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Basic Computer Components

Computers come in all different shapes and forms


(examples: desktops, laptops), but the main
components that make up a computer pretty much
stay the same. Components can also be refereed to
as; hardware or parts. Throughout this website I will
explain the various components in a PC computer,
and try my best to give you the information you need
to better understand how your computer works.
Some of this information is considered basic
computer knowledge, but there is no better place to
start with than with the basics. Knowing this
valuable information can help you if you are going to
buy, repair, maintain or even build your own
computer.

Computer Components

Every computer Consists of the following basic


components:

1. Computer Case - Where all of the components


are stored.

2. CPU - It is basically the brain of your computer.


The CPU is a used to process everything from
basic to complex functions in a computer.

3. RAM - RAM is memory that attaches to the


motherboard. RAM is hardware used to
temporarily store and access data.

4. Motherboard - A Motherboard is the most


important component in a computer system. All
of the other hardware in a computer system
connect to the motherboard.
5. Power Supply - A Power Supply is the sends
power to all of the other hardware so they can
operate.

6. Hard Drive - A Hard Drive is used for


permanently storing files and programs.

7. Disk Drives - Disk Drives can be a floppy drive,


CD drive, DVD drive or other possible file storage
devices that are used in a computer.

8. Video Card - A Video Card is the part of a


computer system that converts binary code from
the CPU so you can view it on a monitor.

9. Monitor - The part of a computer that allows you


to see what the computer is processing.

10. Keyboard - A keyboard allows a computer user


to enter text commands into a computer system.

11. Mouse - A mouse allows a computer user to use


a point and click interface to enter commands.

Using a picture of the inside of a computer, I have


labeled where each component is inside the
computer. This will be the most helpful if you are
looking for information before you repair or upgrade
the components in your computer.

Gaming Computer Components


If you plan on doing some online gaming you will need to make sure
you have the proper components inside your computer. Playing
intense games on your computer requires a faster CPU, more RAM and
a good video card.

Components to Consider:

Faster CPU

You will need to make sure that your cpu can keep up and accomadate
all of the processes of the game you are playing. You should pick up a
cpu with an L2 cache of atleast 2 MB. Some good processors that I
would recommend are: Intel’s Pentium Dual Core, Core i7, Core 2 Duo,
or Core 2 Quad; Phenom; and AMD’s Athlon 64 X2.

More RAM

You will need atleast 2 GB of ram to set up a solid gaimng rig. The
ram is used to temporarily store non-graphical memory. Having
more ram will make your gaming experience faster and smoother.

Better Video Card

If you are going to be gaming you should look for a video card
with the latest expansion slots. You should opt for PCI Express
instead of the old agp standard. You should be looking for a video
card with more internal ram if you want to play on a higher
resolution. You might also want to consider running a sli
configuration.
Gaming Computer Components

If you are going to be doing some serious gaming you might also want
to consider a bigger hard drive, bigger monitor, and a good sound
card. These can also increase your gaming experience. When you are
looking to upgrade your computers components for gaming, you
should also make sure that your motherboard supports all of the new
components that you are buying.

Three Good Places to Buy


Computer Components
Newegg.com

• Newegg has great customer service and there


staff is very knowledgeable about both old and
new computer components that have been
relased. There website gives customer reviews
on all of the products and there shipping is
always on time. Everything you want for your
computer and more at Newegg.com.

Geeks.com
• Geeks.com has alot of great deals on computer
parts and they also have a great tech-tips
section with alot of useful reading. Save 10%
off anything not marked "special" at
Geeks.com! Use coupon code GEEKBERT

TheNerds.net
• Along with all of your computer needs
TheNerds.net has great deals on other
electonics and office needs. The Best Deals on
all of your Electronic Needs from TheNerds.net!

Before you Buy Computer Components use Computer Knowledge For You's
shopping section to compare prices on computer components.

Buying Computer Components

Whether you are building your own computer or just


looking for some replacement parts for your old
computer, there are three online stores that I
recommend due to having great past experiences
with them. When you purchase computer
components you should not only be looking for a
good deal but, you should be looking for excellent
customer service and quality products. I have
personally dealt with all three of these component
suppliers and found that they have far better
customer service and there staff is more
knowledgeable than other part suppliers.

When you buy computer components it is good


prctice to buy them from good known sources. This
will ensure that your products will be shipped on
time, shipped in the proper packaging and if a
problem arrises you will have good customer
support to help you out.

Computer Motherboard
Knowledge
We have already used the analogy that a CPU is the
“brain” of your computer, so in comparison, a
Computer Motherboard would be like the “central
nervous system”. A Motherboard can also be called a
Computer Mainboard. It is the most important circuit
board in the computer system. The computer
motherboard contains the bus (communication circuit
for the computer components), the CPU, all memory
sockets, expansion slots, etc.

The bus speed is a key factor in determining the


overall speed of a computer’s motherboard. Keeping
all of this in mind, having a high-quality PC
Motherboard is essential to having a high-quality
computer.

Computer motherboards come in different


configurations to fit different needs. A basic
motherboard comes with several interfaces for all
necessary components, and a BIOS (Basic
Input/Output System) chip set to control the setup
of the motherboard. Depending on what the
computer is mainly going to be used for, it is
important to keep BIOS manufacturers in mind when
choosing a computer motherboard. Some
manufacturers allow you to adjust the BIOS, while
others do not. This option can allow you to overclock
the system CPU.

When choosing a motherboard, there are a couple of


other key factors to remember. Check the power
supply to make sure it has the correct connectors for
the motherboard you choose. Also make sure the CPU
socket on the motherboard is compatible with the
CPU you intend to install. Depending on the computer
components you intend to run, make sure you have
the correct video card slot(s), memory slots and
other expansion slots. You also have to make sure
the motherboard is capable of running the type and
amount of hard drives you choose to run. You want a
computer motherboard that supports more RAM than
is currently needed to be prepared for new
technological advancements.

A good computer motherboard should be easy for you


to set up (most motherboards today have color coded
connectors and slots), support all of the components
that you are running, and able to serve your future
needs.

Computer RAM Knowledge


Computer RAM is the best known form of memory
your computer uses to temporarily store and access
data. From the time you turn on your computer, your
CPU is constantly using memory (RAM). Every time
something is opened or loaded, it gets placed into
RAM. This means it is put into a temporary storage
area so the CPU can more easily access the
information. From there it becomes a continuous
cycle where the CPU requests data from
RAM, processes it and then writes new data back to RAM. In most computers,
this transfer of data between CPU and RAM happens millions of times every
second. When an application is closed, the application itself, along with all its
accompanying files is deleted from RAM. This is to make sure there is room for
new data, so unless the changed files are saved to a permanent storage
device, they will be lost.
Types of Computer RAM

Upgrading Computer RAM

When looking to upgrade your computer’s RAM, you


will find RAM information typically displayed like this:

1GB, 240-pin DIMM, DDR2 PC2-5300,

• 1GB refers to the size of the memory


• 240-pin refers to the number of pins used to
connect to the motherboard
• DIMM- Dual In-line Memory Module
• SIMM- Single In-line Memory Module
• DDR2 refers to the type of memory
• PC2-5300 refers to the module type

Some other pieces of information you might find in a


RAM description are:
• Clock frequency-refers to speed of the RAM in
MHz (800MHz)
• CAS (Column Address Strobe) Latency-refers to
the number of clock cycles that elapse from the
time the request for data is sent to the actual
memory location until the data is transmitted
from the module. This is represented by a set of
4 numbers also known as RAM timing (4-4-4-
12). These numbers stand for:
• TCL - CAS Latency Time
• Trcd - DRAM RAS# to CAS# Delay
• Trp - DRAM RAS# Precharge
• Tras - Precharge delay

Normally the BIOS will allow a user to adjust RAM


timing to increase performance and stability.

Computer RAM

RAM is considered the most critical component in a


computer system. Every bit of data must pass
through RAM to get to the processor. Generic, low-
cost RAM is most often the cause of data corruption
and program crashes, so never skimp on the quality
of RAM when upgrading. Make sure the RAM you
choose is considered Grade A. Grade A RAM can only
be found through major manufacturers, such as:
Crucial.com.

Computer CPU Knowledge


A Computer CPU is, in simple terms, the “brain” of
your computer. It is also known as the processor.
CPU’s are used to process everything from basic to
complex functions. Every time something needs to be
computed it gets sent to the CPU. It attaches directly
to the motherboard using a socket and is usually
cooled by a heat sink or fan. Depending on the
manufacturer of the computer processor, the socket
types will be different.

Make sure that your CPU has the correct socket type
for your motherboard. Not all CPU’s have pins on the
bottom side, but be careful with ones that do. The
pins can be easily bent while attaching the CPU to the
motherboard. Processors have drastically advanced
over the years from the Pentium 4 Processor, to the
Core 2 Duo, and now to the Quad Core Processor.

CPU Socket CPU Pins

There are several different manufacturers of CPU’s


such as Intel and Athlon. Each manufacturer has
many versions of their processors, differing in
specifications. To identify one CPU from another,
each version is given a core name. Taking Intel for
example, a couple of the different cores might be:
Core 2 Duo or Core 2 Quad. Each CPU has a clock
speed, which refers to the speed that the CPU runs.
This is the most important indicator of a CPU’s
performance level. Another very important
performance factor of a CPU is the FSB. The FSB is
the data transfer speed between the CPU and the
RAM. A CPU also has an L2 Cache speed. Level-2
cache is an area of fast memory inside the CPU. This
memory is used to store more frequently used data
so it will not have to be received from slower RAM.
The larger the L2 Cache, the faster your processor
will be. The technological advancement of processors
has made them more efficient in many ways.

Computer Hard Drive Knowledge


A Computer Hard Drive is a form of Computer
memory used to permanently store files and
programs. Computer Hard Drives can also be referred
to as; Hard Disk Drive. When using Microsoft
windows a hard disk drive is often referred to as the
c-drive. Most PC Hard Drives are stored in a internal
drive bay at the front of the computer. Hard drives
are connected inside the computer using a ATA, SATA
or SCSI cable and a power cord.

There are several types of Hard Drives; some are IDE,


SATA and SCSI:

1. IDE Hard Drive: (Also known as an ATA or PATA


Hard Drive.) This is one of the most common
drives used in computers. You can identify an
IDE Hard Drive by having a 40 pin connector and
a power connector.
2. SATA Hard Drive: (Also Known as Serial ATA).
Very similar to an IDE Hard Drive but uses a
higher speed. You can identify an SATA Hard
disk by having a smaller power connector than
IDE.
3. SCSI Hard Drive: SCSI Hard Drives are faster
than IDE and SATA, but are more commonly
used in servers due to higher cost. You can
identify a SCSI Hard Disk at the connectors.
(SCSI uses the same power connector as IDE.

There are four main components to a Hard Drive:

1. Platters: Aluminum, glass, or ceramic dishes


coated with magnetic media. These dishes are
used to store data and begin to rotate when the
computer is turned on.
2. Head Arm: (Also known as a “Actuator Arm”)
The Head Arm is similar to the arm on a record
player. It allows the Hard Disk Drive to move the
read / write heads to the location where the
information needs to be read or written to.
3. Chassis: (Also known as the “Case”) A housing
that helps protect and organize all components
that make up the Hard Disk Drive.
4. Head Actuator: An electronic device controlled
by a motor that moves the Head Arm to locations
where it is needed.

When looking to buy a hard drive you should be


aware of some terms and specifications and what
they mean:

Terms: Example: Definition:


Western Name of Company supplying
Brand-
Digital HD
Series- Raptor Category name within brand
of HD
Model- WD1500ADFD Model Number of HD
Cable connection between
interface- SATA 1.5Gb/s
computer and HD
Capacity- 150GB Size of HD storage
Speed at which data is
RPM- 10000 RPM
transfered
Small fast memory holding
Cache- 16MB
recently accessed data
Average Seek Time required for read/write
4.6ms
Time- heads to switch tracks
Average Lapse of time between track
2.99ms
Latency- switching and data access
Average Write Total time required to access
5.2ms
Time- data needed
Reference to size of disk
Form Factor- 3.5"
diameters

Depending on a computers Motherboard setup and


options it may be possible to run multiple hard
drives. By doing this it is possible to run the drives in
a Raid configuration. By running in a Raid
configuration you can either have the hard drives
working together to form one big hard drive, or they
can have the data duplicated from one hard drive to
another. By working together they are in a
performace setup which allows one hard drive to
perform task number one while the next hard disk is
already onto task number two. In a duplicated mode
each hard drive stores the same exact information so
if one hard drive fails all of your information is still
stored on the second drive. It is recommended when
you replace your hard drive, you get one with more
capacity than you would need right now so you will
leave expansion room for the future.

Computer Sound Card Knowledge


A Computer Sound Card is an internal component in
your computer that processes audio files to provide
high-quality playback through the computer
speakers. It can process and play most computer file
formats, including MIDI, .wav, and .mp3. This means
it can play both voice and music.
Some PC Sound Cards are built into the computer’s
motherboard (Integrated sound), but most people
looking for surround sound or 3-D sound usually buy
a separate sound card. This means that the initial
sound card can be disabled to install a higher quality
card. Most game designers use 3-D sound to provide
dynamic sound that changes based on a players
position in the game. 3-D sound provides sound from
several directions and makes the gamer feel like they
are in a more realistic environment. Surround sound
is similar to 3-D sound and also has sound coming
from several directions, but the sound does not
change based on the listeners actions. Both the
quality of a computer's speakers and the sound card
affect the overall sound quality.

Computer Sound cards come with a variety of ports


(jacks). These ports are used to plug in things such
as computer speakers, headphones, microphones,
MIDI (Musical Instrumental Digital Interface)
keyboards and joysticks. Depending on the type of
sound card you buy the microphone, headphones,
digital, and speaker connectors will usually be color
coded and labeled in the sound cards instruction
manual for easy hookup. The digital sound jacks for
computer sound cards can come in a single RCA, DIN,
or special type of connector depending on what
sound card you purchase. The midi port is available
on some sound cards and is used for connecting a
midi keyboard and some gaming accessories such as
paddles, or a joystick.

There are two different types of computer sound


cards; ISA sound cards, and PCI sound cards. ISA
sound cards are relatively cheaper in price and are
more common in older computers. PCI computer
sound cards, being newer and more technologically
up to date, have a lot of advantages over ISA. These
advantages include compatibility with SoundBlaster,
a low load on the CPU, a high quality audio out, a
high quality microphone in, direct sound 3-D
hardware support, MIDI synthesis hardware support,
and a line out connection to home Hi-Fi equipment.

Installing a new computer sound card is a great way


to improve the overall sound experience while using
your computer.
Computer Video Card Knowledge
There are two types of systems used to create video
on your computer; one type is integrated video and
the other is a video card. A video card is the part of
your computer that is responsible for converting
binary code from the CPU into a picture so you can
view it on your monitor. Video Cards can also be
called Computer Graphics Cards. Computer Video
cards plug directly into an expansion slot on the
motherboard of a computer using various slots like
PCI, AGP, and PCI Express. Integrated video is a chip
built into the motherboard used to run the video.
Most older systems have integrated video because it
is a less expensive alternative to a video card. This
usually this gives poor picture quality and slows
down the computer because it relies on the systems
CPU and memory to run it. Newer video cards come
with their own memory, cooling, and a graphics
processing unit (GPU).

There are four main components to a Video Card; the


memory, a processor, a connector to the
motherboard and a connector to the monitor. These
components are responsible for making a 3-D image
out of the binary data, filling in the remaining pixels,
and adding light, texture and color. If you were using
integrated video and tried to play the most up- to-
date video games the load on the computers CPU and
Memory would become to much for the computer to
handle. If you like good graphics, watch DVD’s, or
play computer games a Video Card is definitely the
way to go.
Some video cards only have one port used for
connecting a standard monitor; while some more
advanced video cards may have multiple ports for
additional monitors or TV’s. There are a variety of
video ports offered for video cards; some are VGA
(video graphics array), VIVO (video in/video out),
and DVI (digital video interface). VGA ports are more
commonly used with CRT monitors, while DVI ports
are usually used for LCD monitors.

PCI Express Video Card


Knowledge
PCI express is the new style video card out on the
market today. Due to PCI express video cards having
better performance and speed than PCI and AGP
cards, it is slowly taking over the market today. PCI
express can have up to 70 times the bandwidth over
PCI. For all you non computer geeks out there
bandwidth is the amount of information that can be
transmitted in a fixed amount of time. PCI-e video
cards gives you extremely high bandwidth at a low
cost.

This new style of video card gives you better power


management, truly scalable configurations, faster
graphics, and better system performance. A PCI
Express video card is one of the best and easiest
upgrades you can do if you want your computer to
run faster and more efficient. PCI Express Video
Cards will work on current operating systems, like
Windows XP, because PCI Express software is
compatible with PCI. If you are going to upgrade to
PCI Express make sure your motherboard has a PCI
Express slot.
PCI Express Connectors and Ports

When looking to buy a PCI express style video card,


be aware that there are four different types of
mechanical board connectors (x1, x4, x8, and x16).
The bandwidth for these connectors ranges from
500MB/s to 8GB/s (x1 being the slowest). There are
also a variety of video ports offered; some are VGA
(video graphics array), VIVO (video in/video out),
and DVI (digital video interface).

SLI: Dual PCI Express Video Cards

Along with the PCI express video card being


invented, SLI (Scalable Link Interface) has hit the
market. SLI allows two video cards of the same
model to be linked together on the main board. SLI is
proprietary to nvidia video cards and often improves
system performance up to two times faster. If you
are going to upgrade to SLI make sure your PCI
express video cards, main board, and power supply
are sli ready.
AGP Video Card Knowledge
AGP Video Cards are still considered the standard for
video cards on the market today. Even though they
do not offer all of the features that the PCI Express
Video Cards have, they are big step up from PCI
Video Cards. AGP video cards can be capable of over
4 times the data transfer speed over PCI. AGP
improved its data transfer rate by enabling data to be
transferred both during the rise and fall of its clock
cycle.

AGP Video Cards use pipelining and sideband


addressing to improve its overall speed. Pipelining is
a way to improve performance by letting tasks
overlap themselves (For instance: AGP makes
multiple requests for information during bus or
memory access and PCI makes one request and does
not make another until the data has been
transferred). Sideband addressing separates the
address bus from the data bus, which allows the
graphics controller to issue new AGP commands
while the main address/data lines are still operating.
These two features greatly improve the speed of this
style video card.

There are three versions and four basic speeds of


AGP Video Cards:

AGP 1.0- supports 1x and 2x speeds and has a 3.3v


connector

AGP 2.0- this version is compatible with 1.0 but adds


4x and 1.5v support

APG 3.0-supports 4x and 8x speeds and is only


compatible with the 4x version in 2.0

Clock
Voltage Introduced
Name Speed
(V) with…
MHz
AGP 3.3 or AGP 1.0 (at
66
1x 1.5 3.3 V)
AGP 3.3 or AGP 1.0 (at
133
2x 1.5 3.3 V)
AGP 1.5 or AGP 2.0 (at
266
4x 0.8 1.5 V)
AGP
0.8 AGP 3.0 533
8x

There are three different types of AGP Graphics Card


mechanical board connectors. The 3.3v (which
usually has a notch at the front end), the 1.5v (which
usually has a notch at the back end), and the
universal AGP slot which supports multiple voltages
(there are no notches so both style cards can fit in
it). The AGP Video Card and the monitor are what
determine the quality of a computer’s video display,
so keep in mind that the newer versions are better
for more advanced graphics.

Computer Power Supply


Knowledge
A Computer Power Supply (PSU) is vital to the
operation of a computer. The Power Supply converts
AC current to DC current and then sends power to all
of the internal components in the computer system
so they can function.

A PC Power Supply is a metal box usually located


inside the top backside of the computer case. The
power supply is visible from the back of the
computer.

It is easily identified by the presence of a port for the


power cable. There are three typical voltages used in
a power supply: 3.3 volts, 5 volts, and 12 volts. The
3.3 and 5 volt supplies are usually used by digital
circuits, while the 12 volt supplies are more typically
used to supply power to fans, motors, and disk
drives.

The main specification of a power supply is in watts.


Most PC’s today use a push button switch on the
front of the computer case to power up the computer.
This push button sends a 5 volt signal to the power
supply letting it know it is time to send power to all
of the internal computer components. To shut the
computer down most computers have a “shut down”
option located in a menu bar. When this is used the
operating system sends a signal to shut the computer
down. The Power supply also has a 5 volt circuit of
“standby voltage”, known as VSB. This circuit is used
so even when the computer is turned off, the push
button to start up the computer will still work
(enabling the computer to turn on). There are
different types and styles of power supplies on the
market today. Three of the basic types of desktop PC
power supplies are AT, ATX and ATX-2.

AT Power Supply - Typically used in older PC’s

ATX Power Supply - Commonly used in PC’s today

ATX-2 Power Supply - New standard for power


supplies today

Power supplies are easily changed and are generally


cost effective. If you are going to change a power
supply make sure you get one with room for
expansion so you are prepared for the future.

Computer PhysX Card Knowledge


When talking about a PhysX Card in a computer, first
you have to understand that when we refer to
physics in this situation, we are talking about how
people and objects in a game move and react to any
and all stimulus. Sometimes when physics are
handled by a computers CPU, the gamer might not
get the explosion or debris that he or she is
expecting. Until recently, this has been true because
there has only been limited software physics
integrated into games. Many games have effects
made to imitate real physics (movements or
explosions), but usually seem to fall short. However,
newer games such as City of Villains, and Auto
Assault are made for use with a PhysX Accelerator
Card to create more intense, realistic, physical
gaming.

A PhysX Card is an expansion card that installs in a


computer for the purpose of producing more physical
action in computer generated graphics. It is placed
around a physics processing unit (PPU), which is
similar to a graphics processing unit (GPU) on a
video card. The PhysX Card is meant to take over the
processing of the physical actions and effects for the
CPU so the CPU can use more of its power for other
tasks or instructions. A PhysX Card also contains its
own RAM for use in these processes. Simply put, the
PhysX Card is a special accelerator with a sole
purpose of delivering a more realistic physical
gaming environment.

Some examples of what a PhysX


Card can do:

Explosions that cause debris


Characters that move realistically
Dense smoke
Cloth or other objects that rip or tear the
way you would expect in reality

PhysX accelerator cards are available from many


leading game system vendors, not to mention from
leading Physics Cards makers such as BFG and ASUS.
Computer BIOS Knowledge
Computer BIOS is software that is usually stored on a
flash memory chip and is located on the
motherboard. What BIOS does is make sure that the
CPU, hard drive(s), ports, and other chips in the
computer work together. Computer BIOS plays a
huge part in starting up a computer. The BIOS
provides the CPU with the instructions to start the
operating system. A computer might have more than
one bios chip.

For example: A video card might have its own bios


chip installed. The BIOS settings are in charge of
things like the monitor, keyboard, and other ports on
the computer especially when the computer system
is starting up. Upon starting a computer system, the
bios runs a POST to check all of the hardware
components to make sure they are functioning
properly.

At times a Computers BIOS and its Drivers will need


to be updated. This is usually true with older
computers because with the arrival of new
technology, new standards will arise, and the BIOS
and Drivers will need to change in order to
understand the new hardware. A driver is a software
program that controls a device. Every device like a
printer, disk drive or keyboard has a driver.
Whenever you startup a computer, the first thing you
see is the BIOS software running. To enter the BIOS
setup you will have to press a certain key or
combination of keys in the initial startup screen (Esc,
Del, Ctrl-Esc, F2, F1, Ctrl-Alt-Esc, ect…). There is
usually a command line that shows up. When it does,
press the specified key or keys to enter setup.
Depending on the BIOS manufacturer you will see a
number of options. (Examples: time/date, memory,
plug and play, security, power management, boot
sequence, drive configuration, exit, ect…) Be
cautious when making changes to the setup. Some
changes can cause the computer to not boot
properly. When you finish you should save your
settings and exit. The BIOS should restart your
computer and the new settings should take effect