A+ 1001 Study Guide

A plus 220-1001 – Exam Objective 5.2 – Dumps4shared

A plus 220-1001 – Exam Objective 5.2

A+ Exam Objective 5.2 – ExamNotes

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5.2 Given a scenario, troubleshoot problems related to motherboards, RAM,
CPUs, and power.

Welcome to ExamNotes by Dumps4shared! Moving right along, we’re at the fifth out of five Main Domains! We are also almost finished with the Hardware side of the CompTIA A+ objectives. In this section, we will mainly focus on troubleshooting with regards to the devices themselves as well as any issues involving network connectivity. You really need to have a solid grasp of each of these objectives in order to have a chance of beating the test. Here they are!

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Common symptoms

When you have a system crashing unexpectedly, it’s good to have a
list of things to check. This list should consist of items known to cause
general problems such as overheating, memory problems, and power problems. The
important thing is to determine what area of the system is likely causing the
issue and to systematically test every possible cause of that issue. This can
take seconds or days to diagnose depending on your methods.

For example, if you know you are having a video problem that
appears to be memory related, what type of memory should you check first? Say the
machine is using RAM Boost. Would you check that first? Probably not.

What about the main system memory? L2? L3? Video memory?

In this example, the smart money would be on the video memory as
the culprit. Check the video memory using the video diagnostics tool from the manufacturer
of the graphics card. If the computer has upgradeable memory, try removing it.
The graphics will be slower, but your problem may disappear.

Use your knowledge of how the system components interact with
each other and compare that with what you see and hear.

Let’s look at the system problems in the order presented in the
objectives. The first problem listed happens to be one of the toughest to


This condition can be caused by anything from a bad power supply
to system memory, the processor, or even the motherboard. So if the cause can be
basically anything, where do you start? First, allow the system to cool
down to room temperature, shut it off, and move onto something else until the
system components and heat sinks are cool to the touch. 

Now start the machine. If it’s your machine, follow your normal
usage pattern until the crash presents itself again. What were you doing when
the crash occurred? Do the contributing elements appear to be related to system
load, a specific program, or is it simply a matter of operating time? If
it’s a user machine, observe the user’s actions and ask questions.


Lockups will be diagnosed much the same way as unexpected
shutdowns, however this time with an emphasis on heat related conditions.

System error in Event Viewer

Here is a typical error shown in the event viewer. After
recovery, always try to use the Event Viewer to find out what caused the

code beeps

When there is a speaker present on the motherboard, audible
codes will sound which provide high value system failure information, giving
the technician good detail on the system level failures prior to successful
POST. This series of long and short beeps will direct the technician to the
component or subsystem that has failed or is not otherwise present. This is quality
information that is delivered before the screen data is visible.

Unfortunately, these audible codes are always different from one
UFEI/BIOS manufacturer to the next.

crash screens (BSOD/pin wheel)

This condition is more often referred to as a “hang” than a
crash. During this condition, a single program or a group of processes will
stop responding to operator input. When diagnosing this condition, always give
the program in use a few seconds to respond. Sometimes it is that simple. If this
doesn’t work, use the task manager to examine the running processes and see
which process is “Not Responding.” Examine the tasks and processes involved
since it’s often more than one. Once identified, end the offending tasks.

screen on bootup

This condition has several accompanying conditions, a couple of
which are shown below.

boots to BSOD – Blue Screen of Death

BSOD – Blue Screen of Death

Troubleshoot by looking up the STOP: error code displayed on the
BSOD and follow the instructions if relevant. These codes tend to be generic.
Sometimes, there may be several related to the same incident, as you can see in
the image. You may have to gather clues from each instance.

error screen on boot

Sometimes you will receive a black screen with a short “Humane”
message such as “PCI Wireless card not connecting. Check the connections.”
Albeit rare, these messages do exist. These messages will show when there is
enough information presented to the bootloader for it to provide specifically
actionable feedback to the user. The best examples of this are “Boot to Safe
Mode” and “Boot to Last Known Good Configuration.”

time and settings resets

Many Startup errors can be attributed to power settings. One classic
example of this is when your system date and time reverts back to something

At this point in your studies, you will have covered the BIOS
settings on a PC and how the BIOS settings are stored, modified, and

CMOS Battery

When the device is off, the information stored in the BIOS is saved
using a small watch battery, more specifically a 2032 type battery. This is a
very power efficient method of storing essential system configuration

to boot to incorrect device

Among the system settings stored on the UEFI/BIOS are the Drive
or Hard Disk information. This includes the Hard Drive boot order. The Drive or
Hard Disk information tells the read/write heads where to look for the boot
information as well as the preferred boot drive selection.


Sometimes, a continuous series of reboots will be caused by a
failed update or software corruption. More often than not however, the
continuous reboot situation is usually caused by a failing motherboard
component, the processor, or RAM.


A no power condition is diagnosable by the general lack of
noise, fan operation, drive operation, and lights. Check all of your power sources,
wall outlet, and power strip. If these are okay, check the connections to the


This is a serious condition with potentially severe
consequences. The circuitry used in today’s components can only tolerate so
many extremes of hot or cold. The greatest danger for circuitry is heat.
Fortunately, there are sensors built into the motherboard that can detect
temperature extremes and either issue a warning or shut down the system.

Causes of overheating can be due to clogged airways where the internal
air circulation is impeded or where there is excessive dust buildup on heat exchanging
surfaces such as the aluminum fins, heat pipes, and fan/cooler
assemblies. When you hear an odd sound coming from the case, it is probably the
heat sensor. The sound will be loud and
distinct enough to not to be mistaken for anything else.

device failure

An intermittent failure can have a number of causes such as a failing processor, motherboard, RAM, or bad drivers. Check the processor temperature first and then run RAM diagnostics.

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spin – no power to other devices

If the fans spin, you know that 12V power is being delivered to
the system since fans and drive motors operate on the 12 Volt power channel.
Some of the logic boards and indicator lights use 5 Volts
or 3.3 Volts.

Burning smell

Anytime you smell electrical components burning or smell or see
smoke, cut the power to the device(s). This is serious. Get the device outdoors
since burning components can create noxious fumes.


Capacitors store energy until they are released. When looking at
the top of the capacitor, you can see the pressure relief scores. These cross-shaped
indentations serve to create a weak area that will allow the capacitor to vent
as opposed to exploding. You can see that two of the capacitors have already
failed in the image below.

Failing capacitors



A Multimeter is a tool capable of measuring a wide range of both
positive and negative electrical values. A Multimeter is used to measure
two or more electrical values, usually two of the following three: voltage (Volts),
current (Amps), and resistance (Ohms). A Multimeter is an essential tool
for any technician. As you spend time in the field, you will realize that the
majority of the problems you will see have their root in electrical power.
Invest wisely in your meter.

You can get a good analog meter and it will serve you well.
Consider that these are fragile instruments and require you to pre-set the
value range you expect to see. If you don’t set the correct value range, you
run the risk of damaging the indicator pin.

There is an easier and more accurate alternative to the analog
meter. This is a digital Multimeter. You will find that most digital
Multimeters are auto ranging, eliminating the potential for damage. In
addition, the readings you get on a digital Multimeter are quite clearly
defined as opposed to an analog Multimeter where an accurate reading depends on
the angle you are viewing the meter from.

Two types of multimeters

supply tester

A Power supply tester functions much in the same way as a Multimeter,
except it looks for specific ranges. When using a good power supply tester, the
first thing you will notice is that the values are constantly fluctuating. This
is because most power sources vary within a tolerable percentage throughout the
day due to the load or number of electrical devices being used and the quality
of the incoming power. Please do not call the power utility if you encounter
this. These variances are all kept within tolerance and mainly concern your
line voltage, which will be between 100 to 125 Volts AC. You will see smaller
incremental variations in the measurements of your device. The device will
accept variations and will not warn or alarm you unless the values are
dangerously low or high.

Most people think high voltage is the only thing you have to
worry about, but low voltage can also be problematic for electronics. A good
tester will monitor DC Positive voltages of 12 Volts, 5 Volts, and 3.3 Volts.
As you can see in the digital output of the tester shown in the image below,
all the readings are close but only one is “spot on.” Given these variances,
the meter rates each range as good. There will be connections on the device which
accept different power connectors such as ATX P1, Molex, and SATA.

Power supply tester


Loopback plugs are essentially devices that send signals to
themselves. Self-contained, these devices are able to diagnose the sending and
receiving of data on the interface being tested.

Loopback plug

POST Card/

Next, we come to the POST Card/USB. The POST card has been
around for a long time and has been instrumental in diagnosing many hardware
failures that occur before POST completes. USB now makes it possible to perform
POST level diagnostics without opening the case. For (typically) under $10, you
can diagnose all the functions performed during POST and you can use the
digital code sent to see where your problem is.

Log entries and error

Always use all the tools available
to diagnose and troubleshoot RAM, CPU, and power problems. If you can access
the operating system, you will be able to use diagnostic tools such as Resource
Monitor in order to examine the resource usage and look for issues that could
appear to be related to hardware. You can also use the Performance Monitor to
view and log selected performance data over time in order to evaluate any
changes you make.

Finally, we’ll talk about Event
Viewer again. Here you will be able to view system events and filter them to suit
your requirements. Even BSODs will be tracked here.

That’s all for objective 5.2! Good luck on the test!

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