Replacing a Desktop with a Laptop – CompTIA A+ 220-801: 3.1

| December 31, 2012

Many people are making the move from a desktop computer to a more portable laptop device, but there are a number of changes that come with such a dramatic change in size. In this video, you’ll learn about the aspects of a laptop computer that vary from their larger desktop cousins.

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Review Quiz: Replacing a Desktop with a Laptop

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Our laptop computers are getting smaller and smaller, and our society is becoming much more mobile. So it makes perfect sense to think that we might want to move from our older desktop computer into something like a laptop. But there are a number of considerations you should keep in mind if you’re planning to make the transition from a desktop machine to a laptop machine.

On the laptop, you don’t have the same amount of room available that you have on a desktop for typing. So the laptop keyboard is going to be a lot smaller than the one that you normally work with on a desktop computer. This keyboard also takes a number of functions and doubles up their capability, usually with something like a function key, so that if you need to turn on and off the wireless, you hold down the Function key and press F2. If you want to move between a connected device for a monitor and the internal LCD, you would use Function and F8 on this particular laptop. Notice that the number pad that normally you would have on a desktop computer is now built-in with these function keys. So if you’re somebody that uses a lot of the number pad functionality, that may be something that you have to give up or work around when you’re working in a laptop environment.

It’s obvious that a laptop is a much smaller computing environment, and the same thing applies to the storage that we would use inside of these laptop devices. You can see, for instance, desktop hard drive– this is a three terabyte hard drive on the left, and on the right hand side is a 320 gigabyte, 2 and 1/2-inch drive that commonly is used in a laptop computer. You usually don’t see the laptops with as many options for large amounts of storage because the storage itself is a bit of a smaller form factor. If you were to look a little bit closer, you can even see they take up a lot less room. It makes sense to have a much smaller storage device in a laptop because you don’t have all of that room available. Just keep in mind that you may not have as much storage as you’re used to having on a desktop computer.

Of course, we don’t have the same amount of room for memory on our laptop devices, either. So we commonly see the memory modules on a laptop in this SO-DIMM form factor. That’s SO-DIMM stands for Small Outline Dual In-line Memory Module.

And there are a lot of different versions of this that we’ve seen through the years, for DDR and DDR2 and DDR3. You can see there are different sections in the memory so that we can fit it into the keys that is in the proper memory slots on our computer. This is also one that has a lot of different pins and a lot of different formats. So if you’re planning to buy memory for your laptop, make sure you get exactly the right kind of memory that correlates to the model of laptop that you own.

Now that our laptops are getting much smaller, it’s becoming more and more unusual to see one with an optical drive built into the laptop itself. Optical drives tend to be relatively large considering the size of the laptops we’re working with these days. You really have to find the right model laptop if you require an internal optical drive like this one.

It’s very common to perhaps put something else in that slot as well. Some laptops even allow you to swap out a optical device with a floppy drive or even with a separate hard drive device, just so there’s options and modularity on your laptop and portable device. You can get these optical devices to do practically everything for you. If you’re in a mobile type of environment and you need to be able to burn DVD-ROMs or CD-ROMs, this might make a lot of sense to have in your laptop device. And you can do all of that in that mobile platform just by installing or having available one of these optical drives.

Not all laptops come with a wireless card available, or maybe you would like to upgrade the type of wireless interface that you have in your laptop. There’s usually a cover on the bottom of laptops that allow this where a slot will be available that also has the wires that you would plug in for the antennas that you would use for the wireless communication. You would simply install the wireless card very similar to other expansion devices and make sure that you plug into the leads on the card those antenna connectors that are generally going around the top of your LCD monitor so that you get the best possible signal when you’re using the wireless network.

There are two common standards you will see for those internal card interfaces that you would plug into a laptop. One is this Mini PCI format. This is a wireless card. You can even see the leads for the antennas on the top of that. And you can see, it’s about six millimeters wide, the Mini PCI express much smaller. It’s one that takes up less room. This is also a wireless card, but notice that it takes up a lot less form factor. And if you have one of the newer laptops that’s much smaller, it may opt to have one of these Mini PCI Express adapters just so you’re saving that much more room inside of a laptop case.

These days a lot of the screens that we have for our desktops are already LCD. And we have the same thing on our laptops. This Liquid Crystal Display gives us the ability to get a nice crisp display at very high resolutions. But it’s very fragile. That’s something we didn’t have to worry about on our desktop machines because we weren’t moving the desktops around. But a laptop is going around and moving a lot of places. It can be in a backpack. It can be in a carry case. You have to be very careful, though, because these LCD displays are very, very fragile. Make sure that you have a good case so that when you carry around your laptop, you’re not going to damage any part of the LCD display.

Also keep in mind on the LCD display, the resolutions are fixed. If you’re going to be changing away from the default resolution of the LCD display, you may notice that some of the information on the screen is blurry or not as crisp as it normally is at its native resolution. So you can sometimes purchase your laptop with different native resolutions. And you’ll want to find the one that fits best for what you were trying to do with your mobile device.

The power supply for a desktop computer is a big box that sits inside of the case. We obviously don’t have that kind of room on a laptop. So most of the power supply sit outside of the laptop itself. They’re usually these large power bricks we call them because they’re so big. And they’re responsible for taking the alternating current coming out of the wall and converting that to a direct current that the laptop can then use.

Usually, these will allow for an auto-switching, sometimes it’s a fixed input going in. So depending on what source you’re using and what country you happen to be in, you want to be sure that the power supply you’re using will use the proper type of input. If we look at this power supply, you can see that this power supply allows for either a 100-volt input or a 240-volt input. So you’ve got options. No matter where you happen to travel in the world, you can use the same power supply. If you’re using a third-party power supply, you may see that there’s a switch on it that will switch between 100 and 240 volts. Make sure you use the right voltage when you’re plugging into that wall outlet.

Obviously, on a laptop, we can move away from the wall outlet and take our laptop on the road. We don’t have to always be plugged into a power source. And we’re able to do that because our laptop has batteries inside of it. Some of the early types of batteries that we used on our mobile devices was Nickel-Cadmium, or NiCd. These older batteries are rarely use these days, but they were able to handle very deep discharges. You could really use every bit of that battery and still charge it back up again. Unfortunately, relatively expensive and, from an environmental perspective, these were not very good batteries to have. You rarely see these used for consumer electronics these days.

A common replacement for NiCd batteries was the Nickel-Metal Hydride, or the NiMH batteries. These batteries suffered from problems if they were ever over-discharged, and you could not charge them up again after that. And when you set them on the shelf. They tended to decrease the amount of charge very rapidly over time. So they were not the perfect type of battery to use, which is why a lot of our consumer electronics these days are using lithium ion batteries.

Lithium ion batteries have an advantage that they don’t have what some of the older batteries had as a memory effect. That means that you can discharge just a little bit of a lithium ion and then charge it back up and it doesn’t lose any of its capacity because of that. One of the problems with lithium ion, though, is that it loses a little bit of its capacity every you charge it. So over time, you’ll notice the battery has lower and lower and lower amounts of capacity. And, ultimately, after a number of years, you may find yourself replacing that lithium ion battery because it just can’t hold a charge any longer.

If you’re moving from a desktop to a laptop, one of the things that you don’t have any more is a desk. There’s nowhere to have that physical mouse. So a lot of the mouse functionality is built right into the keyboard. You can see a track pad that’s right on the keyboard Itself. Maybe the mouse is this little tiny piece that sits right in the middle of all the keys itself so that you’re able to use your finger to move the mouse around on the track pad, or put your finger on this mouse movement device to be able to move the mouse around the screen without having something that you would put next to the computer or slide around on the desktop.

Our desktop computers are generally encased in metal, but our laptop computers tend to use plastic. This type of plastic is very durable, but it’s also very light. Because we’re moving these devices around, it certainly makes sense to have a plastic case rather than the much heavier metal case.

This plastic around the laptop is also very durable, and it has to be. The laptop is banging around inside of our computer case. We’re pulling it out on a plane. It’s being banged around there. We need to be sure that this case protects everything that’s inside of the laptop. Because it’s plastic, it’s also a relatively inexpensive. So we don’t have to add a lot of additional cost to the laptop just to make sure everything is protected wherever we happen to take it.

Most of our laptops are also going to have speakers built into them to give us at least some feedback and some output from music or videos that we might have on our mobile devices. But because the speakers are so small, they’re not the highest quality that you might expect. Generally we would plug in additional external speakers if we really needed something high-fidelity. Or we’d plug in our earphones. But if you’re in a room and you simply need to demonstrate a capability, show a small clip, this may work perfectly for what you’re trying to do. These days, the laptops generally have both a left and a right channel, so you are getting stereo feedback from that. Some of our laptops, especially the larger ones, might even have underneath the device a subwoofer itself, which gives us a little more clarity and a little better sound out of such a small device.

On our desktop computers, we use standard-sized motherboards because we have plenty of room, plenty of real estate, to put those standard ATX motherboards or BTX motherboards right in that motherboard case. But a laptop is not standardized. Practically every motherboard you’re going to find is proprietary. It’s built just for that particular laptop model.

And that makes it very difficult to replace these. First you have to get an exact replacement from the manufacturer. And because everything is generally connected onto this motherboard, we have to dismantle the entire laptop case, remove the motherboard, replace it, and then put everything back together again.

The CPUs that you would find in a laptop computer are very different than the CPUs that you would find in a desktop computer. A desktop computer, for instance, does not need to move anywhere, so it doesn’t need to be extremely small. And it doesn’t have to worry about power management. A laptop is often just running on batteries, so you don’t want a CPU that is going to use up all of that battery time even if it’s just sitting there idle.

You also have a lot of integrated features on a laptop CPU. The video displays and components can be built into the CPU itself. Your memory controller can be built into the CPU. And that means that you don’t need additional components on your motherboard to be able to handle those functions.

On a desktop computer, you generally have a socket that allows you to remove the CPU and replace and then sometimes upgrade that CPU on the desktop. Laptop computers don’t generally allow you to do this. They’re often connected hard-wired to the motherboard. And it’s not very easy to replace one. Even if it does allow it, it generally doesn’t allow you to upgrade it. They build these laptop motherboards for a specific function with a specific CPU, and you don’t have a lot of options for changing any of those out.

On a desktop computer, you have plenty of room to cool that CPU, and you have plenty of power to put towards the CPU process. But on a laptop, it’s a very confined area. You don’t have a lot of capabilities for cooling that device, and you also don’t have the ability to power it all the time. So you’ll find that the CPUs on a laptop are often a little bit slower than what you might find available on a desktop computer. And it’s because we have to keep the size small and the heat down to a minimum that usually dictates just how fast that CPU is going to be able to go.

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Category: CompTIA A+ 220-801

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