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How to Troubleshoot a Computer Motherboard

The motherboard is at the heart of your computer system.  Every component interacts with your motherboard, and every device must plug into it.  It is critical that your motherboard be in optimal condition, otherwise some components may not work.  Your motherboard also supplies power to the individual components in your system.  Without the motherboard to allocate power, nothing will power up.  If you notice that some components sometimes don’t receive power, or that they appear to disconnect at times; your first step should be to visually inspect your motherboard.  The same is true if you go to turn on your computer and nothing happens; it could be a simple loose wire, or it could be much more complex.  The only way to know for sure is to take a look for yourself.

The obvious thing to check when your computer won’t boot up is the power supply.  If you are able to rule out the power supply (check the green indicator light) then move onto the motherboard.  The general rule with computer is to keep it simple.  It something isn’t working, it’s likely a simple fix, just undo what you just did.  If you haven’t done anything to the computer that might have caused it, start with inspecting the cables connecting the power supply to the motherboard.  You are checking for unplugged, lose, or frayed wires.  There is also a BIOS (CMOS) battery usually attached directly to the motherboard.  This battery is crucial for preserving critical BIOS settings, and time and date settings.  If it is missing, dead, or loose you computer may not boot.  Occasionally jumper settings on the motherboard can also get bumped.  Double check these are in the proper location.  Make sure you check any suspected faulty components in a system you know to be working properly before tossing them.  Motherboards are simple but critical components, and sometimes it is the simple things that cause the problems.  As an added benefit, poking your head around inside your computer might just increase your comfort level with computers and your confidence in yours.

Windows XP vs. Windows 7: Which Should You Choose?

There is no doubt that Windows Vista is a joke.  Even Microsoft won’t deny this.  Your only options for a real operating system are Windows XP or Windows 7.  Windows XP is one of the fastest and most efficient operating systems in computing history.  Highly praised in its time for its achievements and features, it is still used by many businesses today.

Windows 7 is the newest mainstream OS from Microsoft; featuring increased security, plug and play driver support, and a number of other added features.  Unfortunately, since Windows 7 is built on the premise of increased “Aero Graphics” and contains basic drivers for nearly every peripheral, it is a much larger install and it consumes many times more system resources.  You’re not going to be able to install Windows 7 on your old laptop and see any performance gain; in fact- you will likely see a performance decrease.  Windows XP is still the operating system of choice for lower power notebooks and older computers.  So the question is; which is better for you?

  • Speed-

Windows XP was originally designed to run well on a 300MHz Pentium processor.  XP only needed 128 MB of RAM Memory when it was originally released in 2001.  Windows 7 requires at least 1 GB of RAM to run.  You are certainly going to see a speed improvement on any older device if you choose XP over 7.  Most net-books will run Windows XP much quicker than Windows 7, due to their lower overall specs and processor limitations.  In fact, even if you exceed the minimum specifications for Windows 7 by a wide margin, you are still unlikely to achieve a faster speed than Windows XP- Some gamers have even reported higher FPS on window XP vs.  Windows 7 on identical hardware and all the correct drivers installed.  Due to its larger size and increased capability, it is difficult for Windows 7 to compete with XP in a sprint.  Windows 7 does have one main advantage here however- Windows 7 remains snappy and responsive when operating at its RAM limits, Windows XP has been known to bog down when excess resources are scarce.  Windows 7 isn’t quite as fast as Windows XP in a straight line; however it is probably fast enough for most applications.

  • Security-

There is no doubt that Windows 7 is the more secure operating system, hands down.  Virtual threats are simply more sophisticated nowadays than they were 10 years ago; extra built security is a necessity.  Windows 7 employs an active security management role, prompting you if any unfamiliar program wishes to run, something that wasn’t necessary in Windows XPs time.  This doesn’t mean Windows XP is unsecure however; the operating system will continue to be officially supported until August 4th 2014 (Microsoft Support Lifecycle).  This means necessary patches and security holes will continue to be applied and fixed respectively, until this time.

  • Networking-

Microsoft claims file transfer speed on Windows 7 is faster, although I haven’t noticed this.  If anything the speed increase might be attributed to the fact Windows 7 is more likely running on newer hardware (USB 3.0 and faster hard drives).  At the very least it’s not slower, but don’t expect a several-fold increase in file transfer speed.  Since Windows 7 is more security conscious, there is also a possibility of slightly slower networking speed as a trade-off for security.  I have also noticed it actually takes slightly longer to set up a network on 7 vs. XP.  However for those of you interested in the knock-down drag out comparison of networking speed on both OS’s- In my test (same computer, same networking setup) I noticed a file transfer of 6gb took about 6 seconds longer on Windows 7 vs XP.

So Should I Upgrade?

When it comes to smaller devices such as sub-notebooks and net-books; Windows XP shines with a more minimalist OS.  If resources are scarce, XP is the obvious choice, at least for the next two years; you will have a much faster computer with XP.  If the latest and greatest is your thing and you plan to buy a new computer anyway, consider Windows 7.  Each OS has its strengths and weaknesses; however Windows 7 is quickly gaining momentum vs its older sibling.  Windows XP is unlikely to go away anytime soon however; there are still many businesses using it and upgrading an entire network can be expensive and cost prohibitive- so don’t be afraid of it getting discarded anytime soon.