Back To CourseOhio Assessments for Educators - Computer/Technology (Subtests I & II): Practice & Study Guide
11 chapters | 71 lessons
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David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.
Computers are pretty resilient these days. You can turn them on and off at random intervals, shake them around a bit, and maybe even drop them on the floor, and you 'might' find that nothing bad happens. But then again, it's probably not the best idea.
There's a reason that a computer follows certain steps when you turn it on and why you have to shut it down at the end of the day. It is strongly advised that you don't simply press the off switch to turn off your computer - there is a procedure to follow if you want avoid the likelihood of problems. In this lesson, we're going to go through the steps that you have to take to turn on and shut down the computer and what the computer is doing during that time.
From a user perspective, starting a computer is easy. You simply press the on button and wait. But how it actually comes to life is far from simple and is a product of decades of development.
The first thing that happens when you turn on a computer is the motherboard - the part of the computer that everything else is connected to - checks for the basic hardware necessary to function. The software that does this is called the BIOS. It checks for RAM, a video card, a hard drive, a keyboard, and mouse, and looks for any obvious hardware problems.
The next step is it searches for something called a boot sector. A boot sector is a partition or section of a hard drive that is set up to load an operating system like Windows or Mac OS X. The BIOS basically looks for the part of the hard drive that's jumping up and down and waving, saying, 'Load me!' At that point, the work passes over to the operating system, which creates a copy of itself in memory and loads special programs called drivers, which run the various features of your computer. Once the drivers are loaded, the programs you have installed on your computer can be run. At that point you're ready to go.
Shutting down the computer isn't quite as simple. It's important from a user perspective to always click a shutdown button on your computer rather than simply turning it off at the switch. That's because you never know what your computer is doing in the background. Suddenly cutting off power could cause your files to become corrupted, and in rare cases can even damage the hardware. On a Windows computer, you can shut down by clicking on the start menu at the bottom left of the screen, and then simply pressing the 'shut down' button (sometimes labelled 'turn off computer').
On an Apple computer, you can click the Apple symbol in the top left of the screen, and again select 'shut down.'
Before you shut down a computer, it's a good idea to save all your work, close the main programs you're using, and eject any external drives (hard drives, USB sticks, SD cards, and cameras). This should happen automatically, but in some instances doesn't, which could cause you to lose files you are working on, or corrupt the data. Taking the steps yourself isn't strictly necessary, but it is the safest option.
After you press the shut down button, your computer completes several steps. The computer will check to see if any other users are logged into the computer and remind you of this in case they might have any unsaved work that could be lost. Then the computer will close each program that is running, and again you should be prompted to save any unsaved work. Next, once all the programs are closed, each user is logged out. And then finally the operating system itself starts to safely shut down all its processes. Once the operating system is no longer running anything, it's safe for the power to be shut off, and a signal is sent to the BIOS to turn off the computer.
And that's it: the full shutdown process of a computer.
Starting a computer is easy: just press the 'on' button. The computer then follows a series of steps until it is ready for you to use. The BIOS checks for hardware problems and then loads the operating system from the boot sector. Next, the operating system loads the various drivers that will run the features and hardware of your computer, followed by the programs that are necessary for the operating system to work the way it does. Finally, you're taken into the operating system interface itself and you're ready to go.
When shutting down the computer, it's best to first save any work, eject any external hard drives, and close programs. Once you're ready, press the shutdown button, which is found in the start menu on the bottom left of a Windows computer, and in the Apple menu on the top left for an Apple (OS X) computer. The computer will then check for other users who are logged in, close each program that is running, log out the users, and shut down the processes of the operating system. Finally a signal is sent to the BIOS to turn the power off to the computer.
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