Personal Computers and Networks

Course Description

Inner workings of modern computers from a user's point of view. Understanding the hardware, network, and system software. Topics include CPUs, memory, video, input/output, networks, security, installation of operating systems and hands-on trouble shooting.

Lectures, 2 hours per week, lab, 3 hours per week.

Restriction: not open to COSC (single or combined), BCB, CAST and CNET majors.

Prerequisite: APCO 1P01 (minimum 60 percent) or permission of the instructor

The Objective of this course is to promote the understanding of Personal Computers at a hardware and operating system level.

The lecture component will focus on the architecture of Intel based computers. Emphasis will be directed toward understanding the mechanical and electrical composition of personal computers. The understanding of hardware and software requirements to allow component communications between the operating system and the hardware. Topics which will be covered: CPUs and CPU architecture, motherboards, daughter boards, chip sets, software drivers, bus technologies (IDE,PCI, ISA, USB,Serial ATA,Parallel & Serial), Storage Devices, Local Area Networks (Home and Office) and protocols (TCP/IP,NetBEUI).

Labs will be used to allow students hands on practise. Students will be required to disassemble/reassemble computing hardware, install hardware and software. Lab topics: Investigation of system resources, CPU & Motherboard replacement, Motherboard configuration, Memory,  BIOS updates, Power Supply replacements, Installation of Legacy hardware, Cabling (includes creating network and ribbon cables),  Disk Drives (Partitioning), OS-installations, Networks and Network configuration. In all labs a emphasis will be placed on Trouble Shooting and Diagnosis.

Course Information


1.   Computers and the binary number system:
2.   More information about RAM :
3.    More information about secondary (mass) storage:
4.   A computer bus resource:
5.   Motherboard ChipSet:
1.      DOS description and developmental timeline 
2.      Microsoft's home page for Windows 10
3.      Information about Linux
4.   Unix for the PC
5.   Information about Mac OS Mojave
6.   Overview of Operating System Functions
          7.   Information on Booting a System:
PC Troubleshooting and Repair Guide:
          9.    BIOS

1.      Motherboard Form Factors:
2.      How Electricity Works:
3.      Specifications and Developmental History for Transistors:
4.   Surge Protectors:
5.   Energy Star Program:
6.   Anatomy of Switching Power Supplies

1.      How Motherboards Work:  
The PCI bus:
3.      Information about CMOS:
4.      Replacing a Motherboard:
5.      Troubleshooting a Motherboard:
6.    Unified Extensible Firmware Interface
7.   Trusted Platform Module (TPM)
8.    Visualization:

                      1.      More Information on RAM:
How ROM works:
Parity Checking:
                      4.      Upgrading Memory:
                      5.   Troubleshooting RAM Installations:
                      6.   How Flash Memory works

          1.      Types of Keyboards:
How a Computer Mouse Works:
More Information on the CRT Monitor:
         4.      More Information on LCD Monitors:
USB Technology:
          6.   FireWire (1394x).

                      1.   VPN.
                      2.   VPN.


Students will be expected to work individually or in pairs. This will depend on the composition of the labs, the available lab equipment and the individuals. Each individual or group will be provided a Dell 960. This machine will be used by those who it is assigned to for the duration of the course.

What the lab provides:
The expected lab work will be available several days prior to the actual lab. There will be some labs in which students will be required to do preliminary work (research).


As part of the lab, you will be using diagnostic software provided by a lab CD as well as third party software. The lab CD is based upon the Ultimate Boot Disk project using the Beta 5.3.1 release. Copies of this CD will be available during lab.  Alternately, the ISO image of the resource CD is available below or from the above home website. Please note, that the lab will be using version 5.3.1 due to hardware incompatibilities with new version.

The course will make extensive use of third party software. A collection of resources has been made available as a folder on your lab machines.

Occasionally, additional software will be required as the course progresses. This software will be placed in the folder below.

To burn the ISO you will need Nero, MagicISO, ImageBurn or any burning software which is capable of burning an ISO to a CD. These burning resources will not be provided here, nor will any further instruction.

Booting from the CD (UBD) will provide you with diagnostic software which will be used during lab. Warning, some hard disk software is destructive to the data, handle with care, you have been warned.

You will need the Dell service manual or technical guidebook for certain labs. The service manual contains the error codes for troubleshooting POST failures.

Here is the schedule for the lab test Lab Test Schedule

  copyright D.Bockus 2017. John Orth 2018, 2019. All Material on this site is copyright. If you wish to use any of this material then you must contact the original owner of the material. Any enquirees as to ownership of material on this site should be directed to jorth at brocku dot ca.