Standards and Certifications
The term "certification", when used to describe PC hardware refers to a system or component’s ability to meet a formal set of safety or performance standards. Standards for safe operation are maintained by governmental and private organizations that are recognized as authorities in the area of product safety; for instance, the FCC is a government organization that tests, or rates, devices for radiation emissions, and the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is a private, non-profit organization that is recognized as an authority in product safety. Both of these organizations offer product testing that leads to formal certifications, which the market, business and consumer, view as an indication of the product’s safety.
Performance standards are typically maintained by operating system makers, and refer to a hardware device’s ability to run their operating system at a reasonable level of performance. For instance, Microsoft® certifies PC systems as Windows® NT compatible if the system passes a series of tests specified by Microsoft®.
Manufacturers use the certification process to assure customers of the quality of their product. After a product has passed the certification tests of a particular standards authority, the manufacturer is allowed to label it with a distinguishing mark as proof the product was tested and rated by the standards authority. For instance, when a product has received UL certification, it can carry the UL Mark, which is a symbol consumer’s look for when determining the quality of a product. In the case of operating system certifications, the software companies authorize makers of compatible hardware to label the hardware with special logos that indicate the hardware is certified to run with their operating systems. Consumers rely heavily on certifications to determine the quality of products, and, therefore, PC hardware manufacturers are willing to invest millions of dollars in the process of having their products certified by the world’s major product safety authorities and operating system companies.
FCC is the abbreviation for the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC is responsible for rating personal computers and other equipment as either Class A or Class B. The ratings indicate how much radiation a personal computer emits: this rating process is often referred to as "certification." Almost all personal computers satisfy Class A requirements, which means they are suitable for office use. Class B machines, which are suitable for anywhere, including the home, must pass more stringent tests. Class B indicates that the machine’s radio frequency (RF) emissions are so low that they do not interfere with other devices such as radios and TVs.
The FCC should rate computer components and systems before they are released for sale. The rating process is usually the responsibility of the manufacturer. For instance, before AOpen releases a new PC system for sale, the entire system is submitted to the FCC for rating. FCC rating (Class A or Class B) should be listed on the specification sheet or box of each product a manufacturer sells. Many customers, especially large corporate customers, will only accept FCC rated systems.
The Federal Communications Commission had adopted new rules to relax the equipment authorization requirements for personal computers and personal computer peripherals from FCC certification to new self-authorization process based on a manufacturer’s or supplier’s Declaration of Conformity with FCC standards for limiting radio frequency (RF) emissions. The new rules permit manufacturers and suppliers of personal computers and personal computer peripherals to put a product on the market after testing it to ensure compliance and including a "Declaration of Conformity" (DoC) in the literature furnished with the equipment without having to submit an application for equipment authorization and await FCC approval.
UL is the abbreviation for Underwriters Laboratories, which is the leading third-party certification organization in the United States and the largest in North America. As a not for profit product safety organization, UL has been evaluating products in the interest
of public safety since 1894. Manufacturers of PC equipment submit their products to UL for testing against UL safety standards. When a product meets the standards for safe operation set by UL, the product is rated as UL Listed, meaning it is one of the products listed as meeting UL’s standards. UL allows manufacturers whose products are UL Listed to label their products with the UL Mark, which is a distinctive mark that identifies the product bearing it as one that has meet UL’s rigorous standards for safe operation.
To determine if a product has been certified by UL, check for the UL Mark on the product itself, not the packaging or store display. Only products that have been evaluated by UL and found to meet their safety standards are eligible to carry the UL Mark.
CE certification refers to a product’s eligibility to be sold in the EU, which is short for European Union. The trading region defined by the EU is called the European Economic Area (EEA). If a PC manufacturer wants to sell their products to any of the countries in the European Economic Area they must obtain CE certification: this law has been in effect since January 1996. CE certified products are identified by the CE Mark. A product bearing the CE Mark has been tested to all of the relevant standards that the EU demands. The purpose of CE certification is to form one body of product safety regulations that can be used to protect all the citizens living and working within the EEA. This harmonization of regulations allows manufacturers to sell products to all of the countries in the EEA with the only limitation being the requirement that each product carry the CE Mark.
MPR II is the standard originally proposed by the Swedish Department of Labor, which set maximum levels of electromagnetic radiation emitted by monitors, and which has now been adopted as a world standard. MPR II defines maximum permitted electrostatic, magnetic and electric field levels measured at a distance of 50cm from the center of the monitor.
The Swedish Tjanstemannens Central Organizations set TCO in 1991. This standard is even more severe than MPR II, especially for alternating electric field (AEF). The TCO standard is double severe since not only are the permitted field levels reduced compared with MPR II, but so too is the measuring distance.
CSA is the abbreviation for the Canadian Standards Association, which is Canada’s largest standards development and certification organization. CSA was established in 1919 and is an independent, non-government, not for profit association with headquarters in Toronto. CSA standards are developed and written by volunteer committees representing a combination of government, industry, academia, special interest groups, consumer groups and the public.
CSA certification indicates a product has been evaluated under the CSA’s formal system and that it complies with applicable standards. Products are labeled as CSA certified with the CSA Mark: only products that have been certified by the CSA are allowed to carry the mark.
ISO is short for International Standards Organization. Founded in 1946, ISO is an international organization composed of national standards bodies from over 75 countries. For example, ANSI (American National Standards Institute) is a member of ISO. ISO has defined a number of important computer standards, the most significant of which is perhaps OSI (Open Systems Interconnection), a standardized architecture for designing networks. The ISO also developed standards for ensuring the quality of manufactured goods; computer manufacturers as indications of the quality of their products often cite compliance with these standards. These standards are quality models, which can be used by customers to evaluate the capability of a supplier to consistently deliver quality products and services. The ISO standards most often cited by computer manufacturers as indications of the quality of the processes are listed below.
PC 97 Hardware Design Guide is a Microsoft® document that provides the design guidelines for PC systems that are optimized to run Windows® 95 and Windows® NT 4.0 and future versions of these operating systems.
Microsoft® offers certification for Windows® 95 and Windows® NT. For Microsoft’s® and Novell’s® network operating systems, certification is divided into two categories: server applications and workstation applications.