Motherboards

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Posted by kaori 03/31/2009 @ 23:09

Tags : motherboards, components, hardware, technology

News headlines
Gigabyte's X58 Motherboards To Now Support Nvidia SLI - InfoWorld
By PC World India staff | PC World India Gigabyte today announced that their entire range of Intel X58 chipset motherboards now officially support Nvidia SLI technology. According to a press release, users can enable Nvidia SLI support on their current...
ASUS gets first WHQL motherboard certification for 32-bit Windows 7 - Geek.com
ASUS Tek Computer announced this week that they have become the first motherboard manufacturer to obtain WHQL (Windows Hardware Quality Labs) certification for 32-bit Windows 7. ASUS' P5Q PRO and P5Q SE PLUS have received the coveted seal of approval....
GIGABYTE Receives Windows 7 Logo For Socket 775 Motherboard - HEXUS
Taipei, Taiwan, May 15, 2009 - GIGABYTE TECHNOLOGY Co., Ltd, a leading manufacturer of motherboards, graphics cards and other computing hardware solutions, today is proud to announce the GA-EP45-UD3P has received the Windows® 7 logo from Microsoft® for...
ASUS Crosshair III Formula Motherboard Spotted - TweakTown
The upcomming Crosshair III Formula motherboard from ASUS has been spotted in the wild and the board is expected to debut at this year's ComputeX. The Crosshair III Formula features the AMD 790FX chipset while the previous board utilized the nForce...
Home electronics: Zotac announces its Zotac ION mini-ITX ... - CCL Online
Mr Berger says the ION "is an instant solution" for anyone wanting to use their PC to drive a home theatre set-up. This latest motherboard can connect wirelessly at the new 802.11n standard, has an onboard DC/DC power supply and is ready for up to 4GB...
ASUS Unleashes P6T7 WS SuperComputer Workstation Motherboard - Hardware Zone
Manila, Philippines -- ASUS, the leading producer and innovator of motherboards, today launched the most revolutionary and powerful Parallel Computing solution available to date: the ASUS P6T7 WS SuperComputer motherboard. Equipped with 7 PCI-E Gen2...
Give me a break - Cape Cod Times
Remember last year when my laptop went kaput, courtesy of a fried motherboard? I do, and probably so does the service department at the mega-electronics store. Motherboards are not a quick — or cheap — fix. A month later, my ankle shattered into...
Antec Performance One P183 - ComputerShopper.com
The case can accept ATX, MicroATX, or MiniITX motherboards, but the motherboard tray is not removable. You should be able to install graphics cards up to 10 inches in length before butting up against the drive bays. The middle drive cage is removable...
Atomic MPC > News > Build > CPUs, Motherboards & RAM > AMD and ... - Atomic
By Justin Robinson Two rivals put their marketing teams to the test and focus on what they think will be the winning stroke. In the war between the two CPU giants AMD and Intel there have been some pretty dodgy practices as well as some good ideas...

Motherboard

An Acer E360 motherboard made by Foxconn, from 2005, with a large number of integrated peripherals. This board's nForce3 chipset lacks a traditional northbridge.

A motherboard is the central printed circuit board (PCB) in some complex electronic systems, such as modern personal computers. The motherboard is sometimes alternatively known as the mainboard, system board, or, on Apple computers, the logic board. It is also sometimes casually shortened to mobo.

Prior to the advent of the microprocessor, a computer was usually built in a card-cage case or mainframe with components connected by a backplane consisting of a set of slots themselves connected with wires; in very old designs the wires were discrete connections between card connector pins, but printed-circuit boards soon became the standard practice. The central processing unit, memory and peripherals were housed on individual printed circuit boards which plugged into the backplane.

During the late 1980s and 1990s, it became economical to move an increasing number of peripheral functions onto the motherboard (see above). In the late 1980s, motherboards began to include single ICs (called Super I/O chips) capable of supporting a set of low-speed peripherals: keyboard, mouse, floppy disk drive, serial ports, and parallel ports. As of the late 1990s, many personal computer motherboards support a full range of audio, video, storage, and networking functions without the need for any expansion cards at all; higher-end systems for 3D gaming and computer graphics typically retain only the graphics card as a separate component.

The early pioneers of motherboard manufacturing were Micronics, Mylex, AMI, DTK, Hauppauge, Orchid Technology, Elitegroup, DFI, and a number of Taiwan-based manufacturers.

Popular personal computers such as the Apple II and IBM PC had published schematic diagrams and other documentation which permitted rapid reverse-engineering and third-party replacement motherboards. Usually intended for building new computers compatible with the exemplars, many motherboards offered additional performance or other features and were used to upgrade the manufacturer's original equipment.

The term mainboard is archaically applied to devices with a single board and no additional expansions or capability. In modern terms this would include embedded systems, and controlling boards in televisions, washing machines etc. A motherboard specifically refers to a printed circuit with the capability to add/extend its performance/capabilities with the addition of "daughterboards".

Most computer motherboards produced today are designed for IBM-compatible computers, which currently account for around 90% of global PC sales. A motherboard, like a backplane, provides the electrical connections by which the other components of the system communicate, but unlike a backplane, it also hosts the central processing unit, and other subsystems and devices.

Motherboards are also used in many other electronics devices such as mobile phones,stop-watches,clocks,and other small electronc devices.

A typical desktop computer has its microprocessor, main memory, and other essential components on the motherboard. Other components such as external storage, controllers for video display and sound, and peripheral devices may be attached to the motherboard as plug-in cards or via cables, although in modern computers it is increasingly common to integrate some of these peripherals into the motherboard itself.

An important component of a motherboard is the microprocessor's supporting chipset, which provides the supporting interfaces between the CPU and the various buses and external components. This chipset determines, to an extent, the features and capabilities of the motherboard.

Additionally, nearly all motherboards include logic and connectors to support commonly-used input devices, such as PS/2 connectors for a mouse and keyboard. Early personal computers such as the Apple II or IBM PC included only this minimal peripheral support on the motherboard. Occasionally video interface hardware was also integrated into the motherboard; for example on the Apple II, and rarely on IBM-compatible computers such as the IBM PC Jr. Additional peripherals such as disk controllers and serial ports were provided as expansion cards.

Given the high thermal design power of high-speed computer CPUs and components, modern motherboards nearly always include heatsinks and mounting points for fans to dissipate excess heat.

With the steadily declining costs and size of integrated circuits, it is now possible to include support for many peripherals on the motherboard. By combining many functions on one PCB, the physical size and total cost of the system may be reduced; highly-integrated motherboards are thus especially popular in small form factor and budget computers.

Expansion cards to support all of these functions would have cost hundreds of dollars even a decade ago, however as of April 2007 such highly-integrated motherboards are available for as little as $30 in the USA.

A typical motherboard of 2009 will have a different number of connections depending on its standard. A standard ATX motherboard will typically have 1x PCI-E 16x connection for a graphics card, 2x PCI slots for various expansion cards and 1x PCI-E 1x which will eventually supersede PCI.

A standard Super ATX motherboard will have 1x PCI-E 16x connection for a graphics card. It will also have a varying number of PCI and PCI-E 1x slots. It can sometimes also have a PCI-E 4x slot. This varies between brands and models.

Some motherboards have 2x PCI-E 16x slots, to allow more than 2 monitors without special hardware or to allow use of a special graphics technology called SLI (for Nvidia) and Crossfire (for ATI). These allow 2 graphics cards to be linked together, to allow better performance in intensive graphical computing tasks, such as gaming and video-editing.

As of 2007, virtually all motherboards come with at least 4x USB ports on the rear, with at least 2 connections on the board internally for wiring additional front ports that are built into the computer's case. Ethernet is also included now. This is a standard networking cable for connecting the computer to a network or a modem. A sound chip is always included on the motherboard, to allow sound to be output without the need for any extra components. This allows computers to be far more multimedia-based than before. Cheaper machines now often have their graphics chip built into the motherboard rather than a separate card.

Motherboards are generally air cooled with heat sinks often mounted on larger chips, such as the northbridge, in modern motherboards. If the motherboard is not cooled properly, then this can cause its computer to crash. Passive cooling, or a single fan mounted on the power supply, was sufficient for many desktop computer CPUs until the late 1990s; since then, most have required CPU fans mounted on their heatsinks, due to rising clock speeds and power consumption. Most motherboards have connectors for additional case fans as well. Newer motherboards have integrated temperature sensors to detect motherboard and CPU temperatures, and controllable fan connectors which the BIOS or operating system can use to regulate fan speed. Some higher-powered computers (which typically have high-performance processors and large amounts of RAM, as well as high-performance video cards) use a water-cooling system instead of many fans.

Some small form factor computers and home theater PCs designed for quiet and energy-efficient operation boast fan-less designs. This typically requires the use of a low-power CPU, as well as careful layout of the motherboard and other components to allow for heat sink placement.

A 2003 study found that some spurious computer crashes and general reliability issues, ranging from screen image distortions to I/O read/write errors, can be attributed not to software or peripheral hardware but to aging capacitors on PC motherboards. Ultimately this was shown to be the result of a faulty electrolyte formulation.

Motherboards use electrolytic capacitors to filter the DC power distributed around the board. These capacitors age at a temperature-dependent rate, as their water based electrolytes slowly evaporate. This can lead to loss of capacitance and subsequent motherboard malfunctions due to voltage instabilities. While most capacitors are rated for 2000 hours of operation at 105 °C, their expected design life roughly doubles for every 10 °C below this. At 45 °C a lifetime of 15 years can be expected. This appears reasonable for a computer motherboard, however many manufacturers have delivered substandard capacitors, which significantly reduce life expectancy. Inadequate case cooling and elevated temperatures easily exacerbate this problem. It is possible, but tedious and time-consuming, to find and replace failed capacitors on PC motherboards; it is less expensive to buy a new motherboard than to pay for such a repair.

Motherboards are produced in a variety of sizes and shapes ("form factors"), some of which are specific to individual computer manufacturers. However, the motherboards used in IBM-compatible commodity computers have been standardized to fit various case sizes. As of 2007, most desktop computer motherboards use one of these standard form factors—even those found in Macintosh and Sun computers which have not traditionally been built from commodity components.

Laptop computers generally use highly integrated, miniaturized, and customized motherboards. This is one of the reasons that laptop computers are difficult to upgrade and expensive to repair. Often the failure of one laptop component requires the replacement of the entire motherboard, which is usually more expensive than a desktop motherboard due to the large number of integrated components.

Nvidia SLI and ATI Crossfire technology allows two or more of the same series graphics cards to be linked together to allow faster graphics-processing capabilities. Almost all medium- to high-end Nvidia cards and most high-end ATI cards support the technology.

They both require compatible motherboards. There is an obvious need for 2x PCI-E 8x slots to allow two cards to be inserted into the computer. The same function can be achieved in 650i motherboards by NVIDIA, with a pair of x8 slots. Originally, tri-Crossfire was achieved at 8x speeds with two 16x slots and one 8x slot; albeit at a slower speed. ATI opened the technology up to Intel in 2006, and such all-new Intel chipsets support Crossfire.

SLI is a little more proprietary in its needs. It requires a motherboard with Nvidia's own NForce chipset series to allow it to run (exception: Intel X58 chipset).

It is important to note that SLI and Crossfire will not usually scale to 2x the performance of a single card when using a dual setup. They also do not double the effective amount of VRAM or memory bandwidth.

Motherboards contain some non-volatile memory to initialize the system and load an operating system from some external peripheral device. Microcomputers such as the Apple II and IBM PC used read-only memory chips, mounted in sockets on the motherboard. At power-up, the central processor would load its program counter with the address of the boot ROM, and start executing ROM instructions, displaying system information on the screen and running memory checks, which would in turn start loading memory from an external or peripheral device (disk drive). If none is available, then the computer can perform tasks from other memory stores or display an error message, depending on the model and design of the computer and version of the BIOS.

Any of the above devices can be stored with machine code instructions to load an operating system or a program.

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Personal computer

An exploded view of a modern personal computer and peripherals:  Scanner CPU (Microprocessor) Primary storage (RAM) Expansion cards (graphics cards, etc) Power supply Optical disc drive Secondary storage (Hard disk) Motherboard Speakers Monitor System software Application software Keyboard Mouse External hard disk Printer

A personal computer (PC) is any general-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and original sales price make it useful for individuals, and which is intended to be operated directly by an end user, with no intervening computer operator.

As of 2009, a PC may be a desktop computer, a laptop computer or a tablet computer. The most common operating systems for personal computers are Microsoft Windows, Mac OS and Linux, while the most common microprocessors are x86-compatible CPUs, ARM architecture CPUs and PowerPC CPUs. Software applications for personal computers include word processing, spreadsheets, databases, Web browsers and E-mail clients, games, and myriad personal productivity and special-purpose software. Modern personal computers often have high-speed or dial-up connections to the Internet, allowing access to the World Wide Web and a wide range of other resources.

A PC may be a home computer, or may be found in an office, often connected to a local area network (LAN). This is in contrast to the batch processing or time-sharing models which allowed large expensive systems to be used by many people, usually at the same time, or large data processing systems which required a full-time staff to operate efficiently.

While early PC owners usually had to write their own programs to do anything useful with the machines, today's users have access to a wide range of commercial and non-commercial software which is provided in ready-to-run form.

The capabilities of the PC have changed greatly since the introduction of electronic computers. By the early 1970s, people in academic or research institutions had the opportunity for single-person use of a computer system in interactive mode for extended durations, although these systems would still have been too expensive to be owned by a single person. The introduction of the microprocessor, a single chip with all the circuitry that formerly occupied large cabinets, led to the proliferation of personal computers after about 1975. Early personal computers - generally called microcomputers - were sold often in Electronic kit form and in limited volumes, and were of interest mostly to hobbyists and technicians. Minimal programming was done by toggle switches, and output was provided by front panel indicators. Practical use required peripherals such as keyboards, computer terminals, disk drives, and printers. By 1977, mass-market pre-assembled computers allowed a wider range of people to use computers, focusing more on software applications and less on development of the processor hardware.

Throughout the late 1970s and into the 1980s, computers were developed for household use, offering personal productivity, programming and games. Somewhat larger and more expensive systems (although still low-cost compared with minicomputers and mainframes) were aimed for office and small business use. Workstations are characterized by high-performance processors and graphics displays, with large local disk storage, networking capability, and running under a multitasking operating system. Workstations are still used for tasks such as computer-aided design, drafting and modelling, computation-intensive scientific and engineering calculations, image processing, architectural modelling, and computer graphics for animation and motion picture visual effects.

Eventually the market segments lost any technical distinction; business computers acquired color graphics capability and sound, and home computers and game systems users used the same processors and operating systems as office workers. Mass-market computers had graphics capabilities and memory comparable to dedicated workstations of a few years before. Even local area networking, originally a way to allow business computers to share expensive mass storage and peripherals, became a standard feature of the personal computers used at home.

In 2001 125 million personal computers were shipped in comparison to 48 thousand in 1977. More than 500 million PCs were in use in 2002 and one billion personal computers had been sold worldwide since mid-1970s until this time. Of the latter figure, 75 percent were professional or work related, while the rest sold for personal or home use. About 81.5 percent of PCs shipped had been desktop computers, 16.4 percent laptops and 2.1 percent servers. United States had received 38.8 percent (394 million) of the computers shipped, Europe 25 percent and 11.7 percent had gone to Asia-Pacific region, the fastest-growing market as of 2002. The second billion was expected to be sold by 2008. Almost half of all the households in Western Europe had a personal computer and a computer could be found in 40 percent of homes in United Kingdom, compared with only 13 percent in 1985.

The global PC shipments was 264 million units in year 2007, according to iSuppli, up 11.2 per cent from 239 million in 2006.. In year 2004, the global shipments was 183 million units, 11.6 percent increase over 2003. In 2003, 152.6 million PCs were shipped, at an estimated value of $175 billion. In 2002, 136.7 million PCs were shipped, at an estimated value of $175 billion. In 2000, 140.2 million PCs were shipped, at an estimated value of $226 billion. Worldwide shipments of PCs surpassed the 100-million mark in 1999, growing to 113.5 million units from 93.3 million units in 1998.. In 1999, Asia had 14,1 million units shipped.

As of June 2008, the number of personal computers in use worldwide hit one billion, while another billion is expected to be reached by 2014. Mature markets like the United States, Western Europe and Japan accounted for 58 percent of the worldwide installed PCs. The emerging markets were expected to double their installed PCs by 2013 and to take 70 percent of the second billion PCs. About 180 million PCs (16 percent of the existing installed base) were expected to be replaced and 35 million to be dumped into landfill in 2008. The whole installed base grew 12 percent annually.

In the developed world, there has been a vendor tradition to keep adding functions to maintain high prices of personal computers. However, since the introduction of One Laptop per Child foudation and its low-cost XO-1 laptop, the computing industry started to pursue the price too. Although introduced only one year earlier, there were 14 million netbooks sold in 2008. Besides the regular computer manufacturers, companies making especially rugged versions of computers have sprung up, offering alternatives for people operating their machines in extreme weather or environments.

The emergence of new market segment of small, energy-efficient and low-cost devices designed for access to the Internet (netbooks and nettops) could threaten established companies like Microsoft, Intel, HP or Dell, analysts said in July 2008. A market research firm International Data Corporation predicted that the category could grow from fewer than 500,000 in 2007 to 9 million in 2012 as the market for low cost and secondhand computers expands in developed economies. Also, after Microsoft ceased selling of Windows XP for ordinary machines, it made an exception and continued to offer the operating system for netbook and nettop makers.

Prior to the wide spread of PCs a computer that could fit on a desk was considered remarkably small. Today the phrase usually indicates a particular style of computer case. Desktop computers come in a variety of styles ranging from large vertical tower cases to small form factor models that can be tucked behind an LCD monitor. In this sense, the term 'desktop' refers specifically to a horizontally-oriented case, usually intended to have the display screen placed on top to save space on the desk top. Most modern desktop computers have separate screens and keyboards.

A subtype of desktops, called nettops, was introduced by Intel in February 2008 to describe low-cost, lean-function, desktop computers. A similar subtype of laptops (or notebooks) are the netbooks (see below).

A laptop computer or simply laptop, also called a notebook computer or sometimes a notebook, is a small personal computer designed for mobility. Usually all of the interface hardware needed to operate the laptop, such as parallel and serial ports, graphics card, sound channel, etc., are built in to a single unit. Most laptops contain batteries to facilitate operation without a readily available electrical outlet. In the interest of saving power, weight and space, they usually share RAM with the video channel, slowing their performance compared to an equivalent desktop machine.

One main drawback of the laptop is that, due to the size and configuration of components, relatively little can be done to upgrade the overall computer from its original design. Some devices can be attached externally through ports (including via USB), however internal upgrades are not recommended or in some cases impossible, making the desktop PC more modular.

A subtype of notebooks, called subnotebooks, are computers with most of the features of a standard laptop computer but smaller. They are larger than hand-held computers, and usually run full versions of desktop/laptop operating systems. Ultra-Mobile PCs (UMPC) are usually considered subnotebooks, or more specifically, subnotebook Tablet PCs (see below). Netbooks are sometimes considered in this category, though they are sometimes separated in a category of their own (see below).

Desktop replacements, meanwhile, are large laptops meant to replace a desktop computer while keeping the mobility of a laptop.

Netbook PCs are small portable computers in a "clamshell" design, that are designed specifically for wireless communication and access to the Internet. They are generally much lighter and cheaper than subnotebooks, and have a smaller display, between 7" and 9", with a screen resolution between 800x600 and 1024x768. The operating systems and applications on them are usually specially modified so they can be comfortably used with a smaller sized screen, and the OS is often based on Linux, although some netbooks run on Windows XP. Some netbooks make use of their built in high speed Wireless connectivity to offload some of their applications software to Internet servers, through the principle of Cloud computing, as most have small solid state storage systems instead of hard-disks. Storage capacities are usually in the 4 to 16 GB range. One of the first examples of such a system was the original Eee PC.

A tablet PC is a notebook or slate-shaped mobile computer, first introduced by Pen computing in the early 90s with their PenGo Tablet Computer and popularized by Microsoft. Its touchscreen or graphics tablet/screen hybrid technology allows the user to operate the computer with a stylus or digital pen, or a fingertip, instead of a keyboard or mouse. The form factor offers a more mobile way to interact with a computer. Tablet PCs are often used where normal notebooks are impractical or unwieldy, or do not provide the needed functionality.

The ultra-mobile PC (UMPC) is a specification for a small form factor tablet PC. It was developed as a joint development exercise by Microsoft, Intel, and Samsung, among others. Current UMPCs typically feature the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005, Windows Vista Home Premium Edition, or Linux operating system and low-voltage Intel Pentium or VIA C7-M processors in the 1 GHz range.

A home theater PC (HTPC) is a convergence device that combines the functions of a personal computer and a digital video recorder. It is connected to a television or a television-sized computer display and is often used as a digital photo, music, video player, TV receiver and digital video recorder. Home theater PCs are also referred to as media center systems or media servers. The general goal in a HTPC is usually to combine many or all components of a home theater setup into one box. They can be purchased pre-configured with the required hardware and software needed to add television programming to the PC, or can be cobbled together out of discrete components as is commonly done with Windows Media Center, GB-PVR, SageTV, Famulent or LinuxMCE.

A pocket PC is a hardware specification for a handheld-sized computer (personal digital assistant) that runs the Microsoft Windows Mobile operating system. It may have the capability to run an alternative operating system like NetBSD or Linux. It has many of the capabilities of modern desktop PCs.

Currently there are tens of thousands of applications for handhelds adhering to the Microsoft Pocket PC specification, many of which are freeware. Some of these devices also include mobile phone features. Microsoft compliant Pocket PCs can also be used with many other add-ons like GPS receivers, barcode readers, RFID readers, and cameras. In 2007, with the release of Windows Mobile 6, Microsoft dropped the name Pocket PC in favor of a new naming scheme. Devices without an integrated phone are called Windows Mobile Classic instead of Pocket PC. Devices with an integrated phone and a touch screen are called Windows Mobile Professional.

These components can usually be put together with little knowledge to build a computer. The motherboard is a main part of a computer that connects all devices together. The memory card(s), graphics card and processor are mounted directly onto the motherboard (the processor in a socket and the memory and graphics cards in expansion slots). The mass storage is connected to it with cables and can be installed in the computer case or in a separate case. This is the same for the keyboard and mouse, except that they are external and connect to the I/O panel on the back of the computer. The monitor is also connected to the I/O panel, either through an onboard port on the motherboard, or a port on the graphics card.

Several functions (implemented by chipsets) can be integrated into the motherboard, typically USB and network, but also graphics and sound. Even if these are present, a separate card can be added if what is available isn't sufficient. The graphics and sound card can have a break out box to keep the analog parts away from the electromagnetic radiation inside the computer case. For really large amounts of data, a tape drive can be used or (extra) hard disks can be put together in an external case.

The hardware capabilities of personal computers can sometimes be extended by the addition of expansion cards connected via an expansion bus. Some standard peripheral buses often used for adding expansion cards in personal computers as of 2005 are PCI, AGP (a high-speed PCI bus dedicated to graphics adapters), and PCI Express. Most personal computers as of 2005 have multiple physical PCI expansion slots. Many also include an AGP bus and expansion slot or a PCI Express bus and one or more expansion slots, but few PCs contain both buses.

A computer case is the enclosure that contains the main components of a computer. Cases are usually constructed from steel, aluminium, or plastic, although other materials such as wood, plexiglas or fans have also been used in case designs. Cases can come in many different sizes, or form factors. The size and shape of a computer case is usually determined by the form factor of the motherboard that it is designed to accommodate, since this is the largest and most central component of most computers. Consequently, personal computer form factors typically specify only the internal dimensions and layout of the case. Form factors for rack-mounted and blade servers may include precise external dimensions as well, since these cases must themselves fit in specific enclosures.

Currently, the most popular form factor for desktop computers is ATX, although microATX and small form factors have become very popular for a variety of uses. Companies like Shuttle Inc. and AOpen have popularized small cases, for which FlexATX is the most common motherboard size.

The central processing unit, or CPU, is that part of a computer which executes software program instructions. In older computers this circuitry was formerly on several printed circuit boards, but in PCs is a single integrated circuit. Nearly all PCs contain a type of CPU known as a microprocessor. The microprocessor often plugs into the motherboard using one of many different types of sockets. IBM PC compatible computers use an x86-compatible processor, usually made by Intel, AMD, VIA Technologies or Transmeta. Apple Macintosh computers were initially built with the Motorola 680x0 family of processors, then switched to the PowerPC series (a RISC architecture jointly developed by Apple Computer, IBM and Motorola), but as of 2006, Apple switched again, this time to x86-compatible processors by Intel. Modern CPUs are equipped with a fan attached via heat sink.

The motherboard, also referred to as systemboard or mainboard, is the primary circuit board within a personal computer. Many other components connect directly or indirectly to the motherboard. Motherboards usually contain one or more CPUs, supporting circuitry - usually integrated circuits (ICs) - providing the interface between the CPU memory and input/output peripheral circuits, main memory, and facilities for initial setup of the computer immediately after power-on (often called boot firmware or, in IBM PC compatible computers, a BIOS). In many portable and embedded personal computers, the motherboard houses nearly all of the PC's core components. Often a motherboard will also contain one or more peripheral buses and physical connectors for expansion purposes. Sometimes a secondary daughter board is connected to the motherboard to provide further expandability or to satisfy space constraints.

A PC's main memory is fast storage that is directly accessible by the CPU, and is used to store the currently executing program and immediately needed data. PCs use semiconductor random access memory (RAM) of various kinds such as DRAM or SRAM as their primary storage. Which exact kind depends on cost/performance issues at any particular time. Main memory is much faster than mass storage devices like hard disks or optical discs, but is usually volatile, meaning it does not retain its contents (instructions or data) in the absence of power, and is much more expensive for a given capacity than is most mass storage. Main memory is generally not suitable for long-term or archival data storage.

Mass storage devices store programs and data even when the power is off; they do require power to perform read and write functions during usage. Although semiconductor flash memory has dropped in cost, the prevailing form of mass storage in personal computers is still the electromechanical hard disk.

The disk drives use a sealed head/disk assembly (HDA) which was first introduced by IBM's "Winchester" disk system. The use of a sealed assembly allowed the use of positive air pressure to drive out particles from the surface of the disk, which improves reliability.

If the mass storage controller provides for expandability, a PC may also be upgraded by the addition of extra hard disk or optical disc drives. For example, DVD-ROMs, CD-ROMs, and various optical disc recorders may all be added by the user to certain PCs. Standard internal storage device interfaces are ATA, Serial ATA, SCSI, and CF+ type II in 2005.

The video card - otherwise called a graphics card, graphics adapter or video adapter - processes and renders the graphics output from the computer to the computer display, also called the visual display unit (VDU), and is an essential part of the modern computer. On older models, and today on budget models, graphics circuitry tended to be integrated with the motherboard but, for modern flexible machines, they are supplied in PCI, AGP, or PCI Express format.

When the IBM PC was introduced, most existing business-oriented personal computers used text-only display adapters and had no graphics capability. Home computers at that time had graphics compatible with television signals, but with low resolution by modern standards owing to the limited memory available to the eight-bit processors available at the time.

A visual display unit (also called monitor) is a piece of electrical equipment, usually separate from the computer case, which displays viewable images generated by a computer without producing a permanent record. The word "monitor" is used in other contexts; in particular in television broadcasting, where a television picture is displayed to a high standard. A computer display device is usually either a cathode ray tube or some form of flat panel such as a TFT LCD. The monitor comprises the display device, circuitry to generate a picture from electronic signals sent by the computer, and an enclosure or case. Within the computer, either as an integral part or a plugged-in interface, there is circuitry to convert internal data to a format compatible with a monitor. The images from monitors originally contained only text, but as Graphical user interfaces emerged and became common, they began to display more images and multimedia content.

In computing, a keyboard is an arrangement of buttons that each correspond to a function, letter, or number. They are the primary devices of inputing text. In most cases, they contain an aray of keys specifically organized with the corresponding letters, numbers, and functions printed or engraved on the button. They are generally designed around an operators language, and many different versions for different languages exist. In English, the most common layout is the QWERTY layout, which was originally used in typewriters. They have evolved over time, and have been modified for use in computers with the addition of function keys, number keys, arrow keys, and OS specific keys. Often, specific functions can be achieved by pressing multiple keys at once or in succession, such as inputing characters with accents or opening a task manager. Programs use keyboard shotcuts very differently and all use different keyboard shortcuts for different program specific operations, such as refreshing a web page in a web browser or selecting all text in a word processor.

A Mouse on a computer is a small, slidable device that users hold and slide around to point at, click, and sometimes drag objects on screen in a graphical user interface using a pointer on screen. Almost all Personal Computers have mice. It may be plugged into a computer's rear mouse socket, or as a USB device, or, more recently, may be connected wirelessly via a USB antenna or Bluetooth antenna. In the past, they had a single button that users could press down on the device to "click" on whatever the pointer on the screen was hovering over. Now, however, many Mice have two or three buttons; a "right click" function button on the mouse, which performs a secondary action on a selected object, and a scroll wheel, which users can rotate the wheel using their fingers to "scroll" up or down. The scroll wheel can also be pressed down, and therefore be used as a third button. Different programs make use of these functions differently, and may scroll horizontally by default with the scroll wheel, open different menus with different buttons, among others.

Mice traditionally detected movement and communicated with the computer with an internal "mouse ball"; and use optical encoders to detect rotation of the ball and tell the computer where the mouse has moved. However, these systems were subject to low durability and accuracy. Modern mice use optical technology to directly trace movement of the surface under the mouse and are much more accurate and durable. They work on a wider variety of surfaces and can even operate on walls, ceilings or other non-horizontal surfaces.

All computers require either fixed or removable storage for their operating system, programs and user generated material. Formerly the 5 1/4 inch and 3 1/2 inch floppy drive were the principal forms of removable storage for backup of user files and distribution of software.

As memory sizes increased, the capacity of the floppy did not keep pace; the Zip drive and other higher-capacity removable media were introduced but never became as prevalent as the floppy drive.

By the late 1990s the optical drive, in CD and later DVD and Blu-ray Disc, became the main method for software distribution, and writeable media provided backup and file interchange. Floppy drives have become uncommon in desktop personal computers since about 2000, and were dropped from many laptop systems even earlier.

Early home computers used compact audio cassettes for file storage; these were at the time a very low cost storage solution, but were displaced by floppy disk drives when manfacturing costs dropped, by the mid 1980s.

A second generation of tape recorders was provided when Videocassette recorders were pressed into service as backup media for larger disk drives. All these systems were less reliable and slower than purpose-built magnetic tape drives. Such tape drives were uncommon in consumer-type personal computers but were a necessity in business or industrial use.

Interchange of data such as photographs from digital cameras is greatly expedited by installation of a card reader, which often is compatible with several forms of flash memory. It is usually faster and more convenient to move large amounts of data by removing the card from the mobile device, instead of communicating with the mobile device through a USB interface.

A USB flash drive today performs much of the data transfer and backup functions formerly done with floppy drives, Zip disks and other devices. Main-stream current operating systems for personal computers provide standard support for flash drives, allowing interchange even between computers using different processors and operating systems. The compact size and lack of moving parts or dirt-sensitive media, combined with low cost for high capacity, have made flash drives a popular and useful accessory for any personal computer user.

The operating system (e.g.: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux or many others) can be located on any storage, but typically it is on a hard disks. A Live CD is the running of a OS directly from a CD. While this is slow compared to storing the OS on a hard drive, it is typically used for installation of operating systems, demonstrations, system recovery, or other special purposes. Large flash memory is currently more expensive than hard drives of similar size (as of mid-2008) but are starting to appear in laptop computers because of their low weight, small size and low power requirements.

Computer software is a general term used to describe a collection of computer programs, procedures and documentation that perform some tasks on a computer system. The term includes application software such as word processors which perform productive tasks for users, system software such as operating systems, which interface with hardware to provide the necessary services for application software, and middleware which controls and co-ordinates distributed systems.

Software applications for word processing, Internet browsing, Internet faxing, e-mail and other digital messaging, multimedia playback, computer game play and computer programming are common. The user of a modern personal computer may have significant knowledge of the operating environment and application programs, but is not necessarily interested in programming nor even able to write programs for the computer. Therefore, most software written primarily for personal computers tends to be designed with simplicity of use, or "user-friendliness" in mind. However, the software industry continuously provide a wide range of new products for use in personal computers, targeted at both the expert and the non-expert user.

An operating system (OS) manages computer resources and provides programmers with an interface used to access those resources. An operating system processes system data and user input, and responds by allocating and managing tasks and internal system resources as a service to users and programs of the system. An operating system performs basic tasks such as controlling and allocating memory, prioritizing system requests, controlling input and output devices, facilitating computer networking and managing files.

Common contemporary desktop OSes are Microsoft Windows (~91% market share), Mac OS X (~8%), Linux (0.7%), Solaris and PC-BSD. Windows, Mac, and Linux all have server and personal variants. With the exception of Microsoft Windows, the designs of each of the aforementioned OSs were inspired by, or directly inherited from, the Unix operating system. Unix was developed at Bell Labs beginning in the late 1960s and spawned the development of numerous free and proprietary operating systems.

Microsoft Windows is the name of several families of software operating systems by Microsoft. Microsoft first introduced an operating environment named Windows in November 1985 as an add-on to MS-DOS in response to the growing interest in graphical user interfaces (GUIs). The most recent client version of Windows is Vista SP1. The current server version of Windows is Windows Server 2008.

Linux is a family of Unix-like computer operating systems. Linux is one of the most prominent examples of free software and open source development: typically all underlying source code can be freely modified, used, and redistributed by anyone. The name "Linux" comes from the Linux kernel, started in 1991 by Linus Torvalds. The system's utilities and libraries usually come from the GNU operating system, announced in 1983 by Richard Stallman. The GNU contribution is the basis for the alternative name GNU/Linux.

Predominantly known for its use in servers, Linux is supported by corporations such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Novell, Oracle Corporation, Red Hat, Canonical Ltd. and Sun Microsystems. It is used as an operating system for a wide variety of computer hardware, including desktop computers, supercomputers, video game systems, such as the PlayStation 3, several arcade games, and embedded devices such as mobile phones, routers, and stage lighting systems.

Mac OS X is a line of graphical operating systems developed, marketed, and sold by Apple Inc.. Mac OS X is the successor to the original Mac OS, which had been Apple's primary operating system since 1984. Unlike its predecessors, Mac OS X is a Unix-based operating system.

Application software employs the capabilities of a computer directly and thoroughly to a task that the user wishes to perform. This should be contrasted with system software which is involved in integrating a computer's various capabilities, but typically does not directly apply them in the performance of tasks that benefit the user. In this context the term application refers to both the application software and its implementation. A simple, if imperfect analogy in the world of hardware would be the relationship of an electric light bulb (an application) to an electric power generation plant (a system). The power plant merely generates electricity, not itself of any real use until harnessed to an application like the electric light that performs a service that benefits the user.

Typical examples of software applications are word processors, spreadsheets, and media players. Multiple applications bundled together as a package are sometimes referred to as an application suite. Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org, which bundle together a word processor, a spreadsheet, and several other discrete applications, are typical examples. The separate applications in a suite usually have a user interface that has some commonality making it easier for the user to learn and use each application. And often they may have some capability to interact with each other in ways beneficial to the user. For example, a spreadsheet might be able to be embedded in a word processor document even though it had been created in the separate spreadsheet application.

End-user development tailors systems to meet the user's specific needs. User-written software include spreadsheet templates, word processor macros, scientific simulations, graphics and animation scripts. Even email filters are a kind of user software. Users create this software themselves and often overlook how important it is.

Most personal computers are standardized to the point that purchased software is expected to run with little or no customization for the particular computer. Many PCs are also user-upgradeable, especially desktop and workstation class computers. Devices such as main memory, mass storage, even the motherboard and central processing unit may be easily replaced by an end user. This upgradeability is, however, not indefinite due to rapid changes in the personal computer industry. A PC that was considered top-of-the-line five or six years prior may be impractical to upgrade due to changes in industry standards. Such a computer usually must be totally replaced once it is no longer suitable for its purpose. This upgrade and replacement cycle is partially related to new releases of the primary mass-market operating system, which tends to drive the acquisition of new hardware and render obsolete previously serviceable hardware (planned obsolescence).

The processing environment may also render an older computer obsolete even if it is still in good working order. As the memory (RAM) and processing speed of the average computer increases, websites are built or rebuilt based on the expectation of this increased computing power. This spurs the development of still faster processors and higher RAM capacities, as the cycle continues.

Due to the extremely short life-span of the average PC in the U.S. alone approximately 130,000 personal computers are thrown out a day. This statistic supports the growing importance of electronic recycling.

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BTX (form factor)

BTX form factor motherboard inside a Dell Dimension E520.

BTX (for Balanced Technology Extended) is a form factor for motherboards, originally slated to be the replacement for the aging ATX motherboard form factor in late 2004 and early 2005. It has been designed to alleviate some of the issues that arose from using newer technologies (which often demand more power and create more heat) on motherboards compliant with the circa-1996 ATX specification. The ATX and BTX standards were both proposed by Intel. Intel's decision to refocus on low-power CPUs, after suffering scaling and thermal issues with the Pentium 4, has added some doubt to the future of the form factor. The first company to implement BTX was Gateway Inc, followed by Dell. Apple's Mac Pro utilizes the elements of the BTX design system as well but is not BTX compliant. However, future development of BTX retail products by Intel was canceled in September 2006. A proprietary form factor is now used by many companies.

Pico BTX is a motherboard form factor that is meant to miniaturize the BTX standard. Pico BTX motherboards are relatively small, 10.5"x8" (smaller than many current 'micro'-sized motherboards), hence the name 'pico'. These motherboards share a common top half with the other sizes in the BTX line, but sport only one or two expansion slots, designed for half-height or riser-card applications.

The BTX form factor motherboards are incompatible with most of the ATX form factor cases and vice-versa. Moreover, cases such as the Cooler Master Series (Stackers) support a varying range of motherboard types such as ATX, BTX, Mini-ATX and so forth. However, all connectors are compatible, including power supplies, PCI cards, processors, RAM, hard drives, etc.

BTX's thermal design specifies a particular processor location at the front of the board, where a special case ventilation duct is located. It places the northbridge behind the processor, and memory DIMMs beside the northbridge, arranged parallel to front-to-back airflow. Unfortunately, this is not possible for processors with an integrated memory controller (on-die northbridge), such as the Athlon 64 and Intel Core i7. To equalize the length of the signal traces to the DIMMs, these processors must be centered in front of them. The DIMMs cannot go beside the processor, because they would then extend past the front of the motherboard, and they would obstruct the airflow if positioned behind it.

The BTX form factor has still not been widely adopted despite the age of the extremely common ATX and related standards. As a result, the selection of key BTX parts may be limited or unavailable. The exceptions are select OEMs who are generally able to supply ample replacement parts for such systems albeit at a less competitive cost. Large customers are usually able to secure favorable support contracts which negate such disadvantages but small businesses and home users may find third party support for such systems more expensive, raising the cost of ownership.

The market for ATX boards and power supplies is still extremely large and competitive with little signs of changing in the near future. There are few advantages seen to BTX and many issues which hamper adoption. Those who are invested in ATX have the option of using cases and power supplies between platform generations, as well as a wide array of OEM and third party support options. The ATX platform generally offers a much wider range of processor and chipset options than the mostly Intel BTX platform. To date, AMD has offered few BTX product options and has emerged as major and viable player in the computer industry.

The hobbyist and gaming markets are major consumers of highly-profitable, high-end hardware and they demand a large selection of standardized components and parts from a large variety of manufacturers, which BTX has yet to offer. In addition, they tend to be early adopters of technology products and exert a large influence over industry trends and the eventual mainstream. BTX would likely need to penetrate this market before large scale adoption will occur.

Currently there is a trend toward energy efficient hardware and cooler designs which produce less heat, making BTX less advantageous. Intel has also made major shifts in response to heightened competition in recent years and has released smaller and cooler running processors than what may have been anticipated.

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BIOS

ROM with BIOS

In IBM PC Compatible computers, the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) , also known as the System BIOS, is a de facto standard defining a firmware interface.

The BIOS is boot firmware, designed to be the first code run by a PC when powered on. The initial function of the BIOS is to identify, test, and initialize system devices such as the video display card, hard disk, and floppy disk and other hardware. This is to prepare the machine into a known state, so that software stored on compatible media can be loaded, executed, and given control of the PC. This process is known as booting, or booting up, which is short for bootstrapping.

BIOS programs are stored on a chip and are built to work with various devices that make up the complementary chipset of the system. They provide a small library of basic input/output functions that can be called to operate and control the peripherals such as the keyboard, text display functions and so forth. In the IBM PC and AT, certain peripheral cards such as hard-drive controllers and video display adapters carried their own BIOS extension ROM, which provided additional functionality. Operating systems and executive software, designed to supersede this basic firmware functionality, will provide replacement software interfaces to applications.

The term first appeared in the CP/M operating system, describing the part of CP/M loaded during boot time that interfaced directly with the hardware (CP/M machines usually had only a simple boot loader in their ROM). Most versions of DOS have a file called "IBMBIO.COM" or "IO.SYS" that is analogous to the CP/M BIOS.

Among other classes of computers, the generic terms boot monitor, boot loader or boot ROM were commonly used. Some Sun and PowerPC-based computers use Open Firmware for this purpose. There are few alternatives for Legacy BIOS in the x86 world: Extensible Firmware Interface, Open Firmware (used on the OLPC XO-1) and coreboot.

In principle, the BIOS in ROM was customized to the particular manufacturer's hardware, allowing low-level services (such as reading a keystroke or writing a sector of data to diskette) to be provided in a standardized way to the operating system. For example, an IBM PC might have had either a monochrome or a color display adapter, using different display memory addresses and hardware - but the BIOS service to print a character on the screen in text mode would be the same.

Prior to the early 1990s, BIOSes were stored in ROM or PROM chips, which could not be altered by users. As its complexity and need for updates grew, and re-programmable parts became more available, BIOS firmware was most commonly stored on EEPROM or flash memory devices. According to Robert Braver, the president of the BIOS manufacturer Micro Firmware, Flash BIOS chips became common around 1995 because the electrically erasable PROM (EEPROM) chips are cheaper and easier to program than standard erasable PROM (EPROM) chips. EPROM chips may be erased by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light, which accessed the chip via the window. Chip manufacturers use EPROM programmers (blasters) to program EPROM chips. Electrically erasable (EEPROM) chips come with the additional feature of allowing a BIOS reprogramming via higher-than-normal amounts of voltage. BIOS versions are upgraded to take advantage of newer versions of hardware and to correct bugs in previous revisions of BIOSes.

The first flash chips attached to the ISA bus. Starting in 1997, the BIOS flash moved to the LPC bus, a functional replacement for ISA, following a new standard implementation known as "firmware hub" (FWH). Most BIOS revisions created in 1995 and nearly all BIOS revisions in 1997 supported the year 2000. In 2006, the first systems supporting a Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) appeared, and the BIOS flash moved again.

The size of the BIOS, and the capacities of the ROM, EEPROM and other media it may be stored on, has increased over time as new features have been added to the code; BIOS versions now exist with sizes up to 8 megabytes. Some modern motherboards are including even bigger NAND Flash ROM ICs on board which are capable of storing whole compact operating system distribution like some Linux distributions. For example, some recent ASUS motherboards included SplashTop Linux embedded into their NAND Flash ROM ICs.

EEPROM chips are advantageous because they can be easily updated by the user; hardware manufacturers frequently issue BIOS updates to upgrade their products, improve compatibility and remove bugs. However, this advantage had the risk that an improperly executed or aborted BIOS update could render the computer or device unusable. To avoid these situations, more recent BIOSes use a "boot block"; a portion of the BIOS which runs first and must be updated separately. This code verifies if the rest of the BIOS is intact (using hash checksums or other methods) before transferring control to it. If the boot block detects any corruption in the main BIOS, it will typically warn the user that a recovery process must be initiated by booting from removable media (floppy, CD or USB memory) so the user can try flashing the BIOS again. Some motherboards have a backup BIOS (sometimes referred to as DualBIOS boards) to recover from BIOS corruptions. In 2007, Gigabyte began offering motherboards with a QuadBIOS recovery feature.

There was at least one virus which was able to erase Flash ROM BIOS content, rendering computer systems unusable. CIH, also known as "Chernobyl Virus", affected systems BIOS and often they could not be fixed on their own since they were no longer able to boot at all. To repair this, Flash ROM IC had to be ejected from the motherboard to be reprogrammed somewhere else. Damage from the CIH virus was possible since most motherboards at the time of CIH propagation used the same chip set, Intel TX, and most common operating systems such as Windows 95 allowed direct hardware access to all programs.

Modern systems are not vulnerable to CIH because of a variety of chip sets being used which are incompatible with the Intel TX chip set, and also other Flash ROM IC types. There is also extra protection from accidental BIOS rewrites in the form of boot blocks which are protected from accidental overwrite or dual and quad BIOS equipped systems which may, in the event of a crash, use a backup BIOS. Also, all modern operating systems like Windows XP, Windows Vista, Linux do not allow direct hardware access to user mode programs. So, as of year 2008, CIH has become almost harmless and at most just bothers users by infecting executable files without being able to cause any real harm, only triggering numerous virus alerts from antivirus software.

A computer system can contain several BIOS firmware chips. The motherboard BIOS typically contains code to access fundamental hardware components such as the keyboard, floppy drives, ATA (IDE) hard disk controllers, USB human interface devices, and storage devices. In addition, plug-in adapter cards such as SCSI, RAID, Network interface cards, and video boards often include their own BIOS, complementing or replacing the system BIOS code for the given component.

In some devices that can be used by add-in adapters and actually directly integrated on the motherboard, the add-in ROM may also be stored as separate code on the main BIOS flash chip. It may then be possible to upgrade this "add-in" BIOS (sometimes called an option ROM) separately from the main BIOS code.

PC operating systems such as DOS, including all DOS-based versions of MS Windows, as well as bootloaders, may continue to make use of the BIOS to handle input and output. However, other modern operating systems will interact with hardware devices directly by using their own device drivers to directly access the hardware. Occasionally these add-in BIOSs are still called by these operating systems, in order to carry out specific tasks such as preliminary device initialization.

To find these memory mapped expansion ROMs during the boot process, PC BIOS implementations scan real memory from 0xC0000 to 0xF0000 on 2 kilobyte boundaries looking for the ROM signature bytes of 55h followed by AAh (0xAA55). For a valid expansion ROM, its signature is immediately followed by a single byte indicating the number of 512-byte blocks it occupies in real memory. The BIOS then jumps to the offset located immediately after this size byte; at which point the expansion ROM code takes over, using the BIOS services to register interrupt vectors for use by post-boot applications and provide a user configuration interface, or display diagnostic information.

There are many methods and utilities for dumping the contents of various motherboard BIOS and expansion ROMs. Under a Microsoft OS, DEBUG can be used to examine 64 KB segments of memory and save the contents to a file. For UNIX systems the dd command can be used by a user with root privileges: "dd if=/dev/mem bs=1k skip=768 count=256 2>/dev/null | strings -n 8".

If the expansion ROM wishes to change the way the system boots (such as from a network device or a SCSI adapter for which the BIOS has no driver code), it can use the BIOS Boot Specification (BBS) API to register its ability to do so. Once the expansion ROMs have registered using the BBS APIs, the user can select among the available boot options from within the BIOSes user interface. This is why most BBS compliant PC BIOS implementations will not allow the user to enter the BIOS's user interface until the expansion ROMs have finished executing and registering themselves with the BBS API.

Some operating systems, for example MS-DOS, rely on the BIOS to carry out most input/output tasks within the PC. A variety of technical reasons makes it inefficient for some recent operating systems written for 32-bit CPUs such as Linux and Microsoft Windows to invoke the BIOS directly. Larger, more powerful, servers and workstations using PowerPC or SPARC CPUs by several manufacturers developed a platform-independent Open Firmware (IEEE-1275), based on the Forth programming language. It is included with Sun's SPARC computers, IBM's RS/6000 line, and other PowerPC CHRP motherboards. Later x86-based personal computer operating systems, like Windows NT, use their own, native drivers which also makes it much easier to extend support to new hardware, while the BIOS still relies on a legacy 16-bit runtime interface. As such, the BIOS was relegated to bootstrapping, at which point the operating system's own drivers can take control of the hardware.

There was a similar transition for the Apple Macintosh, where the system software originally relied heavily on the ToolBox—a set of drivers and other useful routines stored in ROM based on Motorola's 680x0 CPUs. These Apple ROMs were replaced by Open Firmware in the PowerPC Macintosh, then EFI in Intel Macintosh computers.

Later BIOS took on more complex functions, by way of interfaces such as ACPI; these functions include power management, hot swapping and thermal management. However BIOS limitations (16-bit processor mode, only 1 MiB addressable space, PC AT hardware dependencies, etc.) were seen as clearly unacceptable for the newer computer platforms. Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) is a specification which replaces the runtime interface of the legacy BIOS. Initially written for the Itanium architecture, EFI is now available for x86 and x86-64 platforms; the specification development is driven by The Unified EFI Forum, an industry Special Interest Group.

Linux has supported EFI via the elilo boot loader. The Open Source community increased their effort to develop a replacement for proprietary BIOSes and their future incarnations with an open sourced counterpart through the coreboot and OpenBIOS/Open Firmware projects. AMD provided product specifications for some chipsets, and Google is sponsoring the project. Motherboard manufacturer Tyan offers coreboot next to the standard BIOS with their Opteron line of motherboards. MSI and Gigabyte have followed suit with the MSI K9ND MS-9282 and MSI K9SD MS-9185 resp. the M57SLI-S4 models.

The vast majority of PC motherboard suppliers license a BIOS "core" and toolkit from a commercial third-party, known as an "independent BIOS vendor" or IBV. The motherboard manufacturer then customizes this BIOS to suit its own hardware. For this reason, updated BIOSes are normally obtained directly from the motherboard manufacturer.

Major BIOS vendors include American Megatrends (AMI), Insyde Software, Phoenix Technologies.

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Asus

ASUSTeK Computer Incorporated (ASUS) (traditional Chinese: 華碩電腦股份有限公司; pinyin: Huáshuo Diànnaǒ Gufen Yǒuxiàn Gōngsī), a Taiwanese multinational company, produces motherboards, graphics cards, optical drives, PDAs, computer monitors, notebook computers, servers, networking products, mobile phones, computer cases, computer components, and computer cooling systems. Commonly called by its brand name ASUS (pronounced ay-SOOS ] and commonly mispronounced as AY-sus), it has listings on both the London Stock Exchange (LSE: ASKD) and the Taiwan Stock Exchange (TSE: 2357). In 2007, one in three desktop PCs sold used an ASUS motherboard; and the company's 2007 revenues reached US$6.9 billion.

ASUS appears in BusinessWeek’s "InfoTech 100" and "Asia’s Top 10 IT Companies" rankings. It is the number one in quality and service according to Wall Street Journal Asia and leads the IT Hardware category of the 2008 Taiwan Top 10 Global Brands survey with a total brand value of US$1.324 billion.

TH Tung, Ted Hsu, Wayne Hsieh, and MT Liao founded ASUS in 1989 in Taipei, Taiwan — all four founders worked as computer engineers for Acer. The name ASUS originated from Pegasus, the winged horse of Greek mythology. The first three letters of the word were dropped to give the resulting name a high position in alphabetical listings.

In 2005, shipments from ASUS, ECS, Gigabyte, and MSI totaled 104.86 million units. ASUS led with 52 million units, followed by ECS with 20 million, MSI with 18 million, and Gigabyte with 16.6 million.

In the early 1990s, Taiwan-based motherboard manufacturers had not yet established their leading positions in the computer hardware business. Intel would supply any new processors to more established companies like IBM first, and the Taiwanese companies would have to wait for approximately six months after IBM received their engineering prototypes.

When Intel released its 486 as engineering samples, ASUS decided to design its own 486 motherboard without having a 486-processor engineering sample on site, using only the technical details published by Intel and the experience they gained while making the 386-compatible motherboards. When ASUS finalized its 486 motherboard prototype, they took it to Intel's base in Taiwan for testing. Unsurprisingly, they received no formal greeting when they arrived. It turned out that Intel's own 486 motherboard prototype had encountered design flaws, and Intel's engineers were rectifying it. The ASUS founders exercised their experience with the 486 and had a look at Intel's malfunctioning motherboard. Their solution worked, to the Intel engineers' surprise. Intel then tested the ASUS prototype, which functioned perfectly. This marked the beginning of an informal relationship between the two companies – ASUS now receives Intel engineering samples ahead of its competitors.

ASUS has become one of the main supporters of Intel's Common Building Block initiatives.

The ASUS brand will apply solely to first-party branded computers. Pegatron will handle motherboard and component OEM manufacturing. Unihan will focus on non-PC manufacturing such as cases and molding.

In the process of restructuring, the highly criticized pension-plan restructuring effectively zeroed out the current pension balances. The company paid out all contributions previously made by employees.

Asus claims a monthly production capacity of two million motherboards and 150,000 notebook computers.

The ASUS Hi-Tech Park, located in Suzhou, China, covers 540,000 square meters, roughly the size of 82 soccer fields.

ASUS operates 50 service sites in 32 countries and has over 400 service partners worldwide. It provides support in 37 languages.

ASUS generated a lot of buzz with its Eee-branded line of products, starting with the Eee PC netbook. Since its launch in October 2007, the Eee PC has garnered numerous awards, including Forbes Asia’s Product of the Year, Stuff Magazine’s Gadget of the Year and Computer of the Year, NBC.com’s Best Travel Gadget, Computer Shopper's Best Netbook of 2008, PC Pro's Hardware of the Year, PC World's Best Netbook, and DIME magazine’s 2008 Trend Award Winner.

ASUS has since added several products to its Eee lineup, including Eee Box, a compact nettop, Eee Top, an all-in-one touchscreen computer housed in an LCD monitor enclosure, and Eee Stick, a plug-and-play wireless controller for the PC platform that translates users’ physical hand motions into corresponding movements onscreen.

In 2006, ASUS established the Republic of Gamers (ROG) to develop PC hardware especially for gamers and overclocking enthusiasts. ROG products represent the highest end in ASUS’ range; they feature premium components and proprietary innovations.

ASUS has introduced a number of original features and tools that complement its products, especially motherboards. The table below lists them, together with some third-party technologies, re-branded under ASUS-specific names (note: the acronym AI, which prefixes many of the feature names, stands for ASUS Intelligence).

ASUS is known for its extensive cooling solutions on its enthusiast's motherboards and video cards. Many incorporate a large copper cooler that does not require the presence of a fan.

In 2000 Asus officially launched Green ASUS, a company-wide sustainable computing initiative overseen by a steering committee led by Jonney Shih, the Chairman of ASUSTek Computer Inc. Green ASUS pursues what the company calls the "Four Green Home Runs", namely: "Green Design, Green Procurement, Green Manufacturing, and Green Service and Marketing".

In 2006, ASUS obtained IECQ (IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components) HSPM (Hazardous Substance Process Management) certification for its headquarters and all of its manufacturing sites.

In 2007, oekom research AG (an independent research institute specializing in corporate responsibility assessment) recognized ASUS as a "highly environmental friendly company" in the Computers and Peripherals Industry.

In October 2008, ASUS received 11 EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) Gold Awards for its products, including four of its N-Series notebooks, namely the N10, N20, N50 and N80. In the following month, it received EU Flower certification for the same N-Series notebooks at an award ceremony held in Prague. In December 2008, Det Norske Veritas conferred the world’s first EuP (Energy-using Product) certification for portable notebooks on these machines.

In April 2008, ASUS launched its "PC Recycling for a Brighter Future" program in collaboration with Intel and Tsann Kuen Enterprise. This program collected more than 1,200 desktop computers, notebooks and CRT/LCD monitors, refurbished them and donated them to 122 elementary and junior high schools, five aboriginal communities and the Tzu Chi Stem Cell Center.

It has been discovered ASUS has sold a number of laptops that contain (on both the physical machine and the recovery media) cracked and pirated software, together with confidential documents from Microsoft and other organizations, as well as internal documents, and sensitive personal information including CVs. An ASUS spokesperson promised an investigation at "quite a high level", but declined to comment on how the files came to be located on the machines and recovery media.The pirated software is believed to have been accidentally copied over from a flash drive during the unattended installation of Windows Vista, due to a parameter in the "unattend.xml" file on the personal flash drive used to script the installation.

In May 2008, shortly after Microsoft released Windows XP SP3, users discovered that ASUS's A8N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard was incompatible with that major OS update, causing an endless reboot STOP error cycle. For approximately six months, ASUS did not accept responsibility, or provide support, for this incompatibility. Through inability to support SP3, ASUS thereby did not guarantee compatibility with future Microsoft operating systems or updates for any of its manufactured components during the entire lifespan of a given Windows platform (in this case, the ubiquitous Windows XP operating system). On December 26, 2008, ASUS released a beta BIOS update that fixed the issue (but urged users only to update to this version if their system displayed the relevant symptoms).

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Source : Wikipedia