PC HARDWARE FAQ
Summary: This is a list of Frequently
Asked Questions (and their answers) pertaining to hardware
and IBM PC clones. It should be read by anyone who wishes
to post to any group in the comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.*
This FAQ was compiled and written by Willie Lim and Ralph Valentino
with numerous contributions by others. Acknowledgements are listed at
end of this FAQ.
The comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.* Frequently Asked Questions is
distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY
WARRANTY. No author or distributor accepts responsibility to anyone
for the consequences of using it or for whether it serves any
particular purpose or works at all, unless he says so in writing.
Refer to the GNU General Public License for full details.
Everyone is granted permission to copy, modify and redistribute this
FAQ, but only under the conditions described in the GNU General Public
Where section authors are noted, the copyright is held by that author.
Where no author is noted, the copyright is held by the FAQ editors
Willie Lim firstname.lastname@example.org and Ralph Valentino
Changes, additions, comments, suggestions and questions to:
Table of Contents:
==== PART 1 ====
S) 1.0 Introduction
Q) 1.1 What does this FAQ cover?
Q) 1.2 Where can I find the latest copy of this FAQ?
Q) 1.3 Is it ok to (sell/buy/job-offer/advertise) things
Q) 1.4 I have a binary that people are asking for, should I post it
Q) 1.5 +Where should I post?
Q) 1.6 How come no one answers my questions?
Q) 1.7 What are the going prices for...?
Q) 1.8 Who makes/Where can I find [some obscure piece of
Q) 1.9 What is the history of the IBM PC?
S) 2.0 Motherboards
Q) 2.1 ^What are the differences between the 80x86
Q) 2.2 How do I pick the right processor?
Q) 2.3 What is the difference between the 386SX/386DX and
Q) 2.4 What is a ZIF socket?
Q) 2.5 What is over clocking and should I do it?
Q) 2.6 Which is faster, a DX-50 or DX2-66?
Q) 2.7 *What is the P24T/Overdrive?
Q) 2.8 What are the differences between the 80x87
Q) 2.9 Would a math co-processor speed up my
Q) 2.10 Can I use a x387 with my 486?
Q) 2.11 What is the floating point (FDIV) problem with the
Q) 2.12 How can I tell if my Pentium has the FDIV
Q) 2.13 How do I get a replacement for my buggy
Q) 2.14 Memory terminology, what does it mean?
Q) 2.15 What happened to my 384k?
Q) 2.16 How do I tell how big/fast my SIMMs are?
Q) 2.17 What speed SIMMs do I need?
Q) 2.18 Will 9 chip and 3 chip SIMMs work
Q) 2.19 What are "single-sided" and "double-sided" 72-pin
Q) 2.20 What does parity/ECC memory protect the system
Q) 2.21 What happens if I get memory error with or without
Q) 2.22 Do I really need parity/ECC?
Q) 2.23 How do I get a system with parity support?
Q) 2.24 How do you distinguish between parity and
Q) 2.25 Can I use Mac or PS/2 SIMMs in my PC?
Q) 2.26 What do wait states and burst rates in my BIOS
Q) 2.27 Cache terminology, what does it mean?
Q) 2.28 How do I upgrade the size of my cache?
Q) 2.29 Do I need to fill the "dirty tag" RAM socket on my
Q) 2.30 How fast do my cache RAMs have to be?
Q) 2.31 Which is the best cache policy, write-through or
Q) 2.32 What about an n-way set associative cache, isn't it
Q) 2.33 Which is better, ISA/EISA/VLB/PCI/etc?
Q) 2.34 *What are the (dis)advantages of ISA/VLB/EISA
Q) 2.35 Will an ISA card work in an MCA (PS/2)
Q) 2.36 What does the "chip set" do?
Q) 2.37 How do I enter the CMOS configuration
Q) 2.38 What is bus mastering and how do I know if I have
Q) 2.39 Can I put an ISA cards in EISA or VLB
Q) 2.40 How should I configure ISA/VLB cards in the EISA
Q) 2.41 What is the difference between EISA Standard and
Q) 2.42 Is there any point in putting more than 16M in an ISA
Q) 2.43 What disadvantages are there to the HiNT EISA chip
Q) 2.44 *Should I change the ISA bus speed?
Q) 2.45 +Why is my PC's clock so inaccurate?
Q) 2.46 +How can I automatically set my PC's clock to the
Q) 2.47 What is the battery for and how do I replace
Q) 2.48 Can I use IRQ2 or is it special?
Q) 2.49 Where do all the IRQ's and DMA Channels
==== PART 2 ====
S) 3.0 IO controllers/interfaces
Q) 3.1 *How do IDE/MFM/RLL/ESDI/SCSI interfaces
Q) 3.2 How can I tell if I have
Q) 3.3 Do caching controllers really help?
Q) 3.4 Do IDE controllers use DMA?
Q) 3.5 Why won't my two IDE drives work together?
Q) 3.6 Which is better, VLB or ISA IDE?
Q) 3.7 How do I install a second controller?
Q) 3.8 ^What is EIDE/Fast-ATA/ATA-2/ATAPI what
do they have?
Q) 3.9 Which is better, SCSI or IDE?
Q) 3.10 Can MFM/RLL/ESDI/IDE and SCSI
Q) 3.11 What's the difference between SCSI and SCSI-2? Are
Q) 3.12 How am I suppose to terminate the SCSI
Q) 3.13 Can I share SCSI devices between
Q) 3.14 What is Thermal Recalibration?
Q) 3.15 Can I mount my hard drive sideways/upside
Q) 3.16 How do I swap A: and B:
Q) 3.17 My floppy drive doesn't work and the light remains
Q) 3.18 What is a 16550 and do I need one?
Q) 3.19 Are there any > 4 channel serial port cards?
Q) 3.20 Should I buy an internal or external modem?
Q) 3.21 What do all of the modem terms mean?
Q) 3.22 Why does my fast modem connect at a lower
Q) 3.23 ^What kinds of sound cards are available?
Q) 3.24 Where can I find EISA/VLB sound and IO
Q) 3.25 Where can I get DOS drivers for my ethernet
Q) 3.26 How does the keyboard interface work?
Q) 3.27 Can I fake a keyboard so my computer will boot
==== PART 3 ====
S) 4.0 Storage/Retrieval Devices
Q) 4.1 Why do I lose x Meg on my hard drive?
Q) 4.2 *Should I get an IDE/floppy/SCSI/parallel port tape
Q) 4.3 I have two floppies. Can I add a floppy based tape
Q) 4.4 How fast is a tape drive? Will a dedicated controller
Q) 4.5 What is QIC80, QIC40?
Q) 4.6 How come I can't fit as much stuff on my tape drive as
Q) 4.7 Are Colorado/Conner/Archive/... tapes compatible with
Q) 4.8 How does the drive/software know how long the tape
Q) 4.9 What are all those QICs?
Q) 4.10 Which QICs are read/write compatible?
Q) 4.11 What is the CMOS/jumper setting for my hard
S) 5.0 ^Video
S) 6.0 Systems
Q) 6.1 *What should I upgrade first?
Q) 6.2 Do I need a CPU fan / heat sink?
Q) 6.3 What does the turbo switch do?
Q) 6.4 How does the front panel LED display measure the
Q) 6.5 Should I turn my computer/monitor off?
Q) 6.6 Are there any manufacturers/distributers who read the
==== PART 4 ====
S) 7.0 Diagnostics
Q) 7.1 What do the POST beeps mean?
Q) 7.2 What do the POST codes mean?
Q) 7.3 *I think my cache is bad. What's a good
S) 8.0 Misc
Q) 8.1 What is the pin out for ...?
Q) 8.2 *Where are benchmark programs located. What do they
Q) 8.3 What is Plug and Play?
Q) 8.4 What is an OEM product?
Q) 8.5 What size should I set my DOS partitions to
Q) 8.6 How do I get DOS to letter my devices the way I
Q) 8.7 Why won't my system boot from the hard
Q) 8.8 How do I clean my computer?
Q) 8.9 *What OS's are available for the PC? Which are
Q) 8.10 *How can I transfer files between my PC and a Unix
Q) 8.11 What tape backup software is available?
Q) 8.12 Why doesn't my new device work as fast as it
Q) 8.13 My drive lists a MTBF of 300,000 hours. Will it really
last 34 years?
Q) 8.14 How do I find pin 1 on my
Q) 8.15 I've run out of power connectors, what can I
Q) 8.16 What does FCC approval cover and what needs to be
==== PART 5 ====
S) 9.0 References
Q) 9.1 What other FAQ's are out there?
Q) 9.2 What do the industry acronyms stand for?
Q) 9.3 Where can I get the ISA/EISA/VLB/PCI/etc
Q) 9.4 What books are available for the PC
Q) 9.5 What books are available on network
Q) 9.6 Which companies have ftp sites?
Q) 9.7 Which companies have WWW sites?
Q) 9.8 What's the phone number for...
S) 10.0 Acknowledgments
* = incomplete
+ = new or significant changes since last post
^ = pointer to one or more other FAQs