Computer Ports Explained

Spend any time shopping for new desktops or laptops for your small business, and you might spy a few unfamiliar ports here and there. As you may know, ports are input or output jacks for the peripherals a computer can use, from USB flash memory drives to mice to monitors. As time has passed, some ports have become faster and faster, even though they may look about the same as they did a decade ago. Others have all but disappeared entirely. The march of technology that has given us e-commerce transaction databases, high-definition video, and digital photos with more megapixels also spurs the industry to develop faster interfaces (not to mention faster broadband Internet connections) to carry all that data. Ports that can’t keep up, or can’t be upgraded to speedier versions of themselves due to technological constraints, are left behind. The ports a PC supports depend on the chips built onto or attached to its motherboard. Its chipset (core logic) may have built-in USB and Ethernet capability, for example, while a third party chip added by the motherboard manufacturer adds support for audio. Meanwhile, the CPU might have on-die graphics capabilities to power the motherboard’s video outputs, while a chip on an expansion card adds eSATA (external Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) for swift backups to an external hard drive. In all cases, driver software and/or the motherboard’s BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) allow the ports to work with the computer’s operating system. In the interests of space, we’ll focus on the more recent port technologies in this article. And because several of them have miniaturized versions used in mobile devices, such as the smart phones and tablets invading the business world, we’ll mention those as applicable.

USB 3.0

The wildly popular USB interface is available in a long-awaited third version. USB 3.0, marketed as Super- Speed USB, has a theoretical speed of 5Gbps (gigabits per second), or 625MBps (megabytes per second). Even though real-world performance is somewhat slower, as with all such interfaces, that’s still more than fast enough to keep the new port from bogging down transfers to external hard drives and current SSDs (solid-state drives). USB 3.0 ports are easy to spot because their center posts are bright blue. Otherwise, USB 3.0 ports are shaped just like USB 2.0/1.1 connectors, namely a rectangular port with a rectangular post (Type A) on the PC end and a square with two beveled corners (Type B) on the peripheral end. Best of all, version 3.0 is backward compatible with USB 2.0 and 1.1 devices. Those older drives and input devices still run at their original speeds, however. USB has mini and micro versions, too. In fact, many phones, MP3 players, and other devices recharge their batteries through micro USB. Therefore, if you’re buying new computers in today’s mobile office environment, it’s important to purchase models with sleep-and-charge USB ports. These can continue to charge devices even while the PC is turned off or in Sleep mode.


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Install Graphics Card Explained

Once you’ve selected your new graphics card, installing it yourself is relatively painless. Simply follow these instructions in order, and you’ll be pleasing your peepers in no time or visit Las Vegas computer repair.

Uninstall drivers

The first step is to uninstall the existing graphics driver. To do this in Windows 7, click Start, Control Panel (in Category view), and then click Uninstall A Program from the Programs category. If you see ATI Catalyst Install Manager or Nvidia Drivers, click the item, click Change or Uninstall/ Change from the top of the window, and then follow the instructions. When complete, the system will restart. Next, shut the system down completely. Turn off the power supply where the power cable attaches to the PC and remove the case side panel. Make sure to touch the metal portion of the case frame to dissipate any static electricity and unplug the power cord from the PSU. Also remove the monitor cable, audio cables, USB cables, and any other peripheral attached to the PC.

Out with the old

With your PC shut down and disconnected from the mains power, you can now go about the task of removing your old graphics card (if there is one). Typically, the graphics card will occupy the topmost area of the motherboard’s expansion slots. If your monitor plugged directly into the motherboard, then chances are you were running integrated graphics and have nothing to remove. If the monitor cable was connected to an expansion card, then this is most likely your existing graphics card; remove the screw(s) holding the bracket to the rear case panel, disconnect the one or two auxiliary power connector(s) from the old graphics card if there are any, unlatch the PCI-E (or AGP, as the case may be) slot’s locking mechanism, and then gently lift the card straight out of the slot.

In with the new

If necessary, use a can of compressed air to ensure the graphics slot is clear of dust and then carefully slide your new graphics card into the topmost available graphics slot. Secure it with one or two screws and connect any auxiliary power connectors as necessary. Replace and secure the PC case panel, connect the power cord to your computer and to the mains power, reconnect your peripherals, and ensure your monitor cable is connected to the appropriate port on the back panel of the new graphics card. Next, turn the PC back on.

Install the driver

While any graphics card you buy at retail is going to ship with a driver disc, we recommend downloading the latest graphics drivers from the manufacturer’s Web site. You can find these on the AMD or Nvidia Web site. If you bought an AMD graphics card, visit www.amd.com, click Support & Drive from the top-right corner of the page, choose Desktop Graphics from the Component Category drop-down box, and select the appropriate options for the Product Line, Product Model, and Operating System. Then click View Results. Click Download and then follow the on-screen instructions to complete the operation. Your monitor may go dark momentarily during the installation, and you may also need to restart your PC when the installation is complete. If you bought an Nvidia graphics card, visit www.nvidia.com, select your region (if necessary), and click Download Drivers from the top-left corner of the screen. Fill out the Product Type (GeForce), Product Series, Product, Operating System, and Language fields as needed and then click Search. Click Download and then follow the on-screen instructions. Here, too, your monitor may go dark momentarily, and you may also need to restart your PC when the installation has been completed. Computer repair in Las Vegas – To make sure the new graphics card is pulling its weight, you can right-click anywhere on the Desktop, and if you see Nvidia Control Panel or Catalyst Control Center as options, then your new graphics card and driver are functioning properly. Select the NCP or CCC to tweak your graphics card, adjust resolution, change multi-monitor settings, and more.


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What To Do When Your System Freezes?

Big programs do it. Small programs do it. Good programs do it. Bad programs do it. Old systems do it. New systems do it. All programs do it, and all systems do it. Freezing is a fact of computing life, whether it’s an individual application that stops responding or the entire system that locks up. Anytime this happens your work is at risk, but freezing doesn’t always have to end in catastrophe. We’ll help you understand how to work through issues when they arise and recover from them after the fact.

General Tips

Regardless of the situation, there are a few general guidelines that can help keep you sane and your system stable. First, above all, be patient. What at first looks like a freeze can often just be slow processing. When in the middle of resource-intensive activities, such as editing video, burning a DVD, or copying large files, many applications and machines run especially slowly and may even appear to hang. Drastic steps are sometimes necessary, but they usually come with a cost. Don’t start forcing a thing to close or shut anything down until you’re certain it’s not just taking a long time to process and you’ve exhausted all other possibilities. As always, protect yourself against the inevitable (but hopefully rare) freezes and crashes that can’t be prevented. Follow the basic rules of computing. Save early and often. Schedule and confirm regular backups of important data. Don’t let hardware or software problems linger-troubleshoot and repair/replace as soon as feasible. Use antivirus and antispyware tools to protect your system from infection or invasion; Las Vegas computer repair – many freezes can be attributed to the impact of malware.

Software Program Freezes

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Does ReadyBoost Really Helps

Supercharge Your PC

Computers can slow down over time for a variety of reasons. For instance, your PC could simply be an older model that doesn’t have quite enough memory to run the newest applications and software. Or, you may be running several applications that collectively use a lot of your system memory. Whatever the reason, you may want to find a way to speed up your computer without buying new components or installing more RAM. Windows 7 and Windows Vista have a built-in feature that lets you use a USB flash drive or memory card to give your computer a bump in speed. It’s called ReadyBoost, and it’s an easy way to give your computer the extra speed it needs to keep up with you and your software. We’ll show you what to look for in a storage device, how to set up ReadyBoost, and provide some tips that will help maximize your results.

How It Works

PCs have a limited amount of memory (RAM) to use for computing purposes. Whenever your PC needs more fast storage access than your RAM provides, the computer will start to use memory from the hard drive to compensate. Hard drives have significantly slower read/write speeds than RAM, so you’ll notice a drop in performance when your computer starts to run out of system memory. ReadyBoost gives your computer an alternative to storing certain data on the hard drive. Flash memory is faster than the hard drive when it comes to reading and writing certain types of data, so ReadyBoost directs that data to the flash memory. The result is better computer performance.


The great thing about ReadyBoost is that it works with almost any flash drive or memory card as long as it has more than 256MB of available storage, but you’ll want a storage device with at least 1GB of free space to see solid results. Microsoft recommends that you double or, if possible, quadruple the amount of space you use for ReadyBoost in comparison to your computer’s RAM. For example, if your computer has 1GB of RAM, you should find a flash drive or memory card with 2 to 4GB of free space available. Your flash drive will also need to have a read speed of at least 2.5MBps (megabytes per second) and a write speed of 1.75MBps. Your USB flash drive has to support USB 2.0. If you can find one that says “Enhanced for ReadyBoost,” you can be 100% sure that it will work; however, drives that don’t have this distinction may work with ReadyBoost, as well. You can tell by connecting the drive to your computer and seeing if a ReadyBoost option shows up in the AutoPlay menu. If it doesn’t, the device might not work with ReadyBoost. Depending on what type of card reader you have in your PC, you can use many types of memory cards. Although most USB flash drives and memory cards do support the tool, there is always the potential that a USB flash drive or memory card may not work with ReadyBoost because of its formatting or interface. You may have to try a few storage devices before finding the perfect one for the job. Microsoft says that computers with SSDs (solid-state drives) may not show the option to use ReadyBoost, and you may see the message: “ReadyBoost is not enabled on his computer because the system disk is fast enough that ReadyBoost is unlikely to provide any additional benefit.” If you receive this message, there isn’t a problem with your flash drive or memory card. It just means that your computer should have enough memory and run fast enough to not need ReadyBoost. In this case, your only alternative to speed up your computer may be to buy more RAM.

Set Up ReadyBoost

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When Power Surge Hits Your Computer


It wasn’t that big of a storm. You figured everything would be fine. After resetting the alarm clock and oven display, you didn’t give the computer a second thought-until now. The printer is still on, the router downstairs is blinking away happily, but your PC won’t boot up. You try several times, panic welling, but can’t get it going. What’s wrong? There are several possible answers, but most stem from the simple fact that you plugged that computer directly into the wall, bypassing the opportunity for both surge protection and uninterruptible power.

Power Protection 101

Simple, easy-to-understand diagram of how a St...

Image via Wikipedia

Before we start figuring out the problem and how to address it, let’s get some terminology straight. Surges and spikes have very precise technical definitions. For our purposes, though, we’ll include surges with the moderate to strong fluctuations that commonly afflict our electrical system. Short-term “surges” in power usually result from devices powering up and down, or from variations in power grid conditions. Spikes, on the other hand, are massive and sudden floods of power that can overwhelm the entire infrastructure (or at least a localized segment of it). Spikes are usually caused by nearby electromagnetic disturbances, including lightning strikes. The difference is important as you clarify your needs. All good surge protectors guard against small to moderate surges. Nothing will protect against a direct hit by lightning. Where your needs fall in between those extremes depends on your budget and the value of your equipment and the data on it.

A UPS (uninterruptible power supply) provides a cushion against a complete loss of power. We all know it’s a bad idea to turn off a computer abruptly without allowing it to go through its proper shutdown process. A power outage, by definition, will shut everything off in an instant. If you’re in the middle of something, even a basic UPS can give you a few crucial minutes for saving and shutting down. More advanced models work with specialized software and your PC to facilitate a graceful shutdown even when you aren’t around.

So how do you know what to look for? In surge protectors, more joules and a lower clamping voltage are better. Also, a fuse or auto-disconnect provide better protection from spikes. Most UPS models also act as surge protectors, so you’ll want to start with similar specs. Additionally, make sure a UPS provides enough wattage to support your system and enough time for you to bring it down.

After The Fact

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