Unit 2: Week 1: Installing PC Components

Unit 2: Week 1: Installing PC Components

Essential Questions

  • What are the key components of a personal computer?
  • How can I use what I know about one type of computer on other computing devices?

Big Ideas

There are many similarities across computer form factors and brands. A desktop workstation serves as a model unit from which you can learn about configuring and installing both internal components and external peripheral devices. Being able to identify and install/uninstall common hardware components is a foundational skill for all Help Desk team members.

Connection to Student Lives

There are computing devices all around us, and many of them have similar components and connect to common external peripherals. Whether you’re more familiar with a smartphone or a laptop, you will likely be called upon to support desktop computers at some time. Desktop workstations make a great source of study. What you know about installing and configuring hardware components and connecting peripheral devices to a desktop workstation can be applied to other hardware.

Framing Problem

This four-week module focuses on configuring a custom PC and all peripherals. Depending on the background knowledge and skills of the students, they may be able to start that process in the first week of this module. If not, they should practice different components each week and then assemble the custom PC in week four.

Cornerstone Assessment

Students will complete a diagram of internal components of a PC, clearly labeled, with information about each part and how it is installed/uninstalled using proper safety procedures and materials. Activity 2-4 in the Instructor’s Manual is suggested as a pre-assessment. Students will also install and configure or upgrade motherboards and a CPU.

DPI Standards

  • NCCTE.2020.II21.03.05 - Install and configure motherboards, CPUs, and add-on cards.

A+ Standards

TOPIC 2B: PC Components

1001-3.5 Given a scenario, install and configure motherboards, CPUs, and add-on cards.

TOPIC 5A: Install and upgrade CPUs

1001-3.5 Given a scenario, install and configure motherboards, CPUs, and add-on cards.

TOPIC 5B: Configure and update BIOS/UEFI

1001-3.5 Given a scenario, install and configure motherboards, CPUs, and add-on cards.


Students need to know:

  • Different types of device formats, also called form factors
  • The internal and external components of a PC
  • Guidelines for disassembling a PC, when necessary
  • Types and characteristics of motherboards and how to install/uninstall them
  • The main function of the chipset
  • What expansion slots and buses are and common cards that to into them, like memory or video cards
  • Other motherboard connector types
    • BIOS and UEFI Firmware and how to set them up
    • CPU features and how its performance can be improved
    • What clock speed is and does
    • Virtualization extensions and an Integrated GPU
    • Types of cooling mechanisms and their components
    • CPU Installation considerations


Students should be able to:

  • Open a PC case safely and reinstall it when done working on the internal components.
  • Identify and diagram the internal and external components of a PC.
  • Install/uninstall and configure motherboards and common expansion cards
  • Use system firmware setup programs (BIOS and UEFI)
  • Install, configure, and upgrade CPUs


PC Components

  • Desktop computer
  • System case or chassis
  • Tower case
  • Small form factor (SFF) case
  • All-in-one units
  • Parts of the system case, including
    • Cover
    • Front panel
      • Optical disc drive
      • Front I/O Panel
      • Power button
      • Reset switch
      • LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes)
      • Temperature display, if available
      • Fan vents
    • Rear panel
      • Power Supply Unit (PSU)
      • Chassis fan
      • Motherboard I/O Panel
      • Expansion card slot
  • Field-replaceable units (FRUs)
  • Motherboards (also called mobo, system board, or main board)
  • Standoffs
  • Motherboard Form Factors
    • ATX
    • Micro-ATX
    • Mini-ITX
  • Motherboard Connector Types
    • I/O Ports
    • CPU Socket
    • Memory Slots
      • Random Access Memory (RAM)
      • Chipset
    • Disk Drive Connectors
    • Adapter Card Slots
  • CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) RAM
    • CMOS Battery
    • Real Time Clock (RTC); RTC battery or clock battery
  • Bus Architecture
    • Traces
    • Local bus
    • Expansion bus
  • Expansion slots
    • Riser cards
  • System Clock
  • Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) Bus
    • Bus mastering
  • PCI Express Bus
  • Storage Bus
    • Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment (PATA) or IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) or Small Computer Systems Interface (SCSI)
    • Serial ATA (SATA)
  • Other Motherboard Connectors
    • Front panel connectors
    • Internal USB connectors
    • Power and fan connectors
  • Jumper

Install and Upgrade CPUs

  • System Firmware
  • BIOS (Basic Input/Output System)
  • UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface)
  • System Firmware Setup Program, also called CMOS setup, BIOS setup or UEFI setup
  • System Component Settings
    • CPU Features
    • RAM
    • Power Management
    • Date, Time, and Daylight Savings
      • Real time
  • Boot sequence or Boot device priority
  • Security Settings
    • Authentication (Supervisor/Administrator/Setup, Use/System)
    • Drive Locks (Full Disk Encryption or FDE)
    • Drive Encryption
    • TPM or Trusted Platform Module
    • Lojack Tracking Software
    • Intrusion Detection
    • Secure Boot
  • Critical update

CPU Features

  • CPU (Central Processing Unit) or Processor
    • Microprocessor
    • Integrated circuit
    • Silicon chip
    • Die
  • CPU architectures
    • Instruction set
      • X86-32 or IA-32
      • General Purpose registers (GP)
      • IA-64, AMD64 or x86-64 or x64
    • Arithmetic Logic Unit (AlU); Floating Point Unit (FPU)
    • Register
  • Cache
  • Hyperthreading
    • Multitasking
    • Superpipelining; superscalar architecture
    • Multithreading or Simultaneous Multithreading (SMT), HyperThreading (HT) or HyperThreading Technology (HTT)
      • Thread
      • Multithreaded
  • Symmetric Multiprocessing (SMP); Chip Level Multiprocessing (CMP)
    • Single-core CPUs
  • Core clock speed
  • Overclocking
  • Throttling
  • Virtualization extensions
    • Virtual Machines (VM); hardware-assisted virtualization
    • Second Level Address Translation (SLAT); Extended Page Table (EPT); Rapid Virtualization indexing (RVI)
    • Integrated GPU
  • Cooling Mechanisms
    • Heat sink
    • Thermal paste
    • Passive cooling device
    • Fan
    • Heat pipe: dual heat pipe, spreader
    • Liquid-based cooling systems

Expansion Slots

  • Video card or graphics adapter
  • Sound cards
    • Digital Signal Processor (DSP)chip
    • Digital-to-Analog Converters (DACs)
    • Frequency response
    • Audio connectors of various types and associated colors
    • Sony/Philips Digital Interface (S/PDIF) jack

Weekly Map


Introduction to problem: Configure a desktop PC (motherboards, common cards, CPU)

Conduct the pre-assessment. Based on student responses, determine how much of the content and terminology in the Instructor’s Manual must be addressed explicitly throughout the week.


Review Topic 2B: PC Components, if necessary.

Activity 2-2: Discussing PC Components

Small group and independent exploration of resources

Contribute to team project which may include: 1) creating a diagram, 2) installing motherboards and cards, and 3) Installing or upgrading a CPU


Hands-on exploration

Activity 5-3: Discussing BIOS/UEFI Configuration and Updates

Continued work on team projects and team progress check with supervisor


Hands-on exploration

Activity 5-1: Discussing CPU Upgrades

Continued work on team projects and team progress check with supervisor


Team progress check with supervisor or sharing of progress with whole group

Activity 5-2: Planning for a CPU Upgrade

Online post-assessment on terminology

Monitor progress and consider implications for configuring a desktop PC in week 4

Lesson Ideas

Activity 2-4 in the Instructor’s Manual is suggested as a pre-assessment. Instructors should use the pre-assessment to determine how much students already know and can demonstrate. For some students, this activity will just be a review. Others may need to fill in gaps identified by the pre-assessment. The sections and activities listed below will help instructors identify relevant content for students who have to develop skills and knowledge regarding understanding internal and external hardware components and peripherals.

This activity can be supported by a blank diagram or picture as well as a checklist of components that students can use as they explore the internal and external components.

Students have four major outcomes for the week that they can use as team projects, independent projects, or covered through whole-class discussion. They are:

  1. their diagram of the internal/external components of a PC
  2. Installing/uninstalling a motherboard
  3. Using BIOS or UEFI firmware
  4. Installing or upgrading a CPU

Potential Resources

The Official CompTIA A+ Core 1 & Core 2 Instructor Guide for Exams 220-1001 and 220-1002

  • Pre-assessment: Activity 2-4: Demonstrating PC Disassembly and Reassembly (pp. 150-153)
  • Topic 2B: PC Components (pp. 115-135)
    • Expansion slots (pp. 123-124)
    • Video cards (pp. 179)
    • Sound cards (pp. 196)
    • Network interface cards (pp. 146)
    • Activity 2-2: Discussing PC Components (133-135)
  • Topic 5B: Configure and update BIOS/UEFI (pp. 277-288)
    • Activity 5-3: Discussing BIOS/UEFI Configuration and Updates (pp. 287-288)
  • Topic 5A: Install and upgrade CPUs (pp. 262-276)
    • Activity 5-1: Discussing CPU Upgrades
    • Activity 5-2: Planning for a CPU Upgrade

CompTIA also offers videos for purchase through their website or on ITPro.TV.

Professor Messer at and YouTube offers numerous free videos of various lengths for many of the topics for the CompTIA 220-1001 A+ Exam. They are easy to understand, narrated videos with visuals. If you are teaching a CompTIA course, the site notes “You’re welcome to use them as much as you’d like, provided you embed the videos with the associated YouTube link or link directly to my site. Please click the “Contact Us” link at the top of our web page and let me know how you’re using them.”

Entry Level I.T. Training from Technology Gee

Videos from Basics Explained

A Beginner’s Guide: How to Update your Motherboard BIOS (13:40) by Maraksot78. While a slightly long video, the presenter has added chapters so you can navigate to different topics. The video begins with a full explanation of BIOS before providing a thorough demonstration of updating BIOS.

Articles and other resources

Hardware Components from Lumen Learning. Long overview that covers concepts across multiple topics in the A+ Exam Objectives

Everything You Need to Know About Computer Hardware (April 24, 2021) long article by Tim Fisher for LifeWire that contains links to further description of many components that you might return to throughout the course for different topics.


A beginner’s guide to building your own PC by David Nield for Popular Science (October 18, 2018).


How to build a computer from Micron, a memory manufacturer.


How to build a custom PC for gaming, editing, or coding by Stefan Etienne for The Verge (September 13, 2018)


How to update your PC’s BIOS. Only update your BIOS if you have a clear, concrete reason! Article with step-by-step directions along with warnings by Thomas Ryan for PCWorld.

What is BIOS and How to Update the BIOS on Your Dell System from Dell Technologies. Article with accompanying video and step-by-step directions. Check the service manuals for your PC provider for information on BIOS on other devices.

How to upgrade a CPU by Marshall Honorof, an editor at tom’s guide (March 8, 2021). A short article with clear pictures for step-by-step directions on removing and upgrading a CPU.

How to Upgrade a CPU by Jon Martindale for Lifewire (March 9, 2021). Another step-by-step how-to guide with clear pictures modeling safety procedures.