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Monday, January 16, 2012

Know Your PC: Basic Answers you need to be able to tell your "computer geek"

PC  "What kind of PC is it"?
(An actual answer to an actual question.)

Sooner or later you're going to have a problem with your computer, a question about its operation, or the need to upgrade it for better performance. If you're bringing your computer with you to Micro Center® it's easy for our sales associates to find the right item you need. But what if you're just stopping in to ask a "quick question", or contact our Central Technical Support group? Here are some basic answers you'll want to have stored in your smart phone…

1. What is the Manufacturer, Make, Model, and possibly Variant?
Saying that you have an "HP" computer is like saying you have a "GM" vehicle. Make a note of the information found the sticker on the bottom or back of your computer. So why wouldn't "Compaq Presario" be good enough? Compaq has been using that model name on both its desktops and laptops for many, many years. The full description of your machine will look something like "Compaq Presario laptop model F700, variant F702US". If you can't find the model details, check your vendor's web site for instructions on how to locate the sticker or what details are important.
What is the Manufacturer
The HP web site has pictures of where the model information can be found for HP and Compaq computers.
When you do locate the sticker, they identify the important information their service or support people will need.
2. What is your Operating System version, as well as any "major" software packages?
Sometimes your questions will have more to do with the software that's running on your system than the system hardware itself. When this is the case, you'll need to be just as specific on the Operating System (OS) or the software application in question.
Using Microsoft as an example, saying your computer is running "Windows" covers too many decades of products. By convention, when Microsoft says "Windows" they always mean the current version of their OS; otherwise they state the full name of the product.
Windows XP Home, Windows XP Professional, Service Pack 1,2, or 3, Windows Vista Home Premium, Business, Ultimate, 32 or 64 bit, Service Pack 1 or 2, Windows 7 Starter, Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate, 32 or 64 bit – all of these "answers" to "What OS are your running?" can lead to different solutions.
system properties

control panel
Right Click on My Computer and select "Properties" to see basic information about your Windows OS, CPU and RAM.
Continuing with the Microsoft example, saying you have "Office" helps somewhat, but not as much as saying Office 2000, Office XP, Office 2003, Office 2007, Office 2010 plus the suite name (Home and Student, Home and Business, Professional, Standard, etc.)... and all of those options are just in the Microsoft world; Apple has its own set of products.
3. How much Memory (RAM) and Storage (Disk Space) do you have?
Rather than rely on a specification sheet for the general answer, it's better to know the amount of memory, also called RAM, and storage, also called disk space or hard drive size. The units of measurement of these two pieces of hardware are similar – they are both measured in gigabytes (GB) or on older system in megabytes (MB). Want to be really prepared to provide this answer? Here are some details for each that are very helpful:
  • RAM
    • Total amount (as in 1GB) - This may be displayed in the system information window.
    • Number of "sticks" of memory (as in 1 or 2 or 4)
    • Number of memory slots on your motherboard (as in 2 or 4 on most boards).
    • The number of hard disk drives in your system
    • The capacity of each drive and if they are IDE (wide grey ribbon cable) or SATA (thin connector)
    • Any special drives, like SSD drives
    • Any special drive configurations such as RAID 0, 1, etc.
      (RAID 0 = two or more "striped" drives for improved performance; RAID 1 = two or more "mirrored" drives for redundancy.)
Some of this information you can determine with system applications that show you details about your computer. Still confused? Just bring the unit into Micro Center and we'll figure it out.
Belarc Advisor is free for personal use.
One helpful tool that you can download from www.belarc.com or download.cnet.com is Belarc Advisor. This tool will scan your Windows computer and report details on the OS, system memory, hard drives, and will also detect many different applications. For programs like Microsoft Office, Belarc Advisor can also report the product key that was used to install the program - all very good to know if you were to have a hard drive fail...
Note: Belarc Advisor is free for personal use, but not permitted for business, educational or government systems; special corporate licensing is available.
4. Who is your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and your service level?
As more of owning a computer means being on the Internet, it's helpful for us to know who is providing your service, what type of service it is (dial-up, DSL, Cable), and what level or speed you have.
For more assistance contact Technical Support here.

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