Frequently Asked Questions - Hardware Common Questions and Answers

FAQs - Hardware Common Questions and Answers
Here you will find questions and answers to common hardware topics.
What is a motherboard?
A motherboard is the main circuit board inside your computer that is responsible for things such as transferring data between all the components such as your sound, video and network cards. It’s also where the processor (CPU) and RAM connect into the system. It also has slots such as PCI, AGP, PCI-E etc which all you to install your components in your computer. Many motherboards have built in components like sound, video and network cards. Motherboards will also have other ports such as USB, HDMI, VGA and DVI built in. Newer motherboards will have SATA hard drive connectors while older ones will have IDE connectors.

How do I clean my monitor?
This will depend on what type of monitor you have. If you have the older CRT monitor then it will have a glass screen and be easy to clean. You can spray some glass cleaner on a soft cloth then wipe down the screen and follow it up with a dry cloth. LCD and LED monitors are more sensitive and are not as easy to clean. You never want to put too much pressure on an LCD\LED screen since it may cause damage. First try a soft cloth like a microfiber cloth and gently wipe the screen. If its just dusty then you can use something like a Swiffer duster that is good at picking up dust. There are also special purpose LCD\LED cleaning kits that do a good job of cleaning your screen without causing damage. Just be sure to never spray anything directly on your monitor.

TAGS: clean, monitor
How do I upgrade my computer’s RAM or memory?

This will depend on the age of your computer and if you have any available RAM slots on your motherboard. If you have an older computer it may not be easy to find the right kind of RAM for your computer since it’s not all the same and will depend on the type of motherboard you have. You can take out a RAM chip/DIMM and see if it has a sticker on it saying something like DDR3 PC2800 to give you an idea of what kind of RAM you have.

If all your RAM slots are full then the only way you will be able to upgrade will be by taking out some of the smaller RAM DIMMs and replacing them with larger capacity ones. RAM is pretty cheap and easy to replace so it’s a wise investment if your computer does not have enough.

For Windows Vista and up you should have a minimum of 3 GB with 6 to 8 GB being the ideal amount.

Should I leave my computer on or turn it off?

There is no right answer to this question but there are some things to consider if you are trying to decide whether to leave your computer on or off. One reason to leave it on would be for instant access rather than having to wait for it to boot up each time you want to use it. If you are constantly on and off your computer all day then you may be better off leaving it on. Or if you have an older computer that boots up really slow or does not boot up successfully every time then leaving it on may be the way to go. Some people say leaving your computer on wears it out faster but they are really designed to be left on. Many computers have been left on for years nonstop with no problems. You can have your computer hibernate or shut down components like the hard drive and monitor after a set amount of time to save energy.

If you don’t use your computer too often then turning it off after each use may work better for you. If your computer is located in a hot room with poor ventilation then you should shut it down after using it to avoid damage from excessive heat. You should also look into keeping the room or computer cooler when it’s in use as well. Occasional reboots are good to “freshen up” your computer if it’s been running for a long time. It will clear out the RAM and reload processes and programs that may not be running as well as they could be.

The bottom line is that it is up to you to decide whether to leave your computer on or off when not in use.

How do I free up space on my hard drive?

If your computer is getting low on hard drive space on your system drive (C: drive) then that can adversely affect performance of your computer. There are a few things you can do to free up space on your hard drive.

The easiest thing to do is to do a cleanup of your computer to get rid of temporary files such as browser temp files and system log files. Rather than try and find these files yourself you can use a program such as the free CCleaner program that finds and removes all kinds of junk files from your system.

If you still need to free up space after your cleanup then you can delete or move some of your personal files. If you have too many pictures or MP3s for example you can delete ones you don’t care about anymore or move them to an external flash drive, hard drive or CD/DVD. Another option is to install a second hard drive in your computer and store your personal files on that drive to keep your main drive from getting full.

And another option is to remove any software you don’t use anymore or never used. Many computers come preinstalled with software that most people never use or never even know about. You can go to Programs and Features and uninstall these programs. Just be sure that you know what the program is before removing it.

If you end up installing a second drive you can uninstall programs from your C drive and reinstall them on your new drive. Just make sure moving the programs location does not affect the way the program functions. It should work fine in most cases.

How do I check how much memory (RAM) I have?

For Windows computers this is a very easy thing to do. Of course you can watch your screen as you boot up your computer and it may tell you there depending on how it’s configured. But once you are in Windows all you need to do is find the My Computer, Computer, or My PC icon depending on what version of Windows you are running. Many times it’s on your desktop and if it’s not then look under your Start menu or look under Control Panel for the System icon.

Once you find it simply right click on it and choose Properties. Then you will see a section that says Computer or System and it will show how much RAM you have installed in your computer.

Or you can open a command prompt and type in wmic MEMORYCHIP for more detailed information about your installed RAM.

How do I update my BIOS?

The BIOS (Basic Input Output System) is used on PCs to test and initialize hardware devices such as hard drives and video cards when your computer starts. It contains software routines that provide the basic interface between hardware the operating system. The BIOS is typically placed in a ROM chip which makes sure that the BIOS will always be available even if you have a disk failure.

Many times motherboard or computer manufactures will update the BIOS software to fix bugs or improve compatibility with new hardware. These BIOS patches usually can be downloaded and then installed into the BIOS which is usually called flashing the BIOS.

The procedure for doing this will vary from computer to computer but there are only a few ways to do it. Some vendors will have program that you can run from within Windows that will do the updating for you. This is the easiest method for updating the BIOS. Other methods include booting to a CD or flash drive. In these scenarios you would download the update files and then copy them to a flash drive or create a bootable CD from an ISO image.

Then you would boot your computer with the floppy, flash drive or CD in the drive and follow the prompts to update your BIOS. Just make sure your computer is set to read from whatever device you are boot order from before the hard drive or else it will just boot into Windows. If you are using a flash drive make sure your computer is able to boot from a flash drive since all of them aren’t.

Computer Won't Start Unless CMOS Battery is Taken Out and Put Back In
It does sound like a CMOS battery issue or maybe the battery connection on the motherboard. I would start by replacing the battery for sure. It should have a number on it so you can get the right type to replace it with. It wouldn't be hard drive related since you don't need to have a hard drive installed to POST your computer. Once you replace the battery go into the BIOS and make sure all your date and time settings are correct and make sure your hard drive is detected properly etc. If replacing the battery doesn't help then it may be something with the motherboard itself that may require you to replace it.

Recently when turn on the pc I am getting a message "chassis is open and to Press F1 to continue or Press del to enter bios. I tried it the in bios but problem is not solved.
On some computers there will be a switch that is tripped when the case is open to alert you of the fact. If you go into the BIOS there should be a setting to reset the alarm. Double check all of your BIOS settings to find the section for the alarm. If you cannot find it you will need to contact the manufacturer to find out where the correct area is.

When I hit the switch to turn my computer on it goes on for 1 second and then it seems like it looses power and goes off, is there a problem with the power supply, or is it something else?

It could be a power supply or possibly the power switch or even the motherboard. You can bypass the power switch by finding where the 2 pin wire connects on the motherboard and unplug it. Then take a flathead screwdriver and short the connection. That is make contact with both pins on the motherboard at the same time to start the computer and see if it stays running. If so you most likely have a bad switch on the case.

Next I would try the power supply. They are cheap and easy to replace. If that doesn't work it may be that you have a bad motherboard.

My DVD Rom Drive has stopped working. When I went under My Computer the D:\ Drive for DVD is no longer there. How can I restore it?

Try this registry edit to see if it solves the problem. Make sure to backup the registry first and do this at your own risk since editing the registry can render your computer useless and you will have to reinstall Windows.

1. Click on Start then click on Run

2. Enter regedit and click Ok

3. Open up the following folders:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
SYSTEM
CurrentControlSet
Control
Class
{4D36E965-E325 -11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}

4. Within {4D36E965-E325 -11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318} you should see two settings on the right-hand side: Upperfilters and Lowerfilters Click on each of them, press delete and click Yes.

5. Close regedit & restart your computer

How do I reformat a hard disk?

If it's a second hard drive and your computer recognizes it you just right click the disk and pick format. Then pick if you want FAT32 or NTFS. We recommend NTFS.

If you are going to format your main hard drive (C drive) you can do so by booting to your Windows DVD as if you were going to install Windows. Make sure you BIOS is set to boot from CD before hard drive or else it will keep booting into Windows.

After you boot to the CD, Windows will load files and eventually get to a point where it asks where you want to install Windows. From there it will display your hard drive configuration and give you options to leave it as is or format it. Then you can format the disk and cancel the install if that's all you want to do or you can continue installing a clean copy of Windows.

Keep in mind that formatting the drive erases EVERYTHING so back up your files first!

My door for the DVD drive will no longer open. How can I fix this? Is there a way to get it to open?
Once the door on your DVD decides not to open its pretty much time to get a new one. To open the tray all you have to do is get a large paperclip, straighten part of it out and stick it in the little hole on the front of the drive and push in. This will force the tray open to get your CD out. If you feel like doing this every time you use it then that could be an option too. You can also try right clicking the drive in Windows Explorer and choosing eject and see if it works that way which will tell you that its the button on the drive itself that is bad.

When I boot up my computer I can heard a very loud "eeeeeee" sound from my computer. I don't know what hardware or what is giving this sound. Is anything wrong?

There are only a few things that can make noise inside your computer. One common thing is the power supply fan. You can test this by taking a pen or other object and while the computer is making the noise stick the pen in the fan in the back to stop it momentarily to see if it affects the sound. If it does then you may want to consider getting a new power supply before the fan goes out and overheats the computer.

It may also be the processor fan. You can take the cover off the computer and start it to make sure the fan is running on the processor. You can do the same thing by momentarily stopping the fan to see if the sound stops (Don't do it more than a moment). You don't want to have your processor fan go bad because it can quickly ruin the processor. Even if its spinning it could be spinning too slowly and overheat.

Finally your hard drive could be making the noise. All you can really do is try and listen closely when the cover is off the case and see if it's coming from there. If it is then it may or may not be a problem. Sometimes you will have a noisy hard drive and it will be fine and sometimes it will be on its way out. If you want to play it safe you can backup your data and replace the hard drive but keep in mind you will have to reinstall Windows and all of your programs.

My computer had 4GB of RAM. I installed another 4 GB. When I look at the System in the Control Panel it still says the machine has 4GB of RAM. How do I know if the computer is using the second chip?

Your computer may not support the type of RAM you are using or it may be having a conflict with the existing RAM if it's a different brand or speed. Some computers are picky about what type of RAM you install. It may also be a case of having to tell the BIOS about the new RAM so it will utilize it. I would go into the BIOS and check the memory configuration and see if it is recognized there.

Another test you can do is to take out the old ram and put the new RAM in the first slot to see if it gets recognized by the computer to make sure it is compatible with the motherboard. Or you can swap the position of the 2 chips to see if it makes a difference. There is also a chance you could have defective memory. I would also check the motherboard manual if you have it to find the memory configurations that will work with your motherboard.

What is the CMOS and how does its work?
CMOS stands for complementary metal oxide semiconductor and is a chip that is powered by a battery and contains the date, time, and system setup parameters for your computer. This information is kept in the memory even when the computer is turned off. That is why when you turn off your computer or unplug it and then turn it back on it remembers the date and time. The other information kept in the CMOS is used by the BIOS for starting up your computer.

The computer displays disk boot failure insert system disk what should I do?

A disk boot failure can mean a couple of different things. It could be hardware or software related. I would first make sure your computer can see the drive. It should display the drive listing when you start up the computer on the POST screen. If you can't see it that way I would check the BIOS to see if it's recognized.

If it doesn't show up in the BIOS make sure your IDE or SATA cables and power cables are attached correctly and functioning. See if you can hear the hard drive power up when you turn on the computer. If you can you may want to try a different cable or port on the motherboard. Just make sure to adjust your jumpers appropriately if its an IDE drive. You may also have a bad hard drive. You can put the drive in another computer as a secondary drive to see if you can recover your data.

No sound after Windows reinstall

The most common reason you won't have sound after a Windows reinstall is because of a missing driver. I would look in Device Manager under Sound, video and game controllers and see if you have a sound card listed and also see if you have a yellow exclamation point or question mark there. If you do that most likely means you are missing the driver or something is wrong with it. If you know the make and model of your sound card you can go to the manufactures site and download the latest version or maybe try the driver tab and have Windows try to update it online.

You can also look up your computer by model or search by service tag number on the manufacturers website and find the sound card driver there. Then simply download it and run the installer and that should get things going for you again.

IRQ NOT LESS OR EQUAL error when using USB devices

An IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL error is usually caused by a hardware driver or IRQ conflict. An IRQ is an interrupt request where a device requests time from the CPU. When different devices compete for the same IRQ, there are operating conflicts.

One of your devices may be in conflict with another device on your system. There is no one specific fix for this error. You will need to narrow it down by removing drivers or devices until it does not do it anymore. I would first try uninstalling your printer and card reader completely and then trying your external hard drive. Remove the software from Programs and Features and check Device Manager to make sure it is gone.

You may also be able to avoid removing devices by disabling them in Device Manager instead and then try to connect your USB device.

There is also a chance it could be related to a driver update for your sound card, video card or other device that you may have performed or even Windows Update performed.

I’m missing my USB stick (flash memory) icon from my computer window and I can't access data from it. The Safely Remove Hardware Icon is show in the taskbar.

I'm assuming this USB drive worked before and was assigned a drive letter? Did you check to make sure that it was not assigned a different letter this time?

You should look in Device Manager for any conflicts with your USB ports. See if you have a yellow question mark or exclamation point under the USB section. You can also right click on Universal Serial Bus controllers and select scan for hardware changes to see if it finds it.

Another thing you can do is go to a href="/support-categories/hardware/476-disk-management-drives" target="blank">Disk Management and see if your drive is listed there. If so you can assign it a drive letter if it doesn't have one.

I would also try this drive on another computer to make sure there isn't a problem with the drive itself. There is a chance that it has gone bad. Also make sure that your USB ports are working by plugging in a different USB device into the USB ports to make sure it is recognized by Windows.

Check and see if you have the USB device icon by the clock in the taskbar. Double click it and see if your device is listed in there. If not it may be another sign that it has gone bad.

TAGS: flash drive
How do I reset a BIOS password ?

There are a couple of ways to try and reset the password. The first thing you can try is to remove the CMOS battery and leave it out for about 20 min and then put it back in. This will clear all the settings and should clear the password too. You will most likely have to reset the system time etc in the BIOS.

Another option is to see if there is a generic password for your brand of computer that you can use to get into the settings and clear the password. Many companies use a standard password just in case something like this happens.

If you can find the motherboard manual then there might be a jumper you can short to clear the BIOS password.

My hard drive, continually spins up and down while I'm at or away from the computer. Can I stop this?

When your hard drive is continuously spinning it could be caused by a couple of things. The first and easiest thing to do is to run a disk defragmenter on the drive (not applicable for SSD drives). When a hard drive becomes fragmented it has to search the disk in several different places that are spread out to get the information rather than in just one contiguous section. You should check it about once a month to see if it needs to be run.

Another reason a hard drive will be constantly working is because you do not have enough RAM in your system and the computer has to go to the hard drive for memory to make up for it.

I would also check your startup items to make sure you don't have any unnecessary programs starting with your computer using up your resources and running in the background.

How do I connect TV cable to my computer so I can watch TV on it?
To connect your TV to your computer you will need a TV tuner video card or a video card with a TV input which is is a regular video card but it will also have a coaxial cable connector that you can plug your TV cable into. It will usually come with software that you can use to watch TV on your computer. Just make sure whatever card you get supports TV in rather than TV out or has both features.

I get a blue screen error and then the computer reboots after I installed a second hard drive.

I would start by removing the new hard drive to see if you can get the computer to boot again. If you can then you can check the Event Viewer for any error details to try and narrow down why it doesn't like the new drive.

Then you can prevent the computer from automatically restarting on the blue screen error by going to System in Control Panel and go to Advanced System Settings. Then click on the Advanced tab and then the Startup and Recovery Settings button and uncheck the box that says Automatically restart. The next time you reboot, it should stop on the Blue Screen so you can read what it says.

I'm getting a blue screen error that says - irql_driver_equal or less

Automatic reboots can be caused by several different things and are hard to diagnose. One thing you can try is turn off the automatic reboot option under the recovery options for your computer. This will make it so your computer won’t reboot on errors so you can see any problems. Go to to System in Control Panel and go to Advanced System Settings. Then click on the Advanced tab and then the Startup and Recovery Settings button and uncheck the box that says Automatically restart. The next time you reboot, it should stop on the Blue Screen so you can read what it says.

The next thing to look at is to see if you have installed any new software or drivers or even any new hardware on your system. Faulty drivers can cause reboots as well. If so you may want to uninstall the software or remove the new hardware and see what happens.

There can possibly be a problem with your motherboard's< a href="/support-categories/hardware/487-what-is-the-bios" target="blank">BIOS. You may want to do a BIOS update if there is one available. Just be really careful to do it correctly because you can ruin your motherboard if you don't.

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