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A+ A Guide to Hardware. Week 3 Form Factors and Power Supplies. Objectives. Learn about different form factors and computer cases. Learn how electricity is measured Learn how to protect your computer system against damaging changes in electrical power Learn about Energy Star specifications

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a a guide to hardware

A+ A Guide to Hardware

Week 3

Form Factors and Power Supplies

  • Learn about different form factors and computer cases.
  • Learn how electricity is measured
  • Learn how to protect your computer system against damaging changes in electrical power
  • Learn about Energy Star specifications
  • Learn how to troubleshoot electrical problems
  • Power supply: passes power to PC components
  • Elements driving type of power supply used in a PC:
    • The motherboard
    • The form factor of the computer case
  • Energy Star devices: designed to save energy
  • Electricity topics covered:
    • Measurements of electricity
    • How electricity is delivered
    • Protecting a PC from electrical damage
    • Changing a defective power supply
computer case motherboard and power supply form factors
Computer Case, Motherboard, and Power Supply Form Factors
  • Form factor
    • Specifies size, shape, features of a hardware device
  • Form factor for motherboard is chosen first
    • Same form factor is used for case and power supply
  • Using the same form factor assures you that:
    • The motherboard fits the case
    • The powers supply cords provide proper voltage
    • Holes in the motherboard align with holes in the case
    • Holes in the case align with ports off the motherboard
    • Wires on the case match connections on motherboard
types of form factors
Types of Form Factors
  • AT (Advanced Technology) form factor
    • Specified motherboard dimensions of 12” x 13.8”
    • Utilized by IBM AT PC in the 1980s
  • Baby AT form factor
    • Specified motherboard dimensions of 13” x 8.7”
    • Industry standard form factor from 1993 to 1997
  • ATX form factor
    • Specified motherboard dimensions of 12” x 9.6”
    • Open specification that is most commonly used today
    • Includes all AT voltages plus a +3.3-volt circuit

Table 3-1 Sockets for Intel processors used for desktop computers

A+ Guide to Hardware, Sixth Edition


The CPU on an ATX motherboard sits opposite the expansion slots and does not block the room needed for long expansion cards

types of form factors continued
Types of Form Factors (continued)
  • DTX – Pioneered by AMD, backward compatible to ATX
  • MicroATX form factor
    • Reduces number of I/O slots on the motherboard
  • BTX (Balanced Technology Extended) form factor
    • Focuses on reducing heat and supporting motherboard
  • LPX and Mini-LPX form factors
    • Designed for low-end PC motherboards
  • NLX form factor
    • Developed to improve the LPX form factor
  • Backplane Systems (Active and Passive)
    • Use boards with slots, but little or no circuitry

Improved airflow in a BTX case and motherboard makes it unnecessary to have a fan on top of the processor

A+ Guide to Managing and Maintaining your PC, 6e

types of cases
Types of Cases
  • Computer case (chassis)
    • Houses power supply, motherboard, cards, drives
    • Panel switches/lights are used to control/monitor PC
  • Desktop cases
    • Motherboard on the bottom, power supply to the rear
  • Tower cases
    • Are up to 2 feet high and can contain several drives
  • Notebook cases
    • Used for all portables and have desktop components
  • Others
    • Wikipedia sources
measures and properties of electricity
Measures and Properties of Electricity
  • Successful PC technicians:
    • Understand electricity
    • Know how to use electricity
    • Know how to measure electricity
    • Can protect computer equipment from electricity
  • Units used to measure characteristics of electricity
    • Volt, amp, ohm, and watt
ac and dc
AC and DC
  • Alternating current (AC)
    • Oscillatory current driven by an alternating voltage
    • Example: house current oscillates at 60 Hz
  • Direct current (DC)
    • Single direction current driven by constant voltage
    • Required by computer in small amounts, such as 5 V
  • Rectifier: converts AC to DC
  • Transformer: changes ratio of current to voltage
  • Power supply acts as a transformer and rectifier and conditioner.
not all ps are created equal
Not all PS are Created Equal
  • Cost of a power supply can be reduced by cheapening up the components.
  • Cheap supplies will remove
    • Transient i/p filter, meaning the supply has a better chance of blowing if line voltage fluctuates.
    • Remove PFC (power factor correction), supply will become inefficient, converting as little as 65% of ip to op. Active PFC can improve performance to 98%.
      • Contributes to cleaner and better o/p performance.
    • Lighter transformers, replaced by integrated ccts. Unable to handle high current loads.
hot neutral and ground
Hot, Neutral, and Ground
  • Completing a circuit:
    • AC travels from power station to house on a hot line
    • AC travels from panel to device using black (hot) wire
    • AC flows out of device circuit in a white (neutral) wire
    • AC returns to power station on a neutral line
  • Short circuit: failure due to excess flow of electricity
    • Fuses protect circuits by melting wire (breaking circuit)
    • Grounded neutral lines pass detoured AC to earth
  • Lines in three-prong plugs: hot, neutral, and ground
    • Verify wiring of outlet for plug using a receptacle tester

Normally, electricity flows from hot to neutral to make a closed circuit in the controlled environment of an electrical device such as a lamp

some common electric components
Some Common Electric Components
  • Materials used to make components:
    • Conductors: weakly resist flow of current; e.g., copper
    • Insulators: highly resist flow of current; e.g., ceramics
    • Semiconductors: allow flow if charged; e.g., silicon
  • Transistor
    • Used to switch current on (1) and off (0)
    • Also used to amplify current
    • Made of three layers of semiconductor material
    • Charge applied to center layer controls switching
some common electric components continued
Some Common Electric Components (continued)
  • Capacitor
    • Holds electrical charge for a period of time
    • Used to create even flow of current in a PC
  • Diode
    • Allows electricity to flow in one direction only
    • Used to rectify current (convert AC to DC)
  • Resistor
    • Controls the amount of current flowing through device
    • Degree of resistance is measured in ohms
protecting your computer system
Protecting Your Computer System
  • Electrical threats to a computer system:
    • Static electricity
    • Electromagnetic interference
    • Power surges
  • Objectives in this section:
    • Understand nature of each threat
    • Learn how to protect your system from these threats
static electricity
Static Electricity
  • Static electricity (electrostatic discharge or ESD)
    • Due to charge difference between user and device
    • Touching device causes discharge, damaging device
  • ESD is particularly severe in dry and cold climates
  • How to protect system from ESD:
    • Use ground bracelet or ESD gloves
    • Touch computer case before touching components
  • Safety rule: unplug power cord before working in case
    • Residual power in plugged device can cause damage
emi electromagnetic interference
EMI (Electromagnetic Interference)
  • Caused by magnetic fields generated by current flow
  • RFI (radio frequency interference):
    • EMI in radio frequency range affecting reception
  • The crosstalk problem
    • Data in cables crossing EM fields gets corrupted
    • Control crosstalk by shielding cables and power supply
  • Use a tuned-down AM radio to detect EMI
  • Other ways to protect a device from EMI:
    • Use line conditioners to filter out electrical noise
    • Move the PC to a new location
surge protection and battery backup
Surge Protection and Battery Backup
  • Storms and uneven AC flow cause power surges
  • Prevent power surges by installing an AC filter
    • Power bars (the expensive kind)
  • Types of devices used to manage power surges:
    • Surge suppressors
    • Power conditioners
    • Uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs)
  • Use devices with UL (Underwriters Laboratory) logo
surge suppressors
Surge Suppressors
  • Also called a surge protector
  • Protects equipment from sudden changes in power
    • Works by absorbing and/or blocking the surge
  • Recommended features:
    • Joules rating that is greater than 600 joules
    • Protection activated in less than 2 nanoseconds
    • Warranty for connected equipment and UL seal
    • Light indicating that surge protection is working
    • Data line protector for telephone line to modem, Network (RJ45).
    • Let-through voltage rating and line noise filtering

This surge suppressor has six electrical outlets, two phone jacks, and a power protection light. Protected by a 10 cent device called a Varistor.

power conditioners
Power Conditioners
  • Sometimes called line conditioners
  • Functions:
    • Protect against spikes or swells (voltage surges)
    • Raise voltage during brownouts (voltage sags)
  • Load supported measured in watts or volt-amps (VA)
  • Determining the VA needed to support your system:
    • Multiply the amperage of each component by 120 V
    • Add up the VA for each component.
uninterruptible power supply
Uninterruptible Power Supply
  • UPS offers three benefits:
    • Conditions line to account for brownouts and spikes
    • Provides power backup when AC fails (blackout)
    • Provides protection against very high spikes
  • Designs: standby, inline, and line-interactive
  • Smart (intelligent) UPS: controlled with software
  • What to consider when buying a UPS:
    • UPS rating should exceed VA load by at least 25 %
    • Degree of line conditioning
    • Warranties, guarantees, and service policies
energy star systems the green star
Energy Star Systems (The Green Star)
  • Energy Star systems have the U.S. Green Star
    • Indicates device meets energy conserving standards
    • Devices: computers, monitors, printers, copiers, faxes
  • Goals of Energy Star (a.k.a. Green) standards:
    • Reduce overall electricity consumption
    • Protect and preserve natural resources
  • How computer components meet standards
    • Uses standby program for switching to sleep mode
    • No more than 30 watts used during sleep mode
power management methods and features
Power-Management Methods and Features
  • Methods used to meet Energy Star standards:
    • Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI)
      • Standard used by most desktops and notebooks
      • Comprises four power-saving modes: S1 - S4
      • Some features controlled by BIOS, others by Windows
    • Advanced Power Management (APM) specification
    • AT Attachment (ATA) for various drives
    • Display Power Management Signaling (DPMS)
energy star monitors
Energy Star Monitors
  • Display Power Management Signaling (DPMS)
    • Specifications applying to video card and monitor
    • Allow both devices to simultaneously enter sleep mode
  • Accessing energy settings in Windows 2000/XP
    • Right-click the desktop and select Properties
      • The Display Properties dialog box opens
    • Click the Screen Saver tab
      • If monitor is Energy Star–compliant, logo is at bottom
    • Click Power button to open Power Options Properties
troubleshooting the electrical system
Troubleshooting the Electrical System
  • Problems can occur before or after boot
  • Problems can be consistent or inconsistent
  • Possible symptoms of an electrical problem:
    • The PC appears “dead”
    • The PC sometimes halts during booting
    • Error codes or beeps occur during booting
    • You smell burnt parts or odors
  • Check the simple things first
    • Example: determine whether all switches are on
problems with external power
Problems with External Power
  • Brownout (reduced current) may create issues
    • Check out other devices using the same circuit
    • Remove other devices to see if voltage increases
  • Dealing with intermittent errors caused by noise:
    • Use a line monitor to monitor and condition voltage
problems with loose internal connections
Problems with Loose Internal Connections
  • Can cause a system to appear dead or reboot itself
  • Troubleshooting tasks:
    • Remove the cover of the case
    • Check all power connections
      • Check cables linking power supply to motherboard
      • Check cables linking power supply to drives

For an ATX or BTX power supply, the remote switch wire must be connected to the motherboard before power will come on

problems that come and go
Problems that Come and Go
  • Intermittent symptoms indicating a post-boot problem
    • The computer stops or hangs or reboots for no reason
    • Memory errors appear intermittently
    • Data is written incorrectly to the hard drive
    • The keyboard stops working at odd times
    • The motherboard fails or is damaged
    • Power supply overheats and becomes hot to the touch
    • The power supply fan becomes very noisy or stops
  • Intermittent problems are often difficult to solve
problems with an inadequate power supply
Problems with an Inadequate Power Supply
  • Power supply may not meet needs of new devices
  • Testing for an adequate power supply
    • Make all devices in the system work at the same time
    • Example: copy files from new drive to old drive
  • Simple solution: upgrade to a higher power supply
  • Calculating total wattage needed by system
    • Multiply volts in circuit by amps required for device
    • Add all products to determine total wattage
  • Power supply range: 200 watts to 600 watts
problems with the power supply boards or drives
Problems with the Power Supply, Boards, or Drives
  • Issues:
    • Inadequate or faulty power supply
    • Components drawing power might be bad
  • Problems caused:
    • System hangs or gives intermittent errors
    • System reboots or does not boot at all
  • Actions to take:
    • Isolate and remove any faulty expansion cards
    • Upgrade or switch the power supply
    • Test voltage output of power supply with a multimeter
problems with the power supply fan
Problems with the Power Supply Fan
  • Defective fans usually hum before they stop working
  • Response to diagnosis of defective fan
    • Replace fan or the entire power supply
  • If replacement does not work, suspect another short
  • Do not operate a PC if the fan does not work
    • Computers will overheat, damaging circuit boards
  • Indirect sources of fan problems:
    • Shorts in drives, motherboard, or expansion cards
power problems with the motherboard
Power Problems with the Motherboard
  • Bad contact between board component and chassis
    • Short can seriously damage the motherboard
    • Check for missing or extra standoffs (spacers)
  • Shorts in the circuit on the motherboard
    • Look for damage to the bottom of the motherboard
    • Look for burned-out capacitors
  • Frayed wires on connections can also cause shorts
    • Test hard drive cables connected to motherboard
problems with overheating
Problems with Overheating
  • Causes intermittent problems
  • May also cause the system to reboot or not boot
  • Temperature in a case should not exceed 100° F
  • Some possible solutions:
    • Remove dust from power supply, vents, heat sink
    • Secure cables and cords with tie wraps
    • Install another exhaust fan on the rear of the case
    • Install a fan in expansion slot next to video card
    • Replace component that is damaged
replacing the power supply
Replacing the Power Supply
  • The power supply is a field replaceable unit (FRU)
  • Criteria for replacement power supply to meet:
    • Uses the correct form factor
    • Adequately rated for power in watts
    • Has all power connectors needed by your system
  • Before replacing power supply, test new device
    • Connect components to new power supply
    • Turn on PC and observe whether problem is solved
    • If problem is solved, perform replacement procedure
  • Form factor: specifies size, shape, features of device
  • Motherboard, power supply, and case share the same form factor, such as ATX
  • Three types of cases: desktop, tower, and notebook
  • Quantities that characterize electricity: voltage, current, resistance, and power
  • Current flows from hot wires to neutral wires; excess current escapes through grounds
summary continued
Summary (continued)
  • AC supplied by power station is transformed and rectified before flowing into the PC
  • Major components in a circuit board: transistor, capacitor, diode, resistor
  • Electrical threats: ESD, EMI, uneven current flow, sudden power surges (or spikes)
  • Energy Star standards promote energy conservation
  • PCs comply with Energy Star standards by enabling devices to enter into a low power sleep mode
switching power supply
Switching Power Supply
  • Pulse width modulation
  • As more current is required, the power supply pulses on for longer durations.
  • Hence the term switching.