1.2. The PC's Case
Unlike your PC's glowing monitor, your PC's case usually sits unnoticed beneath the desk or in a dark corner. After you switch the power on or off, you usually touch the PC's case for only two reasons:
You want to plug something into your PC, like a new mouse, digital camera, or glowing blue game controller.
You want to place something inside your PC like new memory or a new drive, or you need to replace something that's not working.
Plugging something into the case is easy enough, once you find the right port (Section 1.8), a general term describing any hole, jack, or plug you use to connect things like a mouse or speakers to your PC. Putting something inside the case takes more effort, but it's probably easier than you think, thanks to the design of your PC's case.
Figure 1-1. This list shows the items most frequently mentioned in a software box's System Requirements' area. To see this information about your own computer, click Start Help and Support Use Tools to View your Computer Information and Diagnose Problems My Computer Information View General System Information about this Computer. Click the Print icon to have the printer spit out a handy crib sheet you can take to the store.
PCs aren't designed like cars , which force owners to find a specific muffler for their '67 Chevy El Camino. Most PC cases contain standard- sized parking spots called bays for sliding in standard-sized drives boxy storage units like CD drives or hard drives. For example, almost any hard drive slides smoothly into almost any case's drive bays (Figure 1-2) and locks into place easily with screws or a bracket
The holes in your PC's case also line up exactly with the holes in the computer's motherboard (Section 1.4), a large flat card stuffed with your computer's main circuitry . And the holes in the PC's power supply (Section 1.9), a metal box that pipes electricity throughout your PC, also align with the holes in your PC's case. This "matching holes" design lets you easily attach standard-sized parts to your PC's case with just a few screws.
Many of your PC's other internal parts hail from the same IKEA school of easy assembly, but they use slots and matching tabs. For instance, the motherboard contains standard-sized slots, good for plugging in memory (Section 1.6), which comes on little circuit-filled sticks that let your computer juggle information.
Cards (Section 1.7), larger flat parts that add features like better video to a PC, slip into slightly larger slots on a motherboard.
| POWER USERS' CLINIC |
Wringing Out the Most Technical Details
As you can see in Figure 1-1, Windows XP freely divulges general information about your computerits available hard drive space, for instance, and its amount of installed memory. However, that's not detailed enough when you're troubleshooting annoying error messages or hunting down replacements for misbehaving drivers the software Windows relies on to talk with external devices like printers and scanners . Sometimes you may need to read specific technical info over the phone during a call to Tech Support.
That's where the System Information window comes in. Useful for troubleshooting problems in specific areas, the System Information window provides a quick way to locate details like driver dates and versions, names of installed codecs (files that let your PC play back media like MP3s or DVDs) and lists of programs that automatically start when you turn on your computer.
To see every technical detail Windows XP has to offer, click Start All Programs Accessories System Tools System Information. If you click any of the items listed in the Components section along the left, Windows XP spills that items dossier across the box's right side.
Windows XP's System Information tool digs up enough detailed information to solve most problems, but it's a mere doctor's checkup compared to the neurological MRI scan SiSoftware's Sandra (www.sisoftware.net) provides. Download the free version of this program to let Sandra's special modules detect the most esoteric information about every part of your computer. For instance, if you double-click the Mainboard Information module, Sandra shows your motherboard's name, model, and serial number; the manufacturing date of your memory chips; and the name , manufacturer, and driver date of every device plugged into all of your computer's ports.
Admittedly, much of this information is overkill except to computer technicians. (And technicians usually buy the software's pay version, which grants access to even more advanced information.) But when you need specific information about something in your computer that's misbehaving, SiSoftware's Sandra's free version rarely fails. If you reach a dead end while troubleshooting, try Googling one of Sandra's arcane strings of technical details. You may hit upon a solution you'd never find elsewhere.