Basic Hardware Q&A

What’s the difference between memory and hard drive space?

The hard drive is a device that stores data in a computer. It stores information much like a floppy disk, but is fixed inside of the computer. Some hard drives are external, allowing the drive to move from computer to computer, or for a user to expand the disk space without installing an internal hard drive. Memory, also called RAM for Random Access Memory, is stored in memory chips which are inserted onto the motherboard, similar to a video card, network card, etc. Any time the computer is shut down or restarted, this memory is cleared. The easiest way to tell the difference is to compare the two to short-term and long-term memory. The hard drive is your long-term memory, storing data away for retrieval either now or later. The RAM is like short-term memory, storing bits of data only for as long as the computer is on. When buying programs, the requirements will usually list both “free disk space,” meaning unused space on the hard drive, and “memory,” meaning the amount of RAM you have on your PC.

Actually, with the rise of SSD’s (Solid State Disks) the difference between RAM memory and disk space has become smaller. A SSD is both in terms of technology and speed a middle-ground between the traditional hard disk drive and RAM memory. An SSD still holds memory though, after the power has been cut, so it is more like a tradtionional HDD in that regard.

My computer won’t boot up after the storm last week.  What do I need to do?

Your PC was probably hit by lightning or a power surge.  Try the following:  1) Attach the computer to a UPS Backup system.  A basic backup is relatively cheap and well worth the expense.  The surge protectors and UPS outlets help protect the computer and modem line from a lightning strike.  The system also gives the computer around 10 to 20 minutes of extra time to shut down properly, if hit by a power surge.  2) If the storm is particularly ferocious, or you do not have a UPS, shut the computer down and unplug it from the wall.  This includes the modem line.  The most common computer problem after a harsh storm is a “fried” modem.  The surge can be carried from the modem to other parts of the computer.  3) At the very least, attach the computer to a surge protector.  These offer some protection against power surges.  If the storm does contain a great amount of lightning, shut down and unplug the computer and modem from the wall. Remember, most computer manufacturers do not cover lightning strikes in their warranties, unless the computer is connected to a UPS Backup or other surge protection.

I have the minimum system requirements for a game, but I’m still having problems getting it to play.

When a manufacturer lists minimum system requirements on a program, they really do mean minimum. For instance, some games and programs require a minimum amount of RAM. However, if you are running any other programs on your PC while you are running that particular program, the RAM is being divided among the different programs. Even background programs like Skype, Spotify and Windows utilize this RAM. A good example is Windows 7. Windows 7 states that it CAN run on 512MB of RAM, but that some problems may occur. Microsoft suggests a minimum of 1 GB or higher. With Windows 10, we recommend at least 2GB, as we’ve seen many problems with PCs trying to run Windows 10 with less. Try to take every program you are using into consideration when looking at those minimum system requirements.

Someone told me it was too hot around my computer.  What did they mean?

Many people forget that long-term exposure to heat can fry circuits just as well as any lightning strike or other power surge.  With any piece of electronic equipment, it is extremely important to have it located in a cool, well-ventilated area.  Computers, printers and other peripherals located in areas with above-normal temperatures will most likely have to be replaced before their time.  Try the following to ensure your computer is getting the cool air it deserves:  1)Make sure the equipment is located in a well-ventilated area.  This means that, even if the computer needs to be locked away (i.e. behind a door under the desk), make sure that the back of the area is cool and open for the CPU fan to work properly.  2) Do not locate a computer directly next to a window that receives great deals of sunlight.  The radiant heat from the solar light can expose the computer to above normal temperatures.  3) If a server is located in a closet or similar location, be sure that the lights remain off the majority of the time.  Just as with the sun, the lighting in that small, confined area, will help fry those circuits!

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