MICRO CENTER: COMPUTERS & ELECTRONICS
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Motherboard Terms

AGP (Advanced Graphics Port)
A connection standard for video adapters and motherboards. In a typical PCI system (see PCI below), one controller manages all of the PCI adapter cards. This means that when two or more adapter cards are in a computer, they must each 'wait their turn' to send and / or receive data. The AGP system eliminates this 'bottleneck', by having only one video adapter 'talking' to one controller, at greater speeds than in the PCI system. Virtually all modern Windows and Macintosh systems use an AGP video adapter, either built into the motherboard or plugged into an AGP adapter slot.

BIOS
Short for "Basic Input Output System". The BIOS is a startup program contained in Read-Only Memory on the system board that configures and prepares the system to start. It includes simple routines to access the video, storage devices, and other primary hardware components.

CAS LATENCY (CL)
CAS (Column Access Strobe) Latency is the amount of time that it takes to retrieve data from the module. This is usually expressed in clock cycles. CL2 (or "2 clock cycles") is faster than CL3.

Chipset
A chipset is a group of integrated circuits (microchips) that can be used together to serve a single function and are therefore manufactured and sold as a unit. For example, one chipset might combine all the microchips needed to serve as the communications controller between a processor and memory and other devices in a computer.

DDR
Double data rate memory reads data on both the rising and falling edges of the clock signal. SDRAM only carries information on the rising edge of a signal. Basically this allows the DDR module to transfer data twice as fast as SDRAM.

Dual Channel Memory
DDR chipsets on certain motherboards designed with two memory channels instead of one. The two channels handle memory-processing more efficiently by utilizing the theoretical bandwidth of the two modules, thus reducing system latencies, the timing delays that inherently occur with one memory module. Dual channel requires 2 sticks of RAM (The same exact size, speed, and make) and installed into the correct RAM slots to operate in dual channel mode. If the memory does not exactly match in the banks and channels, the system will automatically drop back to single-channel operation, and at the speed of the slowest component.

ELECTROSTATIC DISCHARGE (ESD)
ESD occurs when you touch an object that conducts electricity and is at a different electrical potential than you are. The release of static electricity can damage any of the electronic components of a computer such as the disk drive, system board, processor, memory, add-in boards, and other components.

Firewire (IEEE 1394)
FireWire (also known as IEEE 1394), was developed by Apple Computer in the late 1980s and has been incorporated into Macintosh computers beginning with the Blue and White Power Macintosh G3 model. The IEEE-1394 specification has been adopted by Canon, JVC, Kodak, Sony, and others for the purpose of data interfacing between computers, peripherals, and consumer electronics products. Products supporting Firewire include camcorders, VCRs, printers and digital cameras and even Televisions. Firewire is a high-speed serial bus that allows users to transfer digital video or still images from a camera or camcorder to a printer, PC, or TV. Apple computer trademarked the name 'FireWire' for the specification to reflect the performance if data transfer speeds of up to 400 Megabits per second. FireWire 800 doubles the transfer rate to 800 Mbps.

Form Factor
Form Factor is the shape and size of your system board. The standards are ATX , AT , Baby AT, Micro ATX and the new BTX. You want to make sure the form factor of your computer case and mother board match.

Ground strap
A conductive strap that allows any electrostatic charge to be conducted harmlessly to an electrical ground.

IDE (Integrated Device Electronics)
IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) is also known as ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment.) The common IDE bus is used in computers as a hard drive or optical drive peripheral bus used to interconnect the system board to the high-capacity storage. After the introduction of the Serial ATA specification, the original parallel IDE bus is typically called PATA (Parallel ATA). The original (ATA-1) IDE specification called for data transfer rates of 8.3 Megabytes per second across either an 8 or 16-bit data cable and a maximum of two devices connected to the bus. EIDE or Fast ATA, doubled the transfer rate to 16.6 Megabytes per second and supported up to four devices on the bus (allowing two devices on a primary and two devices on a secondary channel. Additional specifications were introduced through to the Ultra-ATA/133 standard supporting a 133 Megabytes per second transfer rate with a 16-bit data width.

Overclock
To speed up the computer beyond the manufacturer's specifications in order to run faster. This may be accomplished by changing a jumper on the motherboard, by changing the clock crystal or related settings in the BIOS Setup. The motherboard and CPU may or may not be able to handle the increased speed, causing intermittent failures or random errors or lock-ups. Enhanced cooling systems are typically added when a CPU is overclocked because of the increased heat being generated.

PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect)
The Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) is a specification that was developed by Intel and other industry leaders in response the bottleneck becoming apparent in the earlier ISA bus design. Intel's design goal was a high-performance industry standard bus that would avoid the difficulty of competing buses and the resulting consumer confusion. Intel had been working on an architecture that offered both exceptional performance and plug-and-play capabilities. The specification defines how expansion cards (i.e. PCI network, video or modem cards), install themselves and exchange information with the CPU.

POST
"Short for Power On Self Test". Immediately after a motherboard has been powered on, the BIOS begins performing basic hardware component detection. During this detection process, responses from the component may be required. Most motherboards will generate a series of beep codes to indicate initial pass/fail operations, including, but not limited to, base memory (RAM) testing, keyboard detection, video card detection, and sometimes, other limited motherboard I/O operations. Other BIOS test routines may perform very extensive initialization sequences, and generate a startup message or a specific POST failure code. Some motherboards can display a diagnostic LED sequence or generate a progress code on the system bus that can be monitored during startup and displayed in some fashion or by using a special decoding board.

PCI Express
An I/O interconnect bus standard (which includes a protocol and a layered architecture) that expands on and doubles the data transfer rates of original PCI. PCI Express is a two-way, serial connection that carries data in packets along two pairs of point-to-point data lanes, compared to the single parallel data bus of traditional PCI that routes data at a set rate. The high-speed serial I/O connections currently can be implemented in interconnect widths of 1, 2, 4, 8, 12, 16 and 32 lane configurations, operating at the initial signal rate of 2.5GHz which can result in a scalable bandwidth of up to 16 Gigabytes per second. PCI Express was developed so that high-speed interconnects such as 1394b, USB 2.0, InfiniBand and Gigabit Ethernet would have an I/O architecture suitable for their high speed transfers.

RAID (Redundant Array of Independent (or Inexpensive) Disks)
Level 0 -- Striped Disk Array without Fault Tolerance:
Provides data striping (spreading out blocks of each file across multiple disk drives) but no redundancy. This improves performance but does not deliver fault tolerance. If one drive fails then all data in the array is lost.

Level 1 -- Mirroring and Duplexing:
Provides disk mirroring. Level 1 provides twice the read transaction rate of single disks and the same write transaction rate as single disks.

RAM (Random Access Memory)
Your computers memory; this is a volatile memory. All programs are stored in this memory when they are running and will be wiped from memory when the computer is powered off.

SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment)
Serial ATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment or SATA) is a new standard for connecting hard drives into computer systems. As its name implies, SATA is based on serial signaling technology, unlike current IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) hard drives that use parallel signaling. SATA has several practical advantages over the parallel signaling (also called Parallel ATA or PATA) that has been used in hard drives since the 1980s. SATA cables are more flexible, thinner, and less massive than the ribbon cables required for conventional PATA hard drives. SATA cables can be considerably longer than PATA ribbon cables, allowing the designer more latitude in the physical layout of a system. Because there are fewer conductors (only 7 in SATA as compared with 40 in PATA), crosstalk and electromagnetic interference (EMI) are less likely to be troublesome. The signal voltage is much lower as well (250 mV for SATA as compared with 5 V for PATA).

USB (Universal Serial Bus)
USB (Universal Serial Bus) has transfer rates of up to 100 Mbps, and "Hi-Speed" or USB 2.0 specification supports transfer rates up to 480 Mbps (when both the host and peripheral support the specification). USB is a high speed serial connection that allows the user to attach mice, keyboards, joysticks, network adapters, scanners, digital speakers or cameras, as well as just about any type of optical, flash or hard drive. The 4-pin USB connection also provides power to many peripherals, and supports "hot-swapping" allowing you to connect or disconnect devices without shutting down or restarting. By using USB hubs, multiple devices (up to 127) can be attached to a single USB connection.

Virtual Memory
Virtual memory allows you to use a portion of your hard drive as though it were RAM. Your hard drive is up to 100 times slower than RAM, so virtual memory is much slower than RAM. When you upgrade your RAM, you can reduce or eliminate the use of virtual memory. Upgrading RAM makes memory available to complete tasks previously handled by virtual memory.

Understanding Tech

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