The motherboard has a series of slots, sockets and connectors for connecting the various components of a PC. Thememory, accessory cards, and CPU are installed directly onto the motherboard in most cases. The drives and peripherals communicate with the motherboard through wired connections.It is becoming increasingly common for motherboards to integrate features that used to require separate accessorycards. Most motherboards integrate drive controllers and communication ports; and with greater frequency theyintegrate sound, video and network features as well.There are a wide range of motherboards to choose from. They differ in features, speed, capacity and the CPUsupported. They also differ in size, shape and layout, this is commonly referred to as the "form factor".
The CPU, which stands for Central Processing Unit, is the brain of the PC. It is often referred to as the "processor" or "chip". The CPU directs, coordinates and communicates with the hardware components and performs all of the"thinking". What a CPU actually does is perform mathematical calculations. It is the software that people write thattranslates those calculations into useful functions for us.The speed of the CPU, generally speaking, is the number of calculations it can perform in one second. It is morecomplicated than that, but it is a reasonable way to think of the speed. A 500 MHz (megahertz) CPU performs about500,000,000 mathematical calculations per second.As the speed of new CPUs increase, the difference is becoming less obvious to computer users. A CPU that is twice asfast as another one will not result in a PC running twice as fast. The CPU has to wait for other, slower components andfor the user too. The CPU spends a lot of time sitting idle, waiting for something to do.CPUs have something called a "cache" or memory cache. The memory cache is where information is stored that theCPU is likely to need soon. This memory is in addition to the normal memory installed in a PC. The difference is thatthe cache is built right onto the CPU (and/or very near the CPU), and it is much faster than conventional memory.Cache memory was developed to reduce the time the CPU had to wait while information was retrieved from thestandard memory.