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Category Archives: Computer Hardware

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Tips and Tools Computer Hardware Troubleshooting

The computer hardware includes devices, such as the mouse, keyboard, monitor, printer, scanner, etc. All are machines and are bound to face technical issues at some point or the other. However, you can perform some basic computer troubleshooting tips to make them functional. If they don’t seem to work with the troubleshooting tools, you need to send them for hardware repair. The paragraphs below offer some quick tips for the various hardware devices.

Monitor

  • If the monitor is not working, the first thing you need to do is to ensure that it has been turned on by pressing the on/off button.
  • Next, check if the cable, which connects the computer monitor and the CPU is connected properly. If not, connect it in a proper manner, or remove and plug it in again.
  • Also, make sure that the cord, which is used to power the monitor is plugged in the UPS the right way.
  • If these tactics do not work, you need to check both the cables on a different monitor, which is in a working condition.
  • If the other monitor doesn’t work with any one of the cords, that cable needs to be replaced. If the other monitor works with both cords, there is possibly a problem in your monitor.
  • You may also restart your computer and then check whether the monitor is working or not.
  • If none of these tips work out, you may have to consult a professional technician.

Keyboard

  • The keyboard is an important part of the computer, without which you cannot perform several tasks. It should be kept away from dust and dirt to ensure proper functioning.
  • If it doesn’t work, you first need to check its connection with the CPU. If the connection is fine and it still does not work, simply try to connect it to another PS/2 socket or USB port (in case of a USB keyboard).
  • In case of wireless keyboards, special drivers are needed to be installed in the computer for proper functioning. Ensure that such drivers are installed.
  • Also, make a point to check whether the drivers are updated. Hold the keyboard in an inverted manner and remove the dust or debris, which is hampering the proper working of a key or a set of keys. You can also remove dust with the help of a vacuum cleaner or an air compressor.

Mouse

  • If the cursor on the screen is not moving in a smooth manner, you need to check for dust or any residue on the trackball rollers, which enable the computer to accurately identify the movement of the mouse.
  • Remove the rear mouse cover, which will let the ball come out, clean the trackball if needed, remove the dust or residue, put the ball in again, and finally put the cover back. Check whether this works.
  • If the cursor doesn’t move at all, check whether the mouse is correctly connected to the CPU.
  • If it’s a USB mouse, try to use a different USB port.
  • There could also be the potential threat of a virus if the mouse pointer doesn’t work in an acceptable manner. If so, run an updated anti-virus software and delete the virus as soon as possible.
  • Check if the mouse drivers are corrupted, if yes, reinstall them.

Printer

  • If the printer doesn’t work, there is a possibility of a paper jam, which normally occurs if the papers are not placed in the tray in a right manner.
  • In case of bigger printers, you may need to open various printer parts to get to the place where there is a paper jam. This exclusively has to be done by a professional printer technician.
  • Don’t use tools to remove the paper jam, as some components may get damaged during the process.
  • If the printer doesn’t turn on, the power cord may be loose, and needs to be plugged in properly. The cord which connects the printer to the computer also needs to be checked.

These are some of the very common computer hardware troubleshooting steps, which can be followed before taking the PC to a professional hardware repair shop.

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Types Computer Hardware

Computer hardware consists of electronic and mechanical elements of a computer. The hardware includes the system unit which has components such as the motherboard, CPU, chipset, hard disk, RAM, video card, and sound card. The hardware also includes the peripherals that are used for input, output, and storage of data.

Different Kinds of Computer Hardware

Other than the hardware formats mentioned earlier, there are other types of computer hardware as well. For example, the CPU processes and manages information and can be called the brain of a computer. Then there is the internal bus that connects the motherboard to the video and the sound cards, and the PCI bus that connects the hardware devices to the computer. There are also the northbridge and the southbridge form the core logic chipsets, which control the exchange of information between the hard disk and the computer. The northbridge connects the southbridge to the computer, and they both determine how fast the system can access memory. The external bus is controlled by either the southbridge or the PCI bus. The chipset is used for communication between the CPU and the memory.

The RAM is the random access memory that stores and processes the information that you’re working with. The RAM is faster than the hard disk, but it is volatile, which means that it stores information temporarily and loses all information when the power is switched off. The types of RAM are SRAM and DRAM. The BIOS is the Basic Input Output System and consists of the firmware. The firewire connects a digital video camera to the computer. The SATA connects the hard disk drives to the computer, while the eSATA is external SATA.

A hard disk drive consists of platters with magnetic surfaces and it stores information which is not being processed. A hard disk is non-volatile, which means it stores information permanently and the information is not lost in times of power failure. The types of hard drives are IDE and SATA. A solid-state drive is similar to a hard drive but it is not magnetic. The removable drives include a CD-ROM drive that reads CDs; a DVD-ROM drive that reads DVDs, and a BD-ROM drive that reads a Blu-Ray disk. A CD-writer writes data on a CD and is used for the backup of files. A DVD-Writer writes on DVD, while a DVD-RAM also writes on DVD but it supports more rewrites than a DVD-Writer. A BD-Writer writes on the Blu-Ray disks. Some old computers still have a floppy disk drive that reads a floppy disk, though those computer systems are now technologically almost obsolete. A USB flash drive reads flash memory. It is small, light, pocket-sized, and portable.

The graphics card provides information to the screen, and is used to render graphics in a computer. A monitor, which may be CRT or LCD, displays the images and videos in a computer by manipulating the color of the pixels on screen.

A sound card plays sound files, produces sound for the speakers, and receives sound as an input from a microphone. The speakers output audio such as music and sound effects, and the headphones are used for hearing sounds that are only meant for individual hearing.

You can also plug-in peripherals, for example, input devices such as a keyboard or a mouse which accept user inputs and convert it into digital data. A user can type using a keyboard, which has various letter and number keys, special keys such as Esc (Escape), Ctrl (Control) and Alt (Alternate), and function keys such as F1, F2 and F3. The Caps Lock key allows the user to type capital letters, while the Tab key moves forward the cursor to the next tab stop. Shortcut keys are a combination of two keys pressed at the same time, and arrow keys on the computer keyboard serve as navigation keys. The numeric keypad of the keyboard has a layout similar to that of a calculator. When the Num Lock key is on, the keys become a numeric keypad, and when the Num Lock key is off, the keys can be used for navigation.

A mouse has a wheel and two buttons that allow you to click, double-click and drag items. When a mouse is moved on a mouse pad or any flat surface, the pointer on the screen also moves. An optical mouse is a mouse with laser of LED technology. A trackball is a device containing a ball that can be rotated in a socket. Joystick and gamepad are two of the other very popular input devices.

A desktop computer system also includes a scanner, which analyzes images, and a webcam, which provides video input. A modem sends and receives data through telephone cables and facilitates Internet access. A printer produces text or pictures on paper.

A power supply gives power to a computer from an electrical wall outlet. The PC case can be vertical or horizontal, and the cables and wires are also considered part of its hardware.

In the future, there will be quantum computers and electronic paper, used in e-book readers. The future of hardware is very promising. CPUs will get faster, hard drives will have more storage space, and computers will get more powerful. Their speed and power will revolutionize the world.

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The Computer Output Devices

Output devices of computer are types of peripheral hardware connected to the computer either using cables or over a wireless network. An output given by the computer can be in the form of a display on the screen or a printed document or a song that is played. Immaterial of whether you have desktop computers, laptop computers or supercomputers, you will require at least one output device.

Monitor

A monitor is also called video display terminal (VDT). The users can view the visual display of the processed data on the monitor. Computer monitors come in a variety of screen sizes and not to forget, visual resolutions. All monitors have a video card, which processes the data into images, to be eventually displayed. Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) and flat panel displays are the two types of monitors. CRTs are cheaper, and have good viewing angle. They are also bulkier and consume more power. On the other hand, the flat panel displays have no magnetic interference and lighter. They are also costlier.

Printer

Printer is an external hardware device, which takes processed data from the computer to generate a hard copy of the same. After the monitors, printers are the most used peripherals of computers and they are commonly used to print text data, images, etc. There are three main types of computer printers, namely inkjet, laser and dot matrix printers. The dot matrix printer is an impact printer. It uses striking pins against a ribbon to produce the characters in order to print the data. The inkjet printer uses magnetized plates that spray ink on the paper to produce the data. On the other hand, laser printers use a laser beam to produce the data.

Speaker

A speaker is a hardware device, that is connected to a computer’s sound card, which outputs the sound generated by the card. Audio data generated by the computer is sent to the audio card that is located in the expansion slot. The card translates the data into audio signals, which are then sent to either the speakers or the headphones. In the initial phase, computers had on-board speakers, which generated series of different tones and beeps. When the popularity of multimedia and computer games grew, better quality computer speakers known for higher quality sound effects and music came into the market.

Projector

It is a hardware device with which an image and text is projected onto a flat screen. Image data is sent to the video card by the computer which is then translated into a video image and sent to the projector. A projector is often used in meetings or to make presentations as it allows the display to be visible to a larger audience. Ceiling mount projector and table mount projector are the two types of projectors available in the market today.

Plotter

Plotters, like printers, create a hard copy rendition of a digitally rendered design. The design is sent to a plotter through a graphics card and the image is created using a pen. In simple words, plotters basically draw an image using a series of straight lines. This device is used with engineering applications. Drum plotter uses a drum, on which the paper gets wrapped. The plotter pen moves across the drum to produce plots. The other type of plotter is the flatbed plotter. The paper is placed on the bed and graphics are drawn on it. This kind of plotter is used for larger drawings.

Braille Embosser

It is nothing but an impact printer that prints braille output by punching dots on the paper. A few embossers also emboss graphics. Before printing, the data should be first translated into braille by using braille translation software. There are two types of braille embossers namely, single-sided embosser and two-sided embosser. Interpoint printers or double-sided printers, print on both the sides of the paper by lining the dots in such a manner that the dots do not overlap.

Braille Reader/Display

Specially designed for visually impaired, it is an alternative for a monitor. It is connected to a computer via a USB connection. This device displays the output braille characters by raising nylon or metal pins on a flat surface. The data that is highlighted on the computer screen will be automatically displayed on the device by converting the text to braille.

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Ways Motherboards Conduct a Symphony of Data

UNDER the big top of your computer—or the little top of your smartphone or tablet—the microprocessor (the central processing unit or CPU) is always the headliner. You don’t see ads or reviews raving that a new PC has “revolutionary 100-ohm resistors!” Flash drives and incredibly realistic displays have the top supporting roles, but when it comes to the components on the motherboard—the mother of all boards—the CPU steals the spotlight.

There are many good reasons for the CPU’s fame, but like all stars, it owes a lot to the little components—the circuit board supporting parts without which the central microprocessor would be only a cold slab of silicon. And conversely, without the CPU and other specialized processors to keep all the parts running in harmony, the motherboard would be an orchestra without a conductor. Its components wouldn’t be able to hear what other members are playing. Electronic messages meant for the CPU would crash into the chips and each other, moving so fast there would be no time to read their license plates. Other messages would arrive like dying murder victims at the ER, so weak they can only whisper their crucial clues in pulses so faint the microprocessor can’t understand them. Computing would become a cacophony.

The role of the motherboard was much smaller in the early days of PCs because it was basically a platform for the microprocessor. It was a transportation grid for conveying signals back and forth between the CPU and the parts the CPU controlled—disc controller cards, video cards, sound cards, input/output cards. Back then, nearly everything that made a PC a PC was handled by expansion cards, which was handy because you could easily update a single component as innovation and budget allowed. Today, almost any computer comes with sound, video, disk controllers, and an assortment of input/output options all on the motherboard. Increasingly, some of these functions are now built into the CPU as well, but even then your computer’s character is largely determined by the mother-board’s capability, and those capabilities are largely defined by the parts that populate it.

Once again, we’re in LEGO land. The components that support the motherboard are made up of similar smaller parts divided among themselves in various strengths and concentrations. So here, ladies and gentlemen, are the little parts that make it all possible.

  • Tiny canisters house the circuit board’s strong men—the resistors! Clad in metal and ceramics, wrapped with colored stripes, they clamp down on the wild, untamed electricity before it has the chance to burn up the rest of the components. They literally take the heat for the rest of the motherboard.
  • Wrapped in ceramic casing and coats of plastic are the voracious, singing capacitors! They hum as they consume great quantities of electrical charge, holding it in so other components can have a steady supply or a sudden surge of electricity when they need it.
  • Scattered everywhere on the motherboard are those mysterious, miniature monoliths, the microchips! What the millions of transistors do inside them is known to only a few.
  • And connecting them all are stripes of copper and aluminum, circuit traces, that tie it all together so the individual players are a coordinated whole.

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USB Microphones for Your Recording Need

A lot of folks are doing podcasts and voiceover work and even recording music on their home PCs and mobile devices. Even if you’re not doing this type of recording, chances are you’re chatting on Skype or Google Hangouts.

However you’re talking to your PC, you want to be heard – and heard well. The number-one thing that most affects the quality of your recording is the microphone you use. The better the mic, the better you’ll sound.

For computer-based recording, you need a microphone that connects directly to your PC’s USB port. While you can use mics with traditional XLR or 1/4″ connectors, going direct to USB is the best way to get that audio signal into your computer.

So how do you choose the best USB mic for your needs? Well, the best mic isn’t always the most expensive one. Let’s look at the top 10 USB microphones on the market today, and see which are best for your own recording needs.

Choosing the Best USB Microphone for Your Needs

When you’re recording your voice or instrument on a computer, the easiest way to connect is via USB. Most computers simply don’t have the XLR or 1/4″ inputs used by traditional recording or stage microphones. (XLR is a round, three-pin connector; the 1/4″ connector looks like any regular plug.) So you can either use an XLR-to-USB converter (which we’ll discuss at the end of this article), install some sort of outboard pro sound box (or internal audio card), or just use a microphone equipped with a USB connector. Naturally, the USB microphone is the easiest (and lowest price) of these alternatives.

How does a USB mic differ from a traditional microphone? In addition to the USB connector at the end, a USB mic contains its own preamplifier (not relying on an outboard preamp) and an analog-to-digital (A/D) converter. Aside from these unique components, a USB microphone contains all the normal elements found in a traditional mic – capsule, diaphragm, and the like.

Using a USB microphone is easy. All you have to do is plug it into an open USB port on your computer and you’re ready to go. (You may have to install a device driver for the mic, but that’s easy peasy.) USB mics are ideal for podcasters, voice actors, recording musicians, and anyone wanting better sound than that provided by their notebooks’ built-in microphone.

When you’re shopping for a USB mic, you want the highest quality sound at the lowest possible price. Obviously, different needs require different quality levels, and everyone has his or her own specific budget. Still, it’s the sound quality that matters, whatever your price range may be.

Most USB microphones are condenser mics, like those used in professional recording studios. A condenser mic captures sound waves via a thin conductive diaphragm. Condenser mics create a detailed sound that’s good for vocals, acoustics guitars, and other low- to medium-volume sound sources.

(The alternative to a condenser mic is a dynamic mic – although there are few dynamic USB mics. A dynamic mic works via electromagnetic induction, and is ideal for use on stage or where higher sound levels are present.)

By the way, many traditional condenser mics require an outboard power source (dubbed “phantom power”) to operate. A USB condenser mic derives this phantom power from the computer it’s attached to, via the USB connection.

All that said, let’s look at the 10 best USB mics for your recording needs, presented in alphabetical order.

Audio-Technica AT2020 USB

Audio-Technica is a Japanese company that produces microphones, headphones, and similar audio equipment for both the professional and consumer market. A-T mics are found in professional recording studios worldwide, and they’ve recently moved into the USB microphone market.

The AT2020 USB is a cardioid condenser mic, which means it’s fairly unidirectional; sounds from the side and rear are mostly suppressed. It’s a low-noise microphone, which makes it ideal for podcasting and similar voiceover work.

The AT2020 USB has a suggested retail price of $229, but you can find it as low as $99 at some retailers. Given the relatively high performance and affordable price point, this is the go-to mic for home artists concerned with recording quality.

Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB

If you prefer a hand-held mic, check out Audio-Technica’s ATR2100-USB. Like the ATR2020, the ATR2100 is a condenser mic with a cardioid pattern. Unlike the ATR2020, it’s designed for hand-held use, as well as on a desktop.

There’s another unique feature about the ATR2100 – it offers both USB and XLR outputs. So you can use the USB connector when recording to your PC, or switch to the XLR connector for traditional studio or stage work.

Audio-Technica ATR2500-USB

If you want a desktop USB mic but have a tight budget, check out the ATR2500-USB. It’s a cardioid condenser mic with relatively low internal noise. While overall performance is slightly below that of the ATR2020, so is the price – just $99, although available online for $69 or less. This gives you Audio-Technica quality at a bargain price.

Blue Snowball

Blue Microphones produces both studio and consumer microphones. The company has been in the forefront of USB microphone development since the beginning.

Blue’s most familiar, and arguably its most popular, model is the Snowball. The Snowball was the world’s first professional USB microphone, and it remains a strong contender today. It’s long been a popular choice among podcasters and in-home voiceover folk.

The Snowball is a condenser mic that offers the choice of ominidirectional or cardioid pickup patterns. This makes it useful for a single speaker or picking up a room full of people. It’s a sturdy fellow with decent sound quality.

One of the most appealing aspects of the Snowball is its price. It retails for $99 and is available, in a variety of colors (not just blue) for under $50 at many merchants. That makes it an appealing first mic for many home recordists and podcasters.

Blue Snowflake

If you want a really affordable USB mic and pro-level quality isn’t necessary, check out the Blue Snowflake. This is a good basic mic, certainly with better quality than your PC’s built-in microphone. It’s also small and portable, and easily clips onto your monitor or notebook PC screen.

Know, however, that you’re going to hear more noise with the Snowflake than you will with the higher-priced Snowball. But that’s probably acceptable for a mic that retails for $59 and sells for around $40. This makes it a good choice for Skype and Google Hangouts video chats, although it’s less than ideal for more professional voice work.

Blue Yeti/Yeti Pro

If you like Blue Microphones and want higher quality audio, then go with the Yeti. The Yeti is a condenser mic with its own built-in volume control and multiple pickup patterns – unidirectional cardioid, stereo, bidirectional, and omnidirectional. That makes the Yeti a flexible option for use in a variety of applications.

The Yeti produces a rich and rounded sound with tons of sensitivity. It’s as good or better as any other mic in its price range, and compares favorably with mics priced another hundred dollars or so higher. And that’s why the Yeti is a number-one pick of many discerning home recordists and podcasters.

Blue also offers the Yeti Pro that features a 24-bit interface for even higher-quality recording. It also comes with an optional XLR connector if you want to use it on stage or in traditional recording studio.

CAD U1

CAD produces both professional and consumer-grade microphones. The CAD U1 is a low-priced condenser mic, ideal for first-time podcasters and home recordists, as well as for anyone chatting on Skype or Google Hangouts. It can be used with a desktop stand or as a hand-held mic.

As with most sub-$100 mics, there’s no built-in volume control; you have to control the input volume from your computer. It features a cardioid pickup pattern.

The CAD U1 isn’t studio quality, but it’s pretty good for the price.

CAD U37 USB

CAD also produces better performing mics, like the U37. This mic utilizes a larger, higher-end condenser element for a warmer, richer sound. It has a cardioid pickup pattern, and offers a bass-reduction feature and computer-adjustable sensitivity.

The result is very good sound quality for the price. Yes, higher-end mics (like the Blue Yeti) will capture better sound, but they also cost a lot more.

Samson Go Mic

If you want a lot of bang for your buck, go with the Samson Go Mic. Samson Technologies produces a variety of pro audio equipment, with some consumer models thrown into the mix. The Go Mic is definitely a consumer model, compact and portable, which makes it ideal for recording on the go. It’s great for Skype or Google Hangouts, or for situations where you don’t need the highest quality.

In terms of specs, the Go Mic offers a choice of either cardioid or omnidirectional recording. It’s also usable in non-USB mode, with a 3.5mm headphone connection. It can sit on its own desktop stand or mount on the top of your notebook PC screen or desktop monitor.

Samson Meteor Mic

Finally, we come to the Samson Meteor Mic. This is a unique looking, extremely small condenser mic with a cardioid pickup pattern. It offers solid performance that’s more than good enough for most podcasting and voiceover work – and for audio and video chatting, of course.

Because of its small size, the Meteor Mic doesn’t take up a lot of space on your desktop. It looks a little chrome bullet, and it’s three built-in legs fold up when you need to move it, which is kind of cool.

Using an XLR-to-USB Adapter

What do you do if you already have a microphone with an XLR connector that you use either onstage or in the studio? There’s no need to throw out your old mic just because you want to go the computer route. Instead, purchase an XLR-to-USB adapter that lets you connect your XLR microphone directly to your computer, no fancy sound boards or audio boxes required.

Probably the most popular of these adapters is Shure’s X2u. This adapter works with all of Shure’s iconic mics as well as models for other manufacturers. It includes built-in headphone monitoring and controls for both mic gain and playback volume. (It also provides switchable phantom power to those mics that need it.)

The X2u isn’t cheap, but chances are you’re using it with an expensive microphone, anyway, so it’s probably worth the bucks.

 

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Ways to Clean Your Computer Keyboard

One of the best ways to keep a keyboard in top condition is periodic cleaning. As preventive maintenance, you should vacuum the keyboard weekly, or at least monthly. When vacuuming, you should use a soft brush attachment to dislodge the dust. Also note that some keyboards have keycaps that come off easily, so be careful when vacuuming; otherwise you may have to dig the keys out of the vacuum cleaner. I recommend using a small, handheld vacuum cleaner made for cleaning computers and sewing machines; these have enough suction to get the job done with little risk of removing your key tops.

You also can use compressed air to blow the dust and dirt out instead of using a vacuum. Before you dust a keyboard with the compressed air, however, power off the computer, unplug the keyboard, and turn it upside down so the particles of dirt and dust collected inside can fall out.

On most keyboards, each keycap is independently removable, which can be handy if a key sticks or acts erratically. For example, a common problem is a key that does not work every time you press it. This problem usually results from dirt collecting under the key. An excellent tool for removing keycaps on almost any keyboard is the U-shaped chip puller included in many computer tool kits. Simply slip the hooked ends of the tool under the keycap, squeeze the ends together to grip the underside of the keycap, and lift up. IBM sells a tool designed specifically for removing keycaps from its keyboards, but the chip puller works even better. After removing the cap, spray some compressed air into the space under the cap to dislodge the dirt. Then replace the cap and check the action of the key.

When you remove the keycap on some keyboards, you are actually detaching the entire key from the keyswitch. Be careful during the removal and reassembly of the keyboard; otherwise, you’ll break the switch. The classic IBM/Lexmark-type Model M keyboards (now made by Unicomp) use a removable keycap that leaves the actual key in place, enabling you to clean under the keycap without the risk of breaking the switches. If you don’t want to go through the effort of removing the keycaps, consider using cleaning wands with soft foam tips to clean beneath the keytops.

Spills can be a problem, too. If you spill a soft drink or cup of coffee into a keyboard, you do not necessarily have a disaster. Many keyboards that use membrane switches are spill resistant. However, you should immediately (or as soon as possible) disconnect the keyboard and flush it out with distilled water. Partially or fully disassemble the keyboard and use the water to wash the components. If the spilled liquid has dried, soak the keyboard in some of the water for a while. When you are sure the keyboard is clean, pour another gallon or so of distilled water over it and through the keyswitches to wash away any residual dirt. After the unit dries completely it should be perfectly functional. You might be surprised to know that drenching your keyboard with water does not harm the components. Just make sure you use distilled water, which is free from residue or mineral content. (Bottled water is not distilled; the distinct taste of many bottled waters comes from the trace minerals they contain!) Also, make sure the keyboard is fully dry before you try to use it; otherwise, some of the components might short out.

Fully drying a keyboard that has been soaked in water can take several days or more, so be prepared to wait. You can use compressed air to greatly speed up the drying process. Even then, if the contaminants were not fully flushed out, the keyboard may still not work correctly. In that case the best results will be obtained by completely disassembling the keyboard, washing and then drying each component individually, and then reassembling. Depending on the value and construction of the keyboard, a replacement may be the best option.

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Difference about Computer Software and Hardware

While computer jargon can be hard to get to grips with, two terms that pop up extremely often in any computer discussion are the words “software” and “hardware”.

But what is the difference about computer software and hardware?

These two terms refer to the most fundamental parts of computer systems. Both of them are vital for any computer to operate, and they are also dependent on one another.

Definition of Computer Hardware and Software

When we talk about computer hardware, we mean the actual components of your computer. Such things as the computer’s motherboard, its CPU, the video card, the keyboard and mouse, these are all “hardware”.

The difference between computer software and hardware is that software refers to the coding and various programs that you have on your computer. These include your operating system (Windows etc), media players, Photoshop etc.

Purpose

Computer hardware is usually multi-purpose in that it is able to perform lots of different tasks. For instance, your computer monitor doesn’t just display images on screen; it also shows videos, widgets and text. One difference between computer software and hardware is that software is normally only designed to perform one task.

Your media player for example, is only for accessing media like movies and songs. It cannot edit photos or browse the web. The only real exception to this is the operating system itself, which is a user-friendly interface designed to let you access all the other bits of software and files stored on your PC.

System Requirements

Computer software can only function on a computer if that computer meets the system requirements needed to run it properly. Such requirements include hard drive requirements, a minimum processor speed, RAM requirements and a supported operating system.

Occasionally a piece of software will have additional requirements, and these will normally be printed on the box when you purchase it, or else it will be displayed on the website you have downloaded it from.

Bit Rate 64 Bit vs 32 Bit

The transition in computers from operating systems of 32-bits to operating systems of 64-bits has become a recent issue with hardware and software. The difference between the two kinds of operating system are that 64-bit systems can access more RAM and are able to process much bigger data chunks than the old 32-bit systems.

In order to run software that is 64-bit, it is necessary to have a 64-bit CPU along with a motherboard that is compatible with the software. Because there are many computers that don’’t have the hardware necessary to run the 64-bit versions of software, many manufacturers release both 64-bit and 32-bit versions of their programs.

Development

Both computer software and computer hardware are being constantly developed, with superior components and programs being released all the time. The development of hardware is usually focused on creating faster and more compact components through the use of new technology.

Meanwhile, developers of software are constantly striving to keep pace with these new advancements in hardware by building smoother running, better looking and more comprehensive programs. The result of this is that computer users are constantly being required to update their hardware to be able to run the latest pieces of software.

Conclusion.

I hope this article on explaining the difference between computer software and hardware has been useful for you. Obviously this website is dedicated to the hardware side of it and I encourage you to take advantage of the resources on this website.

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Learning about computer hardware

This was the way I learned about computer hardware. In Sydney, Australia where I live we have a council cleanup. During this time, everyone puts out rubbish and their junk onto the side of the road for the council to pick up on a certain date. Included in this rubbish were computers, lots of computers. So when this council cleanup was in my area, I would jump on my bike (often with some of my brothers) and ride around looking at the junk piles.

I started to collect computers and have a look inside them. I was really interested in how these complicated machines worked. Then I started to fiddle with some of the components and learn what each one did. I wanted to upgrade my computer so I tried adding a hard drive. I didn’t know how so I searched Google or got a book from the library.

After successfully doing this, I thought that my CPU (central processing unit) was a bit slow, so I tried to change that. Now this was my embarrassing moment and one that I look back on and laugh. Now in my family we have many computers. Mum had just bought a new computer so I received her last one. She hadn’t taken any information of it yet, so she didn’t want it to break. Well her computer that she gave me had an AMD, 700MHz chip and I found in my searching through junk, an Intel 1GHz Pentium III.

I didn’t really understand computer hardware so I thought that you could just swap any CPU. So I took Mum’s AMD chip out and then tried to squeeze my Pentium III chip in its place. Of course it didn’t fit, since an Intel chip can’t go in an AMD motherboard. However, this didn’t stop me. I started to bend the pins on the Intel chip so that it would fit in the AMD motherboard and eventually it did. I turned it on and then smelt something burning and then I saw something burning.

I had completely blown up everything in the computer. My mum wasn’t happy as she lost her information and my computer (my first computer) didn’t work anymore. What a learning experience!

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Ways Computers Work

So how do computers work?

Have you ever just looked at a computer and go “how does that work”?  If you think about it, computers are quite amazing.  You press a few buttons and you can talk to your friend over the other side of the world, you can learn anything you want on the internet, you can listen to music, watch TV, write stories, make videos and do much much more.

The more you think about it the more amazing it is and the more crazy it is that a bunch of computer bits can do this.  So how do computers work?

Well I will try and answer this the best that I can.  Basically a computer can consist of two broad categories, hardware and software and the way a computer works is between these two working together. I will oultine them both briefly below.

Computer Hardware

If you have been reading any of this website, then you probably already understand what computer hardware is, because that is what this website is about. Like seriously, www.computer-hardware-explained.com

So briefly: computer hardware is the physical computer that you actually see, this includes: the computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer, speakers etc.  Inside the computer is more hardware, such as the hard drive, CPU (central processing unit), motherboard, RAM (random access memory) and more.

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Powerful Supercomputer Inched Toward Exascale

In June, the ranks of the Top500 list were rearranged, and the title of world’s most powerful supercomputer was handed off to a new machine—China’s Sunway TaihuLight.

The Wuxi-based machine can perform the Linpack Benchmark—a long-standing arbiter of supercomputer prowess—at a rate of 93 petaflops, or 93 quadrillion floating-point operations per second. This performance is more than twice that of the previous record holder, China’s Tianhe-2. What’s more, TaihuLight achieves this capacity while consuming 2.4 megawatts less power than Tianhe-2.

Such efficiency gains are important if supercomputer designers hope to reach exascale operation, somewhere in the realm of 1,000 Pflops. Computers with that capability could be a boon for advanced manufacturing and national security, among many other applications. China, Europe, Japan, and the United States are all pushing toward the exascale range. Some countries are reportedly setting their sights on doing so by 2020; the United States is targeting the early 2020s. But two questions loom over those efforts: How capable will those computers be? And can we make them energy efficient enough to be economical?

We can get to the exascale now “if you’re willing to pay the power bill,” says Peter Kogge, a professor at the University of Notre Dame. Scaling up a supercomputer with today’s technology to create one that is 10 times as big would demand at least 10 times as much power, Kogge explains. And the difference between 20 MW and 200 MW, he says, “is the difference [between having] a substation or a nuclear power plant next to you.”

Kogge, who led a 2008 study on reaching the exascale, is updating power projections to cover the three categories of supercomputers built today: those with “heavyweight” high-performance CPUs; those that use “lightweight” microprocessors that are slower but cooler, and so can be packed more densely; and those that take advantage of graphics processing units to accelerate computation.

TaihuLight follows the lightweight approach, and it has made some sacrifices in pursuit of energy efficiency. Based on its hardware specs, TaihuLight can, in theory, crunch numbers at a rate of 125 Pflops. The machine reaches 74 percent of this peak theoretical capacity when running Linpack. But it does not fare as well on a new alternative benchmark, High Performance Conjugate Gradients (HPCG), which is designed to reflect how well a computer can perform more memory- and communications-intensive, real-world applications. When it runs HPCG, TaihuLight utilizes just 0.3 percent of its theoretical peak abilities, which means that only 3 out of every 1,000 possible floating-point operations are actually used by the computer. By comparison, Tianhe-2 and the United States’ Titan, the second- and third-fastest supercomputers in the Top500 rankings, respectively, can take advantage of just over 1 percent of their computing capacity. Japan’s K computer, currently ranked fifth on the list, achieved 4.9 percent with the HPCG metric.

“Everything is a balancing act,” says Jack Dongarra, a professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and one of the organizers of the Top500. “They produced a processor that can deliver high arithmetic performance but is very weak in terms of data movement.” But he notes that the TaihuLight team has developed applications that take advantage of the architecture; he says that three projects that were finalists for this year’s ACM Gordon Bell Prize, a prestigious supercomputing award, were designed to run on the machine.

TaihuLight uses DDR3, an older, slower memory, to save on power. Its architecture also uses small amounts of local memory near each core instead of a more traditional memory hierarchy, explains John Goodacre, a professor of computer architectures at the University of Manchester, in England. He says that while today’s applications can execute between 1 and 10 floating-point operations for every byte of main memory accessed, that ratio needs to be far higher for applications to run efficiently on TaihuLight. The design cuts down on a big expense in a supercomputer’s power budget: the amount of energy consumed shuttling data back and forth.

“I think what they’ve done is build a machine that changes some of the design rules that people have assumed are part of the requirements” for moving toward the exascale, Goodacre says. Further progress will depend, as the TaihuLight team has shown, on end-to-end design, he says. That includes looking not only at changes to hardware—a number of experts point to 3D stacking of logic and memory—but also to the fundamental programming paradigms we use to take advantage of the machines.