When you take the CompTIA A+ 901 certification test, you will find about 34% of the questions cover hardware. Most of the hardware questions simply involve recall of equipment and procedures. About 20% of them, however, require you to study a given scenario and apply the best solution.
This study guide should give you an idea of what to expect in terms of content, but it may not contain absolutely all of the content covered in the exam. Test producers say that the content is constantly being reviewed and revised, but this is the latest version. You are encouraged to use this guide as a starting point for your studies.
The BIOS is, arguably, one of the most important aspects of a computer. You need to have a good understanding of system BIOS and how to modify the settings. Understand the importance of selecting the proper boot sequence and how BIOS provides low-level drivers that allow the operating system to interact with various hardware components. Comprehend the various stages in the boot sequence, the system POST, and the role BIOS plays in loading the operating system. The CompTIA A+ questions about BIOS require that you assess a scenario to be able to choose the best answer.
Always check the version of the BIOS you are using before doing an upgrade. This can be found in your system information utility, or by typing
msinfo32 into the cmd prompt. Most manufacturers offer BIOS upgrades directly from their website, as a simple download, and it is a very straightforward process. Just download the correct file, based on the type of system you have, and run the update to begin the installation. This entire procedure is known as flashing the BIOS.
When you are inside your BIOS, you will have the ability to view the type and quantity of memory available, the type of hard drive or solid-state drive in use, and the type of CPU. You will also have the option to view the type of optical drive installed and have the ability to disable/enable the component.
Here are some important points to remember about BIOS configurations:
BIOS almost always includes pre-built in diagnostic software to assist with troubleshooting hardware components. This is accessible directly from the BIOS and requires no additional software to be downloaded.
Within the BIOS, typically the advanced section, you will find various monitoring information available for the temperature, fan speeds, voltage, and bus speed. The clock utility can be found usually when you first enter the BIOS. Some computer cases also provide support for intrusion notification. When the case is opened, the CMOS can log and notify the user, typically on the next boot-up.
The motherboard provides the circuitry by which all parts of a computer communicate with each other, from the processor to the power supply. Every part of a computer interacts with the motherboard in some fashion.
There are several different RAM slots, with DIMM (dual inline memory module) being used in desktops, SO-DIMM (small outline) being used in laptops, and Micro-DIMM, which is being used in smaller mobile equipment.
The types of major sockets in use include the ZIF (zero force insertion). Be aware of the various configurations like PGA (pin grid array), SPGA (staggered pin grid array), and LGA (land grid array).
Be aware of the function of the chipset. The Northbridge, which interfaces directly with the CPU through the front-side bus, handles high-speed connections to memory and video as well as creating the connection to the Southbridge. The Southbridge handles I/O functions and all other slower devices such as the hard drive, PCI bus, and Audio.
The CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) battery was originally used to maintain system settings stored in CMOS RAM, since it was volatile. It is also used to power the systems real-time clock. Over the years, CMOS RAM has been replaced by flash memory that does not require a battery to maintain data; however, the real-time clock still requires a battery. As a preparation for this test, you should know how to locate and replace the CMOS battery.
Common power connector types include SATA, Molex, ATX, and EPS.
Most fan types will connect to a 3- or 4-pin Molex connector on the motherboard.
Your computer typically contains on-board connections for things like USB and audio. There is also a set of wires within the computer case that connect to a certain component on the motherboard. When these are connected, you will be able to use the buttons on your computer case to do things (e.g. power on/off the computer, reset the computer). These connections inside the case also make use of activity and power lights, which will show a visual indicator of CPU activity, or indicating that power is being brought to the computer.
Bus speed indicates how fast all of the components on your motherboard are able to communicate with each other. You need to be aware of the various bus speeds in a modern PC such as PCI, the speeds of PCIe lanes, and memory.
The front panel of a desktop PC has a reset button that performs a hard boot of the system. In the event you have misconfigured certain BIOS or CMOS settings, this button allows you to reset everything to factory configuration. Be sure you understand the difference between hard and soft boots.