens when we install these solutions in a case?” –
http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/h50-fort120-cogage,review-31974.html

Part 1: Four Gaming Enclosures Under $50 (August 2010) –
“Sometimes, overclocking is the key to getting budget hardware humming along at enthusiast-class performance levels. But getting there requires extra cooling. Today we’re examining the performance of four low-cost gaming enclosures under $50 bucks.” –

Three Gaming Cases, With Power, Under $100 (July 2010) –
“Case and power supply combos always look like a bargain, but bargain-basement parts have always seemed to chase experienced builders away. Today, we consider three budget-enthusiast models to determine if any of them can meet our basic gaming needs.” –
http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/usp-100-griffin-vi1450bws,review-31936.html
Roundup: Four Gaming Cases Under $150
“Several vendors market their enclosures specifically toward gamers, but nobody has really defined what makes a gaming case. We take a look at examples from Cooler Master, NZXT, Thermaltake, and Zalman with the aim of shedding more light on this segment.” –
http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/gaming-computer-case,review-31843.html

Five Gaming Enclosures [PC Cases], Rounded Up
“The cases in this roundup range in price from $120 to $400; these are not your $49, low-end, plastic chassis. All of them feature several fans, but I still tested their cooling abilities on a fairly standard Core i7 setup. Of course, to really throw in a challenge, I added a ridiculously hot graphics card (an ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2-based card from Asus), as if any number of fans can keep that monster cool.” –

Corsair fire a broadside at the chassis guys –
http://tv.hexus.net/show/2009/03/Corsair_fire_a_broadside_at_the_chassis_guys/

Enlight 7230 ATX PC case

In the image of an empty ATX case above, you can see the view of the power supply unit (PSU) showing its fan outlet in the top foreground corner, and directly under it, the vertical alignment of the ports panel.
This is where the ports that are built into an ATX motherboard come through. The two round outlets at the top of the ports panel for PS/2 mouse and keyboard can clearly be seen, and under them is the long vertical outlet for the motherboard’s parallel port. And under the ports panel are the six horizontally aligned outlets for ISA, PCI, and AGP adapter cards that are fitted into slots on the motherboard.
The image below shows the back of a similar empty case. The ports panel (covered by an I/O plate) for the motherboard’s ports has had all of the metal cut-outs removed. This is a standard ATX case, and ISA, PCI, and AGP adapter cards will be fitted in their slots on the motherboard so that their face plates and ports appear through the five horizontally aligned openings that are under the motherboard’s ports panel.

Back view of a standard ATX  case showing the motherboard's ports panel

The image below shows a close-up view of the ports panel’s I/O plate (far right) that is provided with a PC case, and with most new motherboards.

The I/O plate or ports panel (far right) fitted into the back of a case to accommodate the ports on a motherboard

In this example, there are no removable metal covers over the I/O plate’s cut-outs, because the ports panel came with a motherboard, the ports of which fit into all of the cut-outs. The ports are, from top to bottom and left to right, three sound ports for the inbuilt sound capability, a FireWire port, four USB ports, a legacy parallel port, two legacy serial ports, and PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports.
The I/O ports plate that is provided with a case will probably have removable metal covers, because outlets for more ports, such as a video port where the motherboard has an inbuilt video capacity, will be provided. If you fit a motherboard that doesn’t use any of the extra port outlets, they will remain covered, and therefore won’t affect the cooling of the case by leaving holes.
Note that not all of the cut-outs in the ports panels match when comparing those of the two images above. Only the three central cut-outs for a legacy parallel port and two legacy serial ports match. You should therefore always make sure that you will be getting the I/O plate for the ports panel when purchasing a second-hand motherboard, because the one already fitted into your case might not be able to accommodate the replacement motherboard properly.
When installing a new motherboard, you would remove the existing I/O ports plate in the case, and replace it with the one that came with the new motherboard.
The image below is of a ports panel that comes with a motherboard. The ports on the motherboard fit through the openings when the panel is fitted into the back of the case. The two openings on the far left are for PS/2 keyboard and mouse connections, and the three openings on the far right are for the sound connections, with the LAN networking and USB ports beside them.

The ports panel that fits in the back of the PC case, through which the ports on the motherboard appear

Front-mounted ports

Most current PC cases provide USB, FireWire, and audio ports from the front of the case that are usually concealed behind a panel. In order to be used, the motherboard must provide the headers that their cables connect to. The motherboard’s user manual, which is can be downloaded from its manufacturer’s site, should provide you with the information on where the headers are located on the motherboard.
If the headers are provided by the motherboard for the front-mounted ports and one or more of them don’t work, check the motherboard manual for a jumper setting that enables them.

PC case fans

120mm PC case fan
If you buy a brand-name PC it will come with one or more case fans that should be adequate to keep the interior of the case cool enough so that the processor’s cooling system (heatsink and fan or water cooled) can function optimally. If you are building a desktop PC, the case you choose will have at least one case fan, but you can install more if the case has additional mountings. If you do, you must make sure that the fans compliment each other (don’t fight against each other). If one side of the case is transparent, you can test the airflow by blowing some smoke into the case to see how the air is being expelled.
Making a choice of fan is not as easy as it might appear to be. Desktop PC cases usually come with the mountings for two sizes of fan – 80mm and 12mm fans, so you have to find out which mountings are available before you make a purchase if you are adding extra fans. If you purchased the case separately, it should have come with a user manual that will probably also be available as a download from its manufacturer’s website if you can identify its make/model. It will tell you the sizes of the available mountings. Alternatively, you can open the case and measure the fan mountings. Some cases are difficult to open, you may need to remove the front cover instead of a side panel, etc., so you should consult the manual if you can’t determine how to open a particular case.
Where possible, you should use 120mm fans, because they move more air while spinning slower and therefore usually make less noise than 80mmm fans.
Most online and retail PC stores sell case fans. It is always a good idea to find and read the available reviews on the web of any kind of computer-related purchase before you part with your money. You can make use of the Google search box provided at the top of this page (with its Web radio button enabled).
SPCR’s Fan Round-Up #2: 120mm Fans

Case modding

Case modding is term used to describe adding all kinds of fancy add-ons and gizmos to a computer case. You can add fancy coolers, fans, fan controllers, neon lights, etc., and you can buy fancy cases that have exotic features such as see-through areas so that you can see inside the case, etc. The following forums have a case-modding forum.
bit-tech.net Forumshttp://forums.bit-tech.net/
UK-specific sites that offer offer case modding equipment are:
http://www.overclock.co.uk/dept/Case-Modding_4.html
http://www.kustompcs.co.uk/acatalog/Case_Bits.html
http://www.scan.co.uk/
US-specific sites are: http://www.xoxide.com/ and http://www.newegg.com/
Others can be found by entering a search term such as “case modding” + uk (or + us) or just case modding forums in the Google search box at the top of this page.


Motherboards that use riser cards for the PCI and AGP adapter cards

If the openings for the ISA, PCI or AGP adapter cards are aligned vertically instead of horizontally at the back of the case, then the case is a non-standard ATX case that makes use of a riser card that is fitted to the motherboard.
Instead of the motherboard, the riser card contains the slots for the ISA, PCI, or AGP adapter cards. Therefore, the motherboard will also be a non-standard ATX motherboard, because it will have no slots for adapter cards.
The ISA, PCI, and AGP slots on the riser card are arranged so that when an adapter card is fitted to it, it will run parallel to the motherboard. That means that the openings at the back of the case for adapter cards will be vertically instead of horizontally aligned if a riser card is used.
The use of a riser card makes it possible to use slimmer cases, because vertically aligned openings take up less width than horizontal openings. But riser cards for adapter cards often block the free circulation of air inside the case, therefore often requiring the installation of one or more extra cooling fans.
The design of the motherboard for installation in a desktop or tower case will determine what a riser card looks like and how it fits into the motherboard and the case.
There is information about why non-standard ATX cases and motherboards that make use of riser cards should be avoided on Page 2 of this article.
Note that using a riser card can often solve the problem of having a lack of space in the case for the installation of, say, a video card:
“As I was staring at a dismantled Toshiba Magnia SG20 appliance in hopes of upgrading the CPU, I had it stuck in my brain that I needed a specifically designed AGP video card that would fit into the tight quarters. Later, it dawned on me that there are all sorts of riser cards made for just this sort of situation. They aren’t terribly expensive, and come in hundreds of flavors. Google is your friend. [There’s a Google search box at the top of this page.] As an example, I found one page with just the right item for $15.00. They sell cards that are configured so the card can be installed on either side of the AGP slot, depending on the need, and there is a choice of 3.3V, 1.5V or universal models, [see the VideoProblems page on this site for more information on video-card voltages] which is an important consideration to be sure that the card fits into and talks to the slot properly.” – From the defunct Lockergnome Tech Specialist newsletter. Visit the Lockergnome site for the latest newsletters.
Note that many motherboards have the AGP slot positioned so closely to the DIMM RAM slots that the RAM modules have to be removed before the video card can be installed, and the video card has to be removed in order to remove or add RAM modules. It is not unusual to hear that someone has tried to install a GeForce 4 video card and the installed RAM modules have knocked off some of the card’s protruding capacitors, thereby rendering it useless. This situation would not have been a problem if the obvious and necessary installation procedures were taken.

Low-profile video cards

Click here! to read about the half-sized low-profile video cards used in slimline desktop and tower ATX cases in the Video and Graphics section of this site.

Furthermore, very often the first PCI slot on the motherboard is positioned too close to the AGP slot. If an adapter card is installed in that PCI slot, it would deprive the AGP card of air, and might cause it to function abnormally, or be damaged by overheating.
Some motherboard reviews provide useful information of that kind.
Personally, I would not purchase a motherboard until I had read all of the reviews of it on the Internet or in computer magazines.


Heatsinks on the motherboard’s voltage regulators

Modern motherboards run processors that have reached ultrahigh frequencies measured in GHz (1 gigahertz = 1000 megahertz).
Components on the motherboard get hot, and, as a result, can fail or have a reduced life expectancy, but not all motherboard manufacturer’s cover the vulnerable components with heatsinks that serve to keep them cool. This could be a deliberate policy to reduce costs and introduce a limit to the product’s life expectancy.
However, some motherboard manufacturers do cover these vulnerable components with heatsinks. If you purchase a motherboard that does not have these heatsinks in place, you can purchase them yourself from some computer component stores, but you would have to go to all the trouble of finding them. A better solution would be to purchase a motherboard that comes with them already fitted.


Author: Gilbert Tan TS

IT expert with more than 20 years experience in Multiple OS, Security, Data & Internet , Interests include AI and Big Data, Internet and multimedia. An experienced Real Estate agent, Insurance agent, and a Futures trader. I am capable of finding any answers in the world you want as long as there are reports available online for me to do my own research to bring you closest to all the unsolved mysteries in this world, because I can find all the paths to the Truth, and what the Future holds. All I need is to observe, test and probe to research on anything I want, what you need to do will take months to achieve, all I need is a few hours.​

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