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Hard Drive HDD

Which Hard Drive do I have?

Tutorial written by KenB

There are 3 types of hard-drive. (SSD which is relatively new is not covered in this tutorial).

The 2 HDDs featured are, at the time of writing, by far the most common.

  • [color=red]PATA[/color] – commonly known as [color=blue]IDE ( Integrated Drive Electronics )[/color]
  • [color=green]SATA[/color] ( Serial Advanced Technology Attachment ).

Sata Hard Drive  - Serial advanced Technology Attachment

IDE ( shown above ) is an older technology. It was first introduced into PCs in about 1986.

It is probably easiest to identify the hard drive by the cable. An IDE cable is broad ( 80 wires ) and grey.

IDE Cable

The newer hard drives transfer data faster than the older IDE drives.
The connections are different: ( see below )

Faster IDE Cable

The cable for this drive is much smaller than the older IDE cable.

Sata Cable

In a new future we shall see a propagation of the SSD Hard Drives that allow Operating systems to load faster. So stay tuned for a part 2 of “Which Hard Drive do I have?”

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Inside My Desktop

What is Inside my Desktop Computer ?

Tutorial written by KenB

This is a BASIC guide if you are wondering “what is inside my desktop computer”. This is a very basic system – but they are all similar and this will be very good for you to answer the question: “What is inside my Desktop Computer?”

If you intend taking the panel off to have a look the first thing you should do is Switch off at the Wall Socket.
Once you have the panel off you should be able to identify some of the main components.
The Mother Board is the big (green in the photograph) circuit board that everything seems to be attached to in one way or another.

What is Inside My Desktop Computer
The SATA cable ( shown here as a red cable ) is used to connect the Motherboard to the Hard Drive.
The Hard Drive is where all of your data ( files, photos, etc ) are stored.

What is Inside My Computer Cooling Fan

You should notice 2 large fans.
Some of your hardware gets very hot. If it gets too hot your system can be damaged. These fans are used to help to keep the inside of the case at a reasonable temperature so that the components can operate normally.

These fans are dusty. If yours are similar it is a good idea to keep them dust free. They are more efficient this way.
Also make sure that the case vents are clear from dust too.


What is Inside My Computer DvD Drive
It is worth pointing out that your system may not have SATA cables if it is an older computer.
If it doesn’t then it will have IDE Cables ( or a combination as this one has ). IDE cables are broad grey cables that are used to transmit data.

What is Inside My Desktop Computer PC Slots
The photograph above shows 3 PCI slots.
These are used to connect things like Sound Cards, Network Cards and some older Video Cards to the motherboard.

What is Inside my Computer IDE Hard Drive
The photograph above shows a Hard Drive. This particular one uses an IDE cable. It is an older style hard drive as the newer ones tend to use SATA cables exclusively.

What is Inside my Computer Hard Drive Connections
This photo shows the connections in a little more detail.
A Molex (power) Connector [ first photo ] is connected to the pins on the right side.
The Jumper must be set in the correct position for the drive to work correctly.

SATA drives do not use a jumper.

If you require further information use the Free PC Help site – click here

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Mini ITX Motherboard – written by KenB

This is a very small form factor for a motherboard.
The board itself measures just 170mm x 170mm [ 6.7inches x 6.7 inches ]

The form factor was developed by VIA Technologies in 2001. It is a little smaller than Micro ATX.
The 4 mounting holes are the same pitch as the Micro ATX boards so they are compatible with the cases that are used for ATX boards.
The EPIA 5000 (fanless 533 MHz Eden processor) and EPIA 800 (800 MHz C3) were the first commercially available ITX boards.
The boards are very low power and produce very little noise.

Mini-ITX do not have a standard defined for the PSU ( Power Supply Unit ).
The boards do use a conventional 20(4) way ATX standard connector .
This is usually connected to a DC > DC Converter which is then connected to an external power source.
Some boards have the DC > DC Converter built in.

A Mini ITX motherboard

mini ITX motherboard



If you want smaller there is a Pico-ITX motherboard available.
This measures just 10 × 7.2 cm (3.9 × 2.8 in)


mini ITX motherboard 2

If you want more information on Pico-ITX boards ….

click here

Ask on the Free PC Help website if you need more information – click here

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Post Beeps  machine will not boot – written by KenB

Machine will Not Boot – I Get No POST Beeps


If you have a laptop I am afraid that this tutorial is not going to be of use to you.

If your machine will not boot ( you get no post beeps ) and you DON’T get the Blue Screen of Death it is most probably a hardware problem.
If you are getting a STOP error ( BSOD ) then post the problem and error in the appropriate forum.

Unfortunately there are numerous pieces of hardware inside your case and any one could be causing the problem.
To identify which one is at fault do the following:

1. Switch off at the wall.
This ensures that there is no power getting to the motherboard from the Power Supply Unit.

Leave the plug in the wall socket
This keeps the earth ( ground ) connection from your motherboard connected via the house ring-main circuit.

2. Disconnect the printer / monitor and any other external devices.
We are checking the system’s hardware and it is important that ALL devices are disconnected.

3. Take the Side Panel off. ( You may need a screwdriver to do this )

4. It is advisable to wear an anti-static wrist strap when working inside the case.
If you have not got one then ground yourself by touching the bare metal case.
Your system is still connected to earth ( ground ) so there should not be a problem with static.

5. You now need to remove ALL cards that are connected to the motherboard.
Take out the RAM Modules.

Post Beeps







To do this you will need to release the locking levers – shown here.

Push them away from the module.
The RAM module will be released and you can remove it.

Remove the Video Card ( if you have one ).
Some systems have on-board video. This means that the Display Adapter is a permanent attachment on the Motherboard.
The cable ( wire ) from the monitor was attached to the Display Adapter ( Video Card ). You should have removed this earlier.
You may need to take one small screw out that holds the card in place.

Post beeps VideoCard

The screw will be located as shown by the arrow.

(Your Video Card may look different from the one shown)

6. Once you have removed the Video Card you need to remove any other cards too.
You could have a Network Interface Card ( NIC ) ; Sound Card ; Wireless Adapter etc that will need removing.

7. Next you need to remove the power connection(s) to the Hard Drive and the DVD CDROM.
Depending upon which type of Hard Drive you have you could have a Molex or a SATA Power Connector.

post beeps molex connection


8. Next – follow the data cables from the Hard Drive and DVD CDROM back to the motherboard and disconnect them.

9. You should leave ONLY the 20(4) way connection from the PSU connected.

post beeps 24 Way PSU connection

10. Once you have all cards and connections removed switch on at the wall.
Switch the computer on.
You should get POST beeps.
If you do this is good.
If you get NO Post Beeps go to 13. 

11. Now you need to put the cards back one at a time.
Start with the RAM. Put just one module back and try booting the machine.
You should still get POST beeps.
Shut down and switch off at the wall again.
If this is OK put in the other RAM module(s) and try booting again.

12. Repeat this process with each Card and Connection.
Do this one at a time – testing after each addition.
If the problem replicates – you have located the faulty hardware.

13. You will only get POST beeps if there is a small speaker connected from the motherboard.

If you do have a speaker connected and you are NOT getting any beeps they you either have a Power Supply Unit or Motherboard problem.

If you need a tutorial on Testing a Power Supply – click here

If you need more information please use the Free PC Help website – click here

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Check Hard Drive for Errors – a Tutorial written by KenB


How do I check hard drive for errors ?

You will be able to follow this tutorial ( Check Hard Drive for Errors ) if you are using Vista or Win 7

If it is suspected that your hard drive has problems you may wish to check it for errors.
Check Disk can be used to run a diagnostic on your drive and search for errors.
Even if you don’t suspect a problem it is advised that you check the drive every 2 or 3 months.

There are different ways of doing this. This is just one option.

Click on START then COMPUTER and right click on the drive you want to check ( usually C: )



Then you need to click on Properties

check hard drive for errors


Click on the Tools tab …

check hard drive for errors 2


Then click on “CHECK NOW

check hard drive for errors 4


You may get this message. “Windows Needs Your Permission to Continue“. Click “CONTINUE“.

check hard drive for errors 5


You will then be given 2 options.
If you just want a quick check select the top one. ( This is usually ticked as the default ).

If you want a thorough check tick both options.
If you select both options be prepared for the Check Disk to take some time to complete.
The bigger the drive capacity – the longer the scan will take.
The second option checks the physical drive for errors and will try to repair any it finds.

check hard drive for errors 6


The message below will probably pop-up.
Basically if you are using the Operating System ( which you are ) and you wish to check the drive that it is installed on –
then this cannot be done at this point in time. You will need to schedule a scan on the next boot up.

Simply click on “SCHEDULE DISK CHECK“.
You don’t need to do any more.
The Disk Check will take place when you next boot up the system.
Remember – this could take some time to complete.

check hard drive for errors 7



After scheduling the scan you may decide that you want to cancel it before you reboot.
This is not a problem.
You need to use an Elevated Command Prompt.

This sounds rather technical but it isn’t really.

Click on START and type in CMD.

check hard drive for errors 8


You will see the cmd option at the top of the box that appears.
You need to right click on this and click on “Run as Administrator



You will be faced with a black screen and a Command Prompt.

check hard drive for errors 10


Type in …….. chkntfs /x C:
Note – there is a space after the s and after the x.

check hard drive for errors 11


Now hit the ENTER key.
You will get the following message.
It does not seem to confirm that the scan has been halted – but it has.

check hard drive for errors 12


If you need more information on “How to Check a Hard Drive for Errors” please ask on the Free PC Help website – click here 

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Power Supply

Test a Power Supply Unit – Written by KenB

Follow these steps to Test a Power Supply Unit ……..

[b]If you have a multimeter / voltmeter, you can test a Power Supply unit by following these steps: [/b]

[color=#FF0000]DO NOT[/color] remove the power supply from the case when carrying out these tests. [color=#FF0000]DO NOT[/color] carry out these tests if you do not feel confident to do so. Be sure to remove electrical static build-up from your clothes and body [b]BEFORE [/b]touching any parts inside the case by wearing an anti-static strap or touching the bare metal chasis. [color=#FF0000]NEVER[/color] open the power supply case for any reason, since high voltage may be present.

Turn off the PC and leave it plugged into the wall socket to maintain the earth ( ground) connection. Open the case. You will need the multimeter (voltmeter) set to read higher than 12v. Locate a free molex power connector that powers the hard drive (or a CD-ROM drive connector that is unused).

You can also unplug a drive connector and use it. Turn on the PC and insert the [b]BLACK[/b] probe into the power connector on one of the [b]BLACK[/b] wires. Touch the [color=#FF0000]RED[/color] probe to the [color=#FFBF00][b]YELLOW[/b][/color] wire on the power connector.
The multimeter reading should be +12 volts. Now touch the [color=#FF0000]RED[/color] probe to the [color=#FF0000]RED[/color] wire and the reading should be +5 volts. If no readings or different readings occurred, you’ll have to replace the power supply. If the readings were correct, you should check the P8 or P9 connectors at the motherboard. These connectors may also be named P4 and P5. To check these connectors, perform the following:
Insert the [b]BLACK[/b] probe into P8 at one of the [b]BLACK[/b] wires. Insert the [color=#FF0000]RED[/color] probe into the P8 connector at the [color=#FF0000]RED[/color] wire. The reading on the multimeter should be +5 volts.

test a power supply unit PSU Connections

If you have a 24 pin connector the wire arrangements will look like this:

Use the basic information above to help you decide the location of the black 0v lead from the meter.
Identify the 12v / 5v / 3.3v etc connections and test as above.
You will notice that the colour sequence is the same and pins 11 – 12 – 23 – 24 have been added.

test a power supply unit 24 Pin ATX Pinout

Check the power going to the motherboard connections by inserting the [color=#FF0000]RED [/color]probe into P8 at the [color=#FFBF00][b]YELLOW [/b][/color]wire and you should get +12 volts. Leave the [b]BLACK [/b]wire touching the [b]BLACK [/b]wire at the P8 connector. Check the [color=#0040BF]BLUE [/color]wire and the reading should be a -12 volts.

Now move the [b]BLACK [/b]probe to the [b]BLACK [/b]wire on the P9 connector. Test the WHITE wire by inserting the [color=#FF0000]RED [/color]probe and the reading should be -5 volts. Check the [color=#FF0000]RED [/color]wires on the P9 connector and you should get +5 volts on each [color=#FF0000]RED [/color]wire. You won’t get exactly 5 or 12 volts, but the readings will be very close, such as 5.02 volts.

If the Power Supply is a couple of volts off in either direction, such as when the [color=#FF0000]RED [/color]wire should be reading -5 volts but it reads -8 volts, or if there are no readings, replace the power supply.

[color=#FF0000]Under no circumstances should you attempt to take the PSU apart [/color]

It is possible to buy a device that will automatically test your PSU for you.
See here:
This is NOT a recommendation – just an example.

Most devices of this type will test a power supply unit and give you an LED indication if all is OK.

If you need more information on ways to test a power supply unit try the Free PC Help website – click here

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Inside an LCD Monitor

Thanks to member wellies for supplying this tutorial.

My monitor went wrong some time ago. It gave the effect shown below:


Turning it off and back on again a number of times would eventually coax it into giving a proper display. I got fed up with it in the end and bought a new monitor. The new one runs fine with no problems. I kept the old one and took it to bits out of interest to see what was inside. Below are the display components:


The way the lighting is done is different to what was expected. The backlights (7 and 8) are positioned at the top and bottom of the construction, not the back. They shine across the surface of 2, a piece of perspex about a quarter of an inch thick. The perspex has a pattern of light diffusers all over the surface (shown in the outlined enlargement). These presumably catch the light and deflect it forward. In front of the perspex are three layers of plastic sheeting (3 – 4 and 5). These must further diffuse the light and therefore give an even light across the entire surface. In front of all that sits the actual LCD panel (6).

Here is a close-up showing part of a light (7 – 8):


Well, I thought it was all very interesting anyway.

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Convert an IDE Hard Drive to SATA ?

This tutorial explains how to convert an IDE hard drive.

You may have an old IDE [ PATA ] hard drive from a previous system.
It seems a pity not to use it as it is still useful for storage.

There is a relatively inexpensive adapter that you can use.
( see below )

convert an ide hard drive to sata


You will, of course need a SATA data and power cable connected to the adapter.

There is a useful video that explains how to convert an ide hard drive to SATA.

If you need more information please use the Free PC Help website – click here or visit Company databases to buy email database.