How do you learn about hardware?

Discussion in 'Hardware Discussion & Support' started by Thy-Duang, Jun 27, 2017.

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  1. Thy-Duang

    Thy-Duang New Member

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    So... I have learned a lot about operating systems, low level programming, fixed a few laptops, but... I know nothing about hardware, except from some basic stuff like clock speed, cache, bandwidth/latency, RISC/CISC, it's rather "what does it more-or-less do" than anything practical. I cannot tell what makes a good processor, how will my system behave when I change part X to Y (is it compatible? will it better?). I tried looking at benchmarks but they were meaningless to me except from that one piece of information (X is better than Y).

    How do I learn about hardware and know more about it?
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2017
  2. Calliers

    Calliers HH's Man In Black Staff Member

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    Books my friend. Books are your best friend. If you want to do it casually then PC magazines would be your best bet. Reading articles in computer magazines will teach you more about different hardware and all that good stuff.

    As for getting a practical education, educate first and follow guides online as you build PCs for yourself and fix problems on your own computer, then as you get better offer your service at no charge to friends and family to get more experience.

    Alternatively you could do a few courses online, like I would recommend the A+ certification course from CompTIA, get the necessary reading information in the form of the A+ book (which is quite thick and has a lot of good info on current hardware) and learn how to be a tech, practice with your own computer or enroll at a local college as they have test machines, and then become a technician, you could even start working as a technician after you get your certification. It's a really easy test I think, I pretty much passed it with my eyes closed, but I've been tinkering with computers since I was 10 or so so I guess I had a little bit of an advantage. I've always known a lot about computers so I sometimes forget it can be daunting for people who don't understand computers or don't know how to use them or break them down and repair them. This makes me have very little patience with people who come to me with any problem PC related, I can't help it, sometimes I catch myself sometimes I don't, but that's besides the point. I hope I've given you a few ideas friend. :)
     
  3. Trusteft

    Trusteft HH's Asteroids' Dominator

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    I would say magazines are your best friend in this for a first touch with the subject. The problem is, are there any magazines left today? When I was growing up there were magazines with pages upon pages of listings (whole programs), analysis of software and hardware, etc. Relatively few people had any idea what was going on, so the few that did and got jobs in magazines, wrote interesting articles which you knew you could more or less rely on for accuracy. Well, most of the time.
    With the obliteration of computer related magazines and the "resistance is futile" Internet, now it is up to you to find online a source or more to trust, out of the thousands available to you. The problem is that only a handful per 1000 might be good enough. The rest are either complete BS or marketing.
    Youtube is even worse on this. The larger channels tend to be the most BS of them all.

    So...books is indeed a good solution, though hard to keep up with the changes. For the core science behind them all though, they are good.

    Unless you go and study, the only other way is to use the internet and with time you will find what is true and what is bs. You will find sites and yt channels that you will know they are to be trusted. Months or years later you will figure out that you were wrong, they are indeed BS but at least you will have more experience to find others. This cycle will be repeated for years till slowly you have accumulated enough knowledge to not "need" any of them unless it is for information on new releases.


    GOOD academic books and education are perhaps the most boring, time consuming ways you will encounter. BUT, in the long run you will see they are actually the best to save time.

    You can also check good sites and reviews of products, such as Hardwareheaven, try to analyze as much as you can every bit of information, when you reach a deadblock, do some internet searching on what you don't get and of course ask in forums such as this for any specific question you have.
     
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  4. Calliers

    Calliers HH's Man In Black Staff Member

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    One thing I'd like to suggest to you though is that when you're working with hardware don't force anything, if it isn't going into it's socket or slot never force it. Or you'll break something.

    Also be careful of static electricity.
     
  5. Judas

    Judas Obvious Closet Brony Pony

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    I learned everything from just disassembling something and then putting it back together..... at the age of 12 i got so fed up with our computer we had for less than a year and being repeatedly screwed over by the company that sold it (which i later proved as was intentionally screwing everyone they could) for thousands of dollars for "repairs" that weren't actually being done. Our system was constantly corrupting... constantly screwing up and it was always blamed up on the users. So i tore it all apart, every single piece was intriguingly dissembled with care and extreme attention. Granted i probably shouldn't have done it across a 20ft by 5ft carpet in the basement, but that's all i had for a work area that i knew could be unharmed/untouched. Once i tore it apart, with every screw accounted for and organized leaving me able to put it back together in the right order, i found what appeared to be an obvious problem and began reassembling it. When i got it back together, the machine was finally fixed.

    I learned what a mainboard/ram/cpu/isa and pci slots/IDE and so forth were...

    Today still i learn best by physically deal with the components and toying around with them myself. I will get a vast amount more knowledge and understand in the first 5 minutes of physically handling something than i ever will from reading about it anywhere or even watching a video... I learned about application of thermal paste for example initially from a previous source.... i took other alternative suggests under consideration and applied depending on the type of paste i had.


    I've never had anything destroyed by static electricity.... but then again i've never intentionally gotten out wool socks and dragged my feet across the floor to touch something. That's 20 years of working on machine and most of it standing on carpet floors.
     
  6. Thy-Duang

    Thy-Duang New Member

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    Wow, thank you guys for those essays.
    I don't want to go to college, I am currently finishing my Master's CS degree at a university, and I have enough of it. I don't care about certificates and stuff, as I plan to work more as a programmer (or software engineer/developer or any other fancy name) than a technician. It might be useful at some point in my career, but I don't think about it now.

    So... books. What kind of book? When I ask Amazon about "A+ CompTIA" I get loads of different books. I could get the first position and proceed, but I don't think they will all be good. I think this one has the knowledge, but its volume is a bit horrifying (especially if you say the test is so easy - I wonder if the authors were paid for each page or for the whole book). But if you say it's good, then I will have a new book to read before sleep. Or should I read something classic, like one Tanenbaum's book (probably not exactly *his*, but I think his books can be called classic)? Anyway, it's good seeing that I have quite a lot covered from that book (software related stuff), so it won't be so much.

    A magazine. When I read about what you (Calliers and Trustleft) said about magazines I thought "wow, so there is a good magazine that was around for ages!". Then, I saw that the they shut down the magazine two months ago, because they sold only 9000 copies each month. I think there are no magazines left, however I will go to the shop and see for myself. But OK, suppose I suspect that magazine/blog/webpage can be useful. What should I look for there? Hardware reviews/comparisons? Hardware news? Should I rather focus on whole systems (i.e. laptops) or parts reviews/comparisons/news?

    I didn't know that static electricity can be a problem, but I will probably take that under consideration only when I break something down.

    Judas, so you say that I should rip apart my computers and do something with them? I have 3 PCs in my house from around 2005 year (and I think they are still operational). But... what should I do with them? They are operational. Should I just dissect them and put them together, exchange their parts among them and see what happens?
    Or, if those computers are operational I should take my faulty laptops (one has bad L2 cache and something wrong [maybe drivers] with Wi-Fi, and the other has faulty HDMI and DP ports) and try to fix them? That would be risky, as they were quite expensive and still operational and mission-critical (I use them for work). Of course, I have backups and it wouldn't be a big problem if I killed those laptops, except from losing that money and a small delay.
    Maybe I did it wrong, but I "fixed" a few laptops - I reapplied thermal paste on few of them and unblocked the fan, completely tore apart the other on which my friend spilled a drink and assembled it. I also "fixed" a laptop which had problems with display: it's chip at the bottom of the screen had something wrong with cables, so I had to bend steel plate to which that chip with cables was soldered/glued so that the cables weren't loose. In all those cases, I achieved the desired result, but I can't say I have learned much from it. Maybe because I wasn't trying to learn, I just focused on doing the job?

    Calliers, about forcing: when I was ripping those laptops apart, I came upon a cable (see attached photo) which I couldn't unplug without using a lot of force and tools. How do I unplug this type of cable? I was really confused about this cable, for everything was going smooth, but this cable (there were a few plugs like that, all of them stubborn) was the only one that wasn't easy to do once you figure out the mechanism.
    forced-cable.jpg
     
  7. Judas

    Judas Obvious Closet Brony Pony

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    I'd pick your worse one and start carefully pulling/disassembling one that you can absalutely do without otherwise track down something that's free and totally irrelevant to dissasemble... this is only something i'd recommend doing if you benefit from on hands experience... with google being a thing (compared to what i had in 1997 which was basically nothing good for a search engine or tutorials and little to no helpful information as the internet was still being formulated into something that was just barely getting out of the the text only stage and bandwidth for pictures was extremely expensive)... you can investigate the intricacies of individuals components.. obviously don't start tearing off chips and caps and whatnot (as that'd break it)... but pulling heatsinks off video cards and south bridges and such isn't all that difficult... do it carefully, and be prepared to have some thermal paste on hand (start with non electrically conductive stuff so that if you apply to much or accidently get some on the pcb across traces, you don't have to worry about shorts). Getting familiar with the bios/UEFI system, doing bios updates and making changes to the system, investigate (google) individual bios settings to see what they do and what their intended purpose is. Today i'd suggest people understand what secure boot/UEFI mode vs legacy bios modes are and how they affect the system. Raid vs AHCI vs IDE are likely to become more of a thing of the past as moving foward NVMe becomes more common place... but yet again it's best to know as much as you can. It's been awhile since the Certification tests, but when i took them they still had old scsi ribbon questions regarding terminations and master/slaves.... i don't know if they still have anything on IDE slave/Master.

    Understanding drivers and software, installation habits and such helps considerably.

    I skipped college/university.... unnecessary expense... Everything i know is self taught.... i walked into the finals for the A+ certification (as that's a requirement here to avoid being sued or anything just to work on computers in any manner, it's the minimum, once you have that certification at least here, you can do just about anything without legal issues mostly), I wrote the 2 final exams after paying the initial $600 (at the time)... and aced the exams without opening a book or taking any mock up tests of any sort.

    Know your limits, don't push anything and sit back and study things carefully being attempting anything. Be cautious, not scared.
     
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  8. Calliers

    Calliers HH's Man In Black Staff Member

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    Hmmm, whenever you encounter a plug in like that, a pair of tiny pliers can really help to give you some leverage, but be careful where you grab it from. You basically want to grab it from the plastic ends and pull it out, in a regular computer you'll find the main ATX power cable won't come out until you hold down a specific tab at the same time as pulling but you have to be careful not to rip the motherboard apart or put too much pressure on it. You'll learn these kinds of things with practice, which is why Judas' advice to get a PC that is free or very cheap which still works (you can find them online these days) is good, I say PC because laptops tend to use a lot of proprietary parts and you what you can learn from working from them is limited as different companies do things differently, there are similarities but everything may not be in the same place or put together the same way from laptop to laptop.

    ATX PCs which are the most common is where you should start your journey. And about the book you linked, yes that is the official one I think for the exam, get that one it contains a wealth of information and although you don't have to study the whole thing like a bible, it is an excellent resource which can be used a bit like a hardware encyclopedia. :)
     
  9. Trusteft

    Trusteft HH's Asteroids' Dominator

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    There is no reason to destroy working technology just to learn more about it. You are not 5.
     
  10. Judas

    Judas Obvious Closet Brony Pony

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    who said anything about destroying?
     
  11. Trusteft

    Trusteft HH's Asteroids' Dominator

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    Someone who has never touched hardware before will disassemble computers, remove heat sinks and who knows what else, then put them back together, and nothing will go wrong. yeah right
     
  12. Judas

    Judas Obvious Closet Brony Pony

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    You've never learned anything first from doing anything hands on regardless of the potential outcome? Never disassembled anything.... never put anything back together and had it work? You would much rather spend the countless hours it can take... for some people months/years even before they ever actually get into that's which they were studying from a book or online...

    I don't know how often i've dealt with "educated" individuals that were book savy and yet couldn't apply anything they "knew" because they never actually got their hands into it in the first place.

    I'm not talking about destroying something, that's stupid, why would you jump to such an absurd conclusive extreme? Taking care and organizing and carefully studying what you might be disassembling should result in being able to reassemble it provided you take the necessary time for someone to absorb it.

    Does everyone learn best from a book.. definitely not.... does everyone learn best from actually getting into it.... not always but it's pretty tough not to learn quickly and effectively provided you're shown properly or you take time and do it diligently. No one is suggesting taking a cannon ball to a machine, that's just stupid.

    pretty much everything i've worked with in my entirely life has had zero instruction or information for disassembly or reassembly... the exception in most cases has been in regards to Lego as they tend to come with a proper (not always) instruction for assembly book that works. Tearing a motor apart, a transmission apart... electrical devices and machines of all sorts... motorized in some fashion or not.... complex mechanics in many fashions just because it was broken or not working and the only to figure out what's wrong is to just take it apart and find out... If one has to use a massive work area to do it properly to ensure being able to reassemble it.. then so be it... it has saved us 100's of thousands of dollars doing the work ourselves and learning about it so that we can spot a problem and find a solution WELL in advance of it completely failing or to avoid it costing us insane amounts of dollars in labour alone for some "professional" to do it for us (which on a 50/50 split, tends to do it wrong anyways or fucks up somewhere else resulting in "more work" to be done).
     
  13. Trusteft

    Trusteft HH's Asteroids' Dominator

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    I didn't say that. Stop jumping to conclusions because it fits you.
    We are not talking about me. I was deep into software and hardware since I was a very young kid. Whenever I did get ti disassemble anything, I did it to either repair it or check it, after it had stopped working. I build things, I don't destroy. Chances are someone who will do this to working hardware for the very first time, will get something wrong, will get something damaged. I do not like seeing things getting damaged, especially technology related. Got it?

    .... Stupid people and their books and higher education!

    In English?
    Let's see, "why would you jump to such an absurd conclusive extreme". ....Why would I jump to something that is illogical convincing of the highest degree? Well, I don't know. I don't think anyone can answer your question.
    Damn books!

    *sigh* Your knowledge on the effectiveness of books in education continues to amaze me. Also your love for the extreme remains adorable. "cannon ball to a machine" I admit, I don't know what that could possibly mean.



    For the love of Lenin man, make some sense! Read the OP's questions!
    1. The OP doesn't want to become a technician or electrical engineer. He doesn't want to assemble computers for a living. He just wants to learn more about what components do, to use his programming skills more effectively. Disassembling a computer would do nothing to help him in this. It would be a waste of time. Use your brain man! Also, transmissions, motors...seriously? You are not even trying to help this guy, are you?
     
  14. Judas

    Judas Obvious Closet Brony Pony

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    Did you read the OPs title and question? I answered it... and then was asked more about it... which i answered.. i'm sorry i shouldn't have dropped to your level to illustrate the idiocy of the simplistic statements you made like it was some kind of terrible suggestion...
     
  15. Calliers

    Calliers HH's Man In Black Staff Member

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    This summer, coming to theaters near you, "Trusteft vs. Judas"; watch two tech savvy titans, battle it out, for the crown, who will win, who will come out on top, who will be the king of tech? Watch the premier this summer on July 10th and get it on bluray, "Trusteft vs. Judas", it is time for you to hold on to your seat for an action packed ride that will both shock you and awe you in its sublime execution. :D
     
  16. Tipstaff

    Tipstaff Well-Known Member

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    "Son, what are you doing to our computer? Why is it all in pieces?"

    "Trying to see if the socket can run an AMD K6-2/233."

    "Why?"

    "To make it run faster. Wing Commander 4 is running like s**t."

    "We didn't buy it for you to play games on."

    "Well.. I couldn't before. Now I can. :D "
     
  17. Thy-Duang

    Thy-Duang New Member

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    Guys, I have no idea how you got those certificates. Maybe you should have them retracted? I have read a lot about "sensitivity", "respectful communication" and "assertive communication" in the book I've posted... Anyway, it's great fun reading about it!

    I reiterate: I have some laptop disassembling and assembling practice. I have:
    * changed thermal paste a few times (that required me to remove the heatsink)
    * got rid of a big ball of hair which was blocking the fan
    * completely disassembled a laptop into pieces in order to clean it after spilling juice on it
    * I replaced a few hard drives
    * I have fixed laptop screen's colors
    * cleaned dust from the computers with compressed nitrogen
    * replaced individual keys in the keyboard
    ...possibly a few more, but you get the idea. All of those were done successfully and I haven't broken anything.

    Yes Trustleft, I want to learn more about hardware, how do they compare, what they do, possibly how to perform some easy fixes, but the last part (easy fixes) is not crucial. Honestly, I have never thought that assembling and disassembling a computer is hard, everything has its place and if you think before you touch you can figure out the mechanism which holds everything together and how take it apart. Maybe I will change my mind. However, if someone experienced (that is, I believe, Judas) tells me that it's the best way of learning, I will give it a try.

    Thanks Calliers for the hint with that bad plug. I will keep this in mind next time.

    And please, don't be mad at me, it's hard to ask a good, specific question if you don't know the topic about which you are asking!
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2017
  18. Trusteft

    Trusteft HH's Asteroids' Dominator

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    I know it's a joke but...I find it so hard not to say this. He wouldn't have to disassemble his PC to find out if the socket could use another CPU. Just read the manual of the motherboard, read a magazine. I am not saying check the internet as when WC4 was out there weren't THAT many sources for this type of stuff.
     
  19. Trusteft

    Trusteft HH's Asteroids' Dominator

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    What you do is up to you. I am just saying that disassembling a PC to find out which hardware is faster and how they communicate with each other is like dissecting a frog to learn what music it likes to listen to.
    Anyway, I am out of this thread. Good luck no matter what you decide to do.
     
  20. Thy-Duang

    Thy-Duang New Member

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    Trustleft, I see your point and I fully support it. I think it will be hard to learn about performance details by disassembling the computer. Thank you for your help.
     

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