Innards of a PC
What’s Inside Your Computer?
Once on the topic of laptops, we decided to write about computer components, what they are, what they do and how they interact with each other.
The CPU is the part of the computer that makes it “smart.” It is the “worker” who performs all the computations necessary to execute programs, fetches data from the hard drive and puts it into RAM, and then, after that data is manipulated, places it back into the hard drive.
Speed – Naturally, the faster the worker, the more that gets done in less time. For most users, a mid-range CPU (Intel i5) should serve their needs more than adequately, with room to spare.
Cores – CPU’s with multiple cores act as though there were multiple CPU’s running simultaneously. Obviously, this will give a boost in performance (e.g. multitasking multiple programs simultaneously).
Hyperthreading – Some CPU’s have “virtual cores” as opposed to actual, physical multiple cores. When the Operating System supports hyperthreading, the effect is the same as with multiple cores.
Memory, otherwise known as RAM, is responsible for the immediate work that the computer is performing. It acts as the “desktop” for the CPU to perform its calculations. The CPU might be top-of-the-line, but it needs space to work and perform its calculations. RAM serves this temporary purpose. The key word here is “temporary”, when the computer is shut off, all the information in RAM is lost. To avoid data loss, it’s best to frequently save the documents that are being worked on.
The number of bits Windows is running determines the amount of RAM the computer can support. Windows 32 bit supports up to 4 GB of RAM. This means that even if more than 4 GB is put in, Windows will only recognize 4 GB. Windows 64 bit will recognize amounts north of 16 GB (which will be overkill for the majority of users).
RAM comes in multiple flavors and configurations and it has to be compatible with the computer’s specific model.
The hard drive analogous to the office file cabinets, where documents are kept for long term storage. While the folders are still in the file cabinet, they can’t be used – they have to first be taken out, and placed on the desk (the RAM) for the worker (the CPU) to be able to use them.
Capacity – Obviously, the greater the HDD capacity, the more data and programs can be stored on it.
Speed – Again, the greater the speed, the faster documents and programs can be pulled from the drive. Mid-range speeds are 7,200 rpm (Revolutions Per Minute). The faster drives are more expensive and noisier (a byproduct of the spinning disk).
SSD – Regular drives have mechanical components that are prone to breakage from normal wear-and-tear, being dropped or jolted while the disk reading head is in motion, etc. SSD (Solid State Drives) eliminate these weaknesses in that they have no moving parts. They are significantly more expensive than their mechanical counterparts (although prices drop with time).
The images from the computer need to be output to the monitor for the user to see. The CPU is normally responsible for this task. However, the constant need for refreshing the image puts a load on the CPU’s resource, which can be put to better use elsewhere. Those uses who desire better performance from their machines generally choose to have a discrete graphic card. The advantage of this setup is that the video card now has its own processing unit and RAM. This relieves the main CPU and RAM of the task of displaying the images on the monitor, allowing them to allocate their resources to the actual running of the computer and its programs.
We hope this information will give you a greater appreciation for your computer’s hard-working innards!
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