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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Designing and Specifying PC Systems and Components | Component Specification Issues ]

Component Revisions

Hardware manufacturers are notorious for putting many different types of hardware on the market, which can cause confusion. A specific type of hardware may have a dozen or more versions depending on its exact speed and the other hardware it is designed to work with. For this reason you should confirm the exact make and model of any components you buy before you commit to the purchase. Watch out for subtle differences in model numbers: a "model JKQ320" and a "model JKQ320i" may differ enough that one is perfect for your system and the other unusable. It would be nice if product specialists would make the labeling more clear, but they don't. :^)

Making matters more confusing, products are often revised as flaws are found and corrected, or changes are made for other reasons. Usually a given product model is not given any new functionality as a result of a revision, so all the revisions of a model are likely to be very similar, and the same model number may continue to be used. Despite this, there can be very substantial differences between revision levels. For example, sometimes a hardware revision will be made to a motherboard model to let it support a newer CPU that didn't exist when the board was first designed. If you want to use that new processor, you must be sure to get the correct version of that board. Simply specifying the model number in this situation isn't sufficient; you have to say you want the "model JKQ320i, revision 1.4" or whatever. Lotsa fun, but at least you know about it now. :^)

A final issue relates to replacing an existing component with another, due to either a failure or a desire to upgrade. Be absolutely sure when you are doing this that the device you are buying is either of the exact same revision level, or if newer, that it is backward-compatible. Usually this will be the case, but it is worth contacting the manufacturer's technical department if you are not sure. In some situations, such as replacing a single drive in a RAID array or a CPU in a multiple-CPU server, the exact model number and revision level must be matched to avoid problems.

Next: Technological Maturity

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