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Understanding The Components Of A PC

When you buy a PC package, it contains 3 components:

  • the computer
  • the LCD monitor
  • keyboard and mouse

Normally the price of a PC contains all three of these components. However, you need to be careful with some of the prices in the retail shops. Sometimes the prices shown excludes the monitor.

The computer contained in a case contains a lot of components which make up the entire PC. If anyone of these components fail, your PC won’t work.

Here’s a list of what’s on your PC:

  • CPU/Processor

This computer chip determines the speed of your computer and runs your computer programs.

  • Hard Disk

Where your programs and data are stored

  • RAM (Random Access Memory)

Your computer memory. Provides fast storage for your computer to use. The more RAM you have, the quicker your PC will operate since it can store and execute information on hand.

  • Video Card/Graphics Accelerator Card

Generates all the videos, images and text you see on your PC.

  • Sound Card/Audio Card

Outputs the sound to your connected speakers. Also, includes a socket to plug in your microphone to record sounds.

  • Motherboard

A board that connects all your components together.

  • Cooling Fan

A small fan which cools down the motherboard and the CPU so that it doesn’t overheat.

  • CD/DVD Drives

Drives which you can place your CD and DVDs in. Can record able.

CPU/Processor

The CPU is considered to be your computer’s brain. It executes the programs you run and does the calculations. The speed of your computer is largely defined by the speed of your CPU.

There are two types of CPUs – a 32-bit and a 64-bit processor.

A 64-bit processor will be able to do math with larger numbers. But rarely do you get to that large number when using your computer. The true benefit of a 64-bit processor is that the speed is relatively quick.

So if you’re a powerful PC user, such as using graphical software to do designs, play a lot of 3d games, process a number of huge databases for a particular software, then you don’t really need a 64-bit processor.

Many of the applications that are being sold to the general public does not work on a 64-bit processor at the moment.

The 64-bit processor is the way to go for the future, but not for several years. At the moment it’s still very expensive and you won’t notice that much of a difference. It’ll be a pain when you find that a lot of 32- bit applications won’t run on your PC.

There are different brands of CPU. The most famous ones are Intel followed closely by AMD. The latter is slightly cheaper than Intel and unless you have a unique application or one that is badly designed, both these brands of processors are fine to work with.

Intel has the stronger brand name but from tests and past experience, the average user won’t notice much difference.

Therefore, if you’re deciding to choose which brand of CPU to purchase, base your decision on the one with the cheaper price.

Each of these two brands sell different types of processors. For example, Intel has the following range of models for different types of computers:

Desktop – Intel Core Processor Family and Intel Pentium Processor family.

Notebook – Intel Core Processor family and Intel Celeron Family AMD has the following range of models:

Desktop – AMD Phenom, AMD Athlon, AMD Sempron

Notebook – AMD Turion Mobile Processor, AMD Athlon, AMD Sempron

Don’t mean to confuse you too much, but there are many models within these ranges. For example, the Intel Core Processor Family has:

Intel Core i7-965 processor Extreme Edition Intel Core i7 processor

Intel Core 2 Extreme processor Intel Core 2 Quad processor Intel Core 2 Duo processor Etc….

There are always new models coming out that are faster and better than its predecessors. Unless you’re building a powerful network at home or one of your PC applications is accessed by thousands of people online, then you don’t need the best processor.

It’s recommended that you don’t buy the latest processor that is being sold. There’s no need for the fastest CPU unless you have lots of money to spend.

The average processor is more than enough to run a PC for a normal user. However, it is a good idea to buy an above average processor because Microsoft may launch a new Operating System sometime in the near future, which requires a good processor.

You don’t want to buy another processor just because you want to run the latest operating system.

Hard Disk

The hard disk (sometimes called hard drive) is where your programs, videos, photos and documents are stored. The current size of the hard disks that are being sold should be sufficient for your needs.

The standard size is around 120 GB (gigabytes) to 500 GB.

A Gigabyte contains 1,000 MB (Megabytes). So 120Gb is actually 120,000 megabytes.

Unless the user designs a lot of graphics and/or has a lot of videos which they need to store on their hard disk, a 120GB hard disk should be sufficient.

With a 120 GB hard disk, about 20GB of it should be reserved for the operating system and programs. The rest should be for your data.

An MP3 song is around 5MB on average. So with 100GB remaining on your hard disk, you can store 20,000 songs. A normal user will probably use around 40GB for data.

Apart from the size, you should also consider the hard disk’s speed when deciding to purchase one. The typical speed of the hard disk ranges from 5,400 rpm (revolutions per minute) to 10,000 rpm.

So if you have the money, it is advised that you choose 10,000 rpm or a step down 7,400 rpm. Both these speeds will do your CPU justice.

There are many different brands of hard disks. The most popular ones are Western Digital, Seagate, Samsung, IBM, Hitachi and Maxtor. The list is pretty long.

When choosing the brand of a hard disk, the decision should be based on what motherboard you are using. Do a search on the internet for the type of motherboard you have and see it’s recommended list of supported hard disks.

You should get some articles advising you what hard disks are suitable for a particular motherboard. Always do this check before you purchase a hard disk. Sometimes a particular type of hard disks won’t work on some motherboards.

RAM

RAM or computer memory, is where your application files and data are temporarily stored for quick retrieval. Whenever your computer is switched off, everything that is stored in RAM is removed.

RAM is the quickest type of memory to retrieve stored data and to have the processor execute it. Much quicker than from your hard disk.

Once the information is stored in your RAM, the PC will be able to process it quickly. This is why if you start an application such as Excel on your PC for the second time, it will open up almost instantly. This is because the application files is already stored in the RAM.

RAM also helps your CPU in processing simultaneous tasks. In a nutshell the more RAM you have, the faster your PC will be.

It’s recommended that you buy the most amount of RAM you can afford. It makes a huge difference to the speed of your PC.

RAM is relatively cheap compared to the old days, so it won’t cost an arm and leg. The average PC should have at least 1GB to 2GB of RAM to run smoothly.

Video Card/Graphics Accelerator Card

This card displays what you see on your monitor. The images you see on the screen are made up of dots called pixels. Your video card determines how many pixels are displayed on your monitor and how fast they are shown.

If you play games on your PC or if you do professional designs with a graphical software, then you need to have a good graphics card so that it can display the images smoothly and quickly.

Video cards also has additional functions such as:

  • video capture
  • TV tuner adapter (Watch TV on your PC)
  • TV Output (Output your screen on the TV)
  • FireWire (a fast interface to connect external devices)
  • Connect multiple monitors

The more functions your graphics card has and the quicker it is, the more expensive it is. If you’re not too fussy about displaying fast, perfect graphics and if you don’t need all the additional functions then a simple graphics card is sufficient.

Sound Card/Audio Card

The sound card in your PC determines the quality of the audio produced from your PC. It can also capture sound from a microphone.

If you want better sound quality from your PC, or if you want to do good voice recordings then purchase a good sound card.

However, don’t forget that if you expect to hear good sound from your audio card, you also need to buy a decent pair of speakers to output the sound.

Motherboard

Choosing a motherboard is very important. It is the piece of equipment which connects all your PC devices together. If you’re buying the components of your PC separately then you should get a good motherboard since it affects the performance of your PC a lot.

The first question you should ask yourself is what type of processor you’re using. Your motherboard should support the brand and model of the processor.

Next, you need to look at whether your motherboard supports the kind of RAM you have. If the RAM you have is quite old, then the motherboard may not be able to support it.

Your motherboard will have expansion slots and you need a lot of these, just in case you want to expand in the future and have a lot of devices to connect to your PC.

Get a motherboard with as many USB ports as you can. A lot of devices use USB to connect to your PC such as printers, webcams and external hard disks.

Try to get the best motherboard you can afford so that if you want to upgrade in future, your motherboard doesn’t have to be changed.


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