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Defining confusing computer hardware verbiage

Have you ever looked at the specifications of a computer and wondered what all of that information meant? Technical jargon can be confusing. So here is some of the most common computer hardware verbiage defined.

Defining confusing computer hardware verbiage

The vocabulary that the computer industry uses can be confusing at times. The different technical jargon can make your head spin. So here are the definitions for some of the most commonly used technical verbiage.

Motherboard

Chipset - An integrated circuit that controls data transfer functions - Chipsets are designed to work with specific CPUs and provides communication between the CPU and the other devices connected to the motherboard. Chipsets have a direct role in determining system performance

Form Factor - The physical dimensions of a device or component - Motherboards come in various form factors: from the ultra-small mini-ITX to a full-size ATX. Always verify what motherboard form factor your computer case can hold.

CPU Socket - It holds the CPU and provides mechanical and electrical connection between the motherboard and processor - AMD and Intel use completely different socket types (Intel uses LGA and AMD uses sWRX8, sTRX4, etc.). Be sure to confirm the CPU socket before purchasing a new motherboard.

Memory Slots - It holds memory modules and provides mechanical and electrical connections between the motherboard and memory - Desktop and laptop motherboards usually have 2 - 4 memory slots. Server motherboards can have up to 32 memory slots.

Central Processing Unit (CPU)

Core - A Core is a separate processing unit inside the CPU that executes the instructions that the user initiates, such as running programs and completing complex calculations - All modern CPUs have multiple cores to run several processes simultaneously.

Thread - A thread is a sequence of programmed instructions - You will usually find two (2) Threads using one (1) Core. This is where the term multithread comes from.

Generation - A CPU Generation is the average time between product release cycles - This period is usually one (1) year.

Clock Rate - The frequency/speed that the CPU operates at - The higher the clock rate is, the faster a CPU can process instructions.

Memory

Type - The physical interface that connects the memory module to the motherboard - Memory modules come in various types, from the standard DDR (Double Data Rate) to Double Data Rate 5 (DDR5).

Speed - The frequency that the memory operates at - Memory speed is measured by transfers per second. For example, PC5-38400 can handle 4,800 transfers per second.

Capacity - The amount of data the memory module can hold - The capacity of a memory module is always a multiple of 2 (2, 4, 8,16, 32, 64, etc.).

Column Address Strobe (CAS) Latency - The delay in clock cycles it takes between when data is read and when it is available for use - When selecting memory, always use modules with the same CAS latency. Using memory modules that have different CAS latency can cause system instability.

Hard Disk Drive (HDD)

Form Factor - The physical dimensions of a device or component - HDDs come in 3.5" or 2.5" widths. The height of 2.5" HDDs can vary between 7MM and 9MM.

Capacity - The amount of data the drive can hold - HDD capacity can vary from Gigabytes (GB) to Terabytes (TB).

Interface - The physical connection between the motherboard and HDD - All HDDs utilize a SATA interface connection.

Revolutions Per Minute (RPM) - The speed at which the platters inside of an HDD spins - The faster the HDD platter spins, the quicker data is transferred.

Cache - The embedded memory that acts as a buffer between the motherboard and drive - Normally, the larger the cache, the better performance you will get from the HDD.

Solid State Drive (SSD)

Form Factor - The physical dimensions of a device or component - SSDs come in various physical forms (sizes); 2.5", M.2, and U.2. M.2 SSDs also come in various widths and lengths. The code that follows M.2 is that particular drive's width and length in millimeters. For example, an M.2 2280 has a width of 22MM and a length of 80MM.

Capacity - The amount of data the drive can hold - SSD capacity can vary from Gigabytes (GB) to Terabytes (TB).

Interface - The physical connection between the motherboard and SSD - There are primarily three (3) types of interfaces; SATA 3, PCI-e 3, and NVMe. What type of interface is determined by the form factor. 2.5" drives use SATA 3, and M.2 drives use either PCI-e 3 or NVMe. M.2 drives also have key notches; B key, M key, or both.

Memory Type - Most SSDs use NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) - NVMe has become the default standard memory for most SSDs produced.

Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)

Power Requirements - The amount of power required to operate the GPU - Most GPUs require one (1) PCIe 6 or 8-pin power connector, with some high-end graphic cards requiring two (2) PCIe 6 - 8 pin connectors.

Interface - The physical connection between the motherboard and graphics card - Most GPUs require a PCIe x16 slot using the same PCIe version (2.0, 3.0, 4.0, etc.) as the motherboard.

Memory - The physical amount of memory that is embedded on the graphics card - Graphics cards use a type of memory designed explicitly for processing graphics called Graphics Double Data Rate (GDDR). There are multiple versions of GDDR, including GDDR3, GDDR4, and GDDR5.

Speed - The frequency that the GPU operates at - GPU clock speed is how many processing cycles it can execute in a second.

Power Supply Unit (PSU)

Type - PSU types are based on the different computer case form factors - The majority of PSUs are ATX form factor, as it is the most popular case type.

Power Output - The rated maximum wattage that a PSU can deliver - A PSU output can range from 400W to over 1500W.

Modular / Non-Modular - The type of physical connection for the different power cables leading to the various devices - Non-modular PSUs have all of the device connections physical attached, Modular PSUs have separate cables for each type of device, so you only have to connect the cables for the devices you need to power.

Get better search results by setting your precise location in Windows 10

Have you ever used your favorite browser to search for a business close to you, only to have it return a list of business miles away from you? If so, then you may want to set your precise location in Windows 10.

Get better search results by setting your precise location in Windows 10

Usually, Windows 10 can get close to your relative location using a combination of various sources. These include the IP address your ISP (Internet Service Provider) provides, GPS (Global Positioning Service), wireless access points, and cell towers.

Despite all of these resources, there will be times when Windows 10 cannot determine your exact location. That is when you will need to set your precise location manually.

Setting your location manually can also help in planning business and personal trips, like vacations. For example, you can manually set your location to the address of a hotel you will be staying at and find restaurants close to that location.

Now you have to remember that Windows 10 has two (2) different types of programs, UWP (Universal Windows Platform) and Desktop, and they both have different ways of determining location.

UWP apps will typically ask for permission to access your location. These are the programs that use GPS and wireless access points to triangulate your location. You will find them listed in the Choose which apps can access your precise location section of the Location category of Windows Settings.

Desktop apps do not ask for permission to access your location and do not appear in the allowed access list. These programs include all of your browsers, including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, etc.

And since the majority of searches are performed using a web browser, setting your location manually will be the only way to get precise search results for your location.

How to manually set your location in Windows 10

  1. Open Windows Settings by either:
    • Left-click on the Start Windows logo key button and then left-click on the gear icon (Settings).
    • or
    • Right-click on the Start Windows logo key button and then left-click on Settings from the Power User menu.
  2. Left-click on Privacy.
    Default view of the Windows 10 Settings app with the Privacy category outlined
  3. Scroll down the left-hand column and left-click on Location.
    The Location section inside of the Windows 10 Settings
  4. Scroll down the right-hand column until you find Allow desktop apps to access your location and make sure it is switched on.
    Allow desktop apps to access your location switch inside of the Windows 10 Settings
  5. Scroll back up the right-hand column and left-click on the Set default button under Default location. The Windows Maps program will then open.
    Set default location button inside of the Windows 10 Settings
  6. In Windows Maps, left-click on the Set default location button.
    Set default location button inside of the Windows Maps
  7. Type in the address you want to use as your location. Windows Maps will display a list of addresses that it feels are a match.
    The default location form inside of the Windows Maps
  8. Left-click on the correct address.
    Select default location inside of the Windows Maps
  9. Close Maps and Settings, and you will be all set.

If you are using a laptop and your location changes regularly, you can always go back into the Windows 10 Settings and modify it as needed.

How to reuse a HDD or SSD

So you upgraded the drive in your computer and now have an extra drive that you do not know what to do with. There are a couple of things you can do with it. So here is what you can do with your old drive.

How to reuse a HDD or SSD

I have written several articles on how to clone the drive in your Windows-based computer. But I have never written an article on what to do with the drive that you replaced.

When it comes to the old drive, there are two options; reuse it or recycle it. Either way, you will need some additional hardware to utilize the old drive.

To reuse it inside of your computer, you will need a spare drive carriage, mounting screws, a 7-pin SATA data cable, and a spare 15-pin SATA power connection. If you want to connect it externally, you will need a drive enclosure (2.5" or 3.5").

To recycle it, you will need to erase all of the data on the drive. I like to encrypt the drive with BitLocker first, then perform a seven-pass DoD (Department of Defense) disk wipe. So even if someone were able to recover any data, it would still be encrypted.

Now, was the old drive bootable (contained the operating system)? If so, then there will be a boot record that needs to be deleted before you can reuse it.

If you plan on reusing the drive, simply erasing all of the data on the drive should work. If you plan on recycling it, then you will need to securely erase all of the data so no one can successfully recover anything from it.

If the drive was used only for storage, then erasing all of the data will work. If it was the boot drive in your computer, we have to erase all of the data and delete the boot record so that any computer that it is connected to does not accidentally boot up onto it.

Time to erase the drive

The first thing you have to do is attached the drive to your computer, either by turning the computer off and installing the drive inside of your computer. Or by connecting it externally using a drive case, docking station, or a USB adapter.

Remember that if the drive was originally a boot drive and you install it inside of your computer, your system may try and boot on that drive. It is recommended that you wipe the drive of any boot record and boot partition before installing it inside your computer.

Several drive manufacturers have software that can erase the data from one of their drives. Western Digital, Seagate, and Samsung are a few that have that type of software. In fact, Seagate's Seatools for Windows will work on any manufacturer's drive.

There is also third-party software that can perform DoD (Department of Defense) disk erasing. The UBCD (Ultimate Boot CD) has several programs that can perform a DoD disk wipe (I like using Darik's Boot and Nuke). If you are planning on recycling the drive, a DoD wipe is recommended.

There have been times when I have seen a manufacturer's software fail when it comes to erasing data from a drive. It usually happens when the drive in question was originally a boot drive.

As you can see from the following screen capture,
The properties of a hidden partition in Windows 10 Disk Management
the original boot/recovery partition can not be deleted in Windows 10 Disk Management application.

In cases like that, I have found using the Windows Diskpart application works great. It is a command-line-only program, but you can use it to delete any type of partition if you are very careful.

Using Diskpart to erase a drive

Note: Misusing Diskpart can erase a disk that you may not want to be wiped, so be extra careful and double-check the disk number before proceeding.

To ensure that you erase the correct drive, let's open Windows 10 Disk Management and verify the disk number.

  1. Open Disk Management by either:
    • Right-clicking on the Start Windows logo key button and select Disk Management from the context menu
    • or
    • Left-clicking on the Start Windows logo key button, scroll down the application list and expand the Windows Administrative Tools folder. Then left-click on Computer Management. Then under Storage, you will find Disk Management.
  2. Locate the disk in question. It will be labeled Disk #.
    The disk number of a drive in Windows 10 Disk Management
  3. Open a Command Prompt with Administrative permissions (click here for more details).
  4. Type diskpart and then press enter.
  5. Type list disk and press enter.
    The list disk command in diskpart
  6. Type select disk #, replacing the # with the disk number found in Disk Management.
    The select disk command in diskpart
  7. Type clean and press enter.
    The clean command in diskpart
    The list disk command in diskpart showing a the empty disk
  8. Type exit to close Disk Management.
  9. Type exit again to close the Command Prompt.

Time to format the drive

All partitions will now be gone, and the drive is ready to be reformatted. Let's go back into Disk Management and reformat the drive. When you open Disk Management, you should be prompted to initialize the disk.

The initialize disk dialog box in Windows 10 Disk Management

If the drive is smaller than 2 Terabytes, use the MBR (Master Boot Record) partition style. Any drive larger than 2 Terabytes will need to use the GPT (GUID Partition Table) partition style.

Once you initialize the disk, just right-click on the unallocated space and select New Simple Volume.
The create a new volume dialog box in Windows 10 Disk Management
You will be prompted for the volume size, assigning a drive letter or path, and what format you want the partition. Using the selected defaults is recommended.

My five favorite virus and malware removal tools

Having your computer get infected with a virus or malware can be an actual stressful situation. And finding software that can remove the infection can be even more stressful. So here are my five favorite virus and malware removal tools.

My five favorite virus and malware removal tools

As a computer repair technician, I have used many different tools over the years to remove viruses, malware, and adware. I have seen plenty of software that works like a charm, only to be bought out by their competitor or never updated.

Now some programs have withstood the test of time. Some of them you have to install fully, some you just download and run. But all of the programs listed here have been around for several years.

Anti-virus programs

The AV Test user interface

I get asked quite often about what anti-virus software I recommend. This is a tricky question to answer because there are so many decent free and paid AV programs out there.

I suggest checking some of the independent anti-virus review sites and see what is recommended. I personally like AV Test as they review only anti-virus and security software.

Windows 10 does include an AV program called Windows Defender, and it does rank pretty high, but it does have a limited feature set. If you are looking for AV software with a bunch of bells and whistles, Windows Defender may not be what you are looking for.

One of the first things you may want to do is check and see if your Internet Service Provider (ISP) provides a branded version of AV software. Sometimes you can get a complete security suite from your ISP for free.

But remember that the majority of AV programs look for viruses and malware, not adware or junkware. That is why I use several different programs for cleaning up an infected computer.

AV Test

AdwCleaner

The AdwCleaner user interface

When it comes to cleaning up a compromised Internet browser, nothing beats AdwCleaner. It can find the most hidden malicious browser extensions and reset your network adapter all at the same time.

AdwCleaner requires no installation; just download and run. It also does not require an Internet connection but will download program and database updates if it can connect to the Internet.

AdwCleaner

Malwarebytes

The Malwarebytes user interface

As the name implies, it does a great job of finding and removing malware. It is also fantastic at finding and eliminating Probably Unwanted Programs (PUP) and junkware.

This program does have to have an Internet connection to complete its installation, and it is configured in a full 14-day trial mode. You can deactivate the trial license and just run it when you want to perform a scan.

The only thing I do not like about it is that it sets itself to start with Windows automatically. You can easily change this by right-clicking on the Malwarebyte icon in the Taskbar and deselect Start with Windows.

Malwarebytes

SUPERAntiSpyware

The SUPERAntiSpyware user interface

This program is excellent at finding those pesky little cookies that browsers seem to collect. It also does an excellent job of finding and removing PUPs and junkware.

This program does require full installation but does not need Internet access to complete the install. The full version does have some cool features, but if you are just trying to clean up your system, the basic version will work.

SUPERAntiSpyware

Microsoft Safety Scanner

The Microsoft Safety Scanner user interface

The Microsoft Safety Scanner is a stand-alone scanner, just download and run. It does a fantastic job of finding malware that has dug itself deep inside of Windows.

It does have only three options: Quick Scan, Full Scan, and Customized Scan. The Quick Scan looks in areas of Windows that are most likely to contain viruses, spyware, and malware. The Customized Scan is similar to the Quick Scan but allows scanning of a user-specified folder.

The Full Scan does just that; it scans every file on your computer. This is the most thorough scan but can take hours or even days to complete. But if you are looking for something that may be deeply embedded in Windows, this is the type of scan you want to perform.

Now the Microsoft Safety Scanner is time-stamped and will only run for ten days after you download it, so you will need to download a new version every time you want to perform a system scan.

Microsoft Safety Scanner

How to find compatible computer parts online

Building your own computer or upgrading your existing system can be a dream or a nightmare. Simply finding parts that are compatible with each other can be challenging. But there are some really helpful websites that can make finding the correct parts easy.

How to find compatible computer parts online

There is no greater satisfaction than being able to say you built or upgraded your computer yourself. Whether it be upgrading the memory or drive in your computer or building a entirely new system from the ground up.

But picking compatible computer parts can be daunting. Most of the time, you have to use the different parts' specifications to determine which components will work together.

We at Geeks in Phoenix have been building custom-built computers for over two decades and have written numerous articles on the subject. Let's run down some of our more popular articles on computer building and computer upgrading.

Make your computer faster by upgrading the hardware

Things to consider when replacing or upgrading computer components

How to upgrade the hard drive in your computer

How to upgrade or add more memory to your computer

How to add an expansion card to your desktop computer

Things to keep in mind when building a custom-built computer

How to build a computer

But none of these articles will do you any good if you cannot find compatible computer parts. If you're working on an older PC, say five to ten years old, you will have to use the different manufacturers' specifications to find compatible parts.

Now, if you are looking at upgrading a relatively new computer or building a new one, then the following websites will come in handy. When it comes to finding compatible computer parts, the websites seem to be broken down into two categories; complete systems and just memory.

Complete computers

Let's start with websites that can help you find every part of a custom-built computer. Several websites will give you a list of components that work together, but only a couple allow you to customize the different elements truly.

The first website is PC Part Picker. You can select any component (motherboard, processor, etc.) and assemble a list of compatible parts for a complete system. Or you can use it to find compatible parts to upgrade your existing computer.

The nice thing about PC Part Picker is that it will notify you when you have selected an incompatible component. It usually will not even show you parts that will not work together. That way, you are assured of getting completely compatible parts.

And almost every part listed has a link to where you can purchase it and its current price. I noticed that the majority of the links go to Amazon, but sometimes they have the lowest price.

The second website is Newegg. They have a section on their website specifically for custom PC building that is similar to PC Part Picker. The only difference is they link to products they or their affiliates sell.

Separate computer components

The PC Part Picker and Newegg websites can also help find individual components. As long as the manufacturer is still selling the component, you can use either of these websites to find compatible parts for your computer.

Let's say you built a computer recently and want to upgrade the processor. All you would have to do is find your specific motherboard, and these websites will show you what processors are compatible with your motherboard.

But as I always say, the biggest bang you can get for your buck is a memory upgrade. And most of the memory manufacturers have what they call 'memory finders'.

All you have to do is find your computer make / model or motherboard make / model; their websites will show you which of their memory modules will work in your computer.

Crucial

Kingston

Corsair

Newegg

CDW

FYI - If you are trying to get the lowest price on a component, you can check a vendor's website to see if they do price matching. I have used price matching to get some terrific deals on hardware.

If you have found a website with a computer parts configurator that we do not have listed, please let us know. Just send us the information via our contact page.

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Here at Geeks in Phoenix, we take pride in providing excellent customer service. We aim to give the highest quality of service  from computer repair, virus removal, and data recovery.

Bring your computer to us and save

Diagnosing PC problems can be time-consuming. From running memory checking software to scanning for viruses, these are processes can take some time. We base our in-shop service on the actual time we work on your computer, not the time it takes your computer to work!

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in servicing laptop and desktop computers. Since 2008, our expert and knowledgeable technicians have provided excellent computer repair, virus removal, data recovery, photo manipulation, and website support to the greater Phoenix metro area.

At Geeks in Phoenix, we have the most outstanding computer consultants that provide the highest exceptional service in Phoenix, Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, and Tempe, Arizona. We offer in-shop, on-site, and remote (with stable Internet connection) computer support and services.

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