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It is your personal preference on which one you decide to choose. The desktop or tower cases come in two form factor, AT and ATX. Nearly all the cases made nowadays are ATX as the motherboard manufacturers make majority of their motherboard in the ATX form. All cases come with PSU (Power Supply Unit), space to mount your FDD, CD-ROM, HDD etc. The case that I would be using for the demonstration is an ATX Midi Tower case as shown below.
Mother Board A motherboard is a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) that connects your processor, memory and all your expansion cards together to assemble a PC. Most motherboards made nowadays are ATX. An ATX motherboard has the standard I/O (Input/Output) connectors such as PS/2 ports, parallel ports, serial ports, etc, built onto the motherboard. Old AT motherboard on the other hand uses I/O cards and cables which need to be plugged into the motherboard, which gets a bit untidy. AT motherboard requires AT keyboard and AT power supply. ATX motherboard fits into an ATX case and comes with an ATX power supply. The following is a picture of an ATX motherboard.
As you have seen from the enlarged image, the motherboard comes with various expansion card slots and connectors. It comes with 3 different expansion slots, 1 AGP, 5 PCI and 1 ISA slot. The AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) is where you would connect and AGP graphics card. The PCI slots is where you would
connect cards such as sound card, modem, tv card etc. The ISA slot is quite an old type of bus which is handy if you got some old hardware such as an old ISA modem or sound card. The other connectors includes the Intel socket 370 CPU connector, the DIMM slot for SDRAM, IDE connector for connecting your HDD, CD-ROM or other IDE devices, and FDD connector. Processor The processor also known as CPU (Central Processing Unit) is the brain of a computer. The faster the processor, the faster it will execute instructions and run your programs. The leading CPU manufactures are Intel and AMD. If the system is going to be used for spreadsheet, databases, graphics and playing advance games then you should consider an Intel Pentium 4 / Pentium D or an AMD Athlon 64 / Athlon 64 X2 processor. Pentium D and Athlon 64 X2 are both Dual Core. Which means they have two CPU in one Chip. They are also 64 Bit and will support the new Windows Vista Operating System. These processors are very fast and are capable of handling most of your computing needs., Intel i486 Dx processor shown on the following image.
Ram Memory is the name given to silicon chips that stores volatile computer data. Volatile means that the contents of memory will be lost if the power of the computer is switched off. Memory stores some of your operating system and application data while it is being run. The more memory you have in your system, the more application you can run simultaneously and will provide an overall better system performance. Memory comes in many form. The older system uses SDRAM, while the current system uses DDR-SDRAM (Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory). Depending on your CPU bus, you have to use SDRAM to match your CPU bus speed. For example, PIII 750 runs at the bus speed of 100Mhz therefore you need SDRAM that run at 100MHz, known as PC100 SDRAM. However if you are going to use PIII 866 you will require PC133 SDRAM which runs at 133Mhz bus speed. You also have to make sure that your motherboard can support these speeds. New generation of memories are currently out. Intel P4 use rambus memory known as RDRAM and the new AMD
processors use DDR2 SDRAM. Some of the well known memory manufactures are Crucial, Kingston and Samsung. The following is an image of an PC133 SDRAM
Graphics card Graphics card provides display output to your monitor. While choosing a graphics card consider what you would be using it for. For 2D applications such as wordprocessing, spreadsheet etc, a basic graphics card with around 8MB or 16MB graphics memory will be sufficient for your needs. It will also allow you to run your monitor at various resolutions. However, if you require 3D functionality for running 3D applications or playing 3D games you will require a 3D graphics card with at least 128MB or even 256MB of video memory. graphics card are used with a PCI, AGP or PCI-Express bus. However, most current motherboards have AGP or PCI-E slot and we should therefore use an AGP or PCI-E graphics card if your motherboard has an AGP or PCI-E slot. PCI Express graphics card offers much higher graphics bandwidth which results in higher performance. The current top end graphics card are made by Nvida (Geforce cards) and ATI (Radeon cards). GEFORCE II 64MB AGP card as shown below.
. Sound Card It offers many benefits such as running multimedia applications with sound, listening to wave, midi, and MP3 music files or even plays audio CD's. to play games on our PC then having a sound card is a must. Most current motherboards also have basic built in sound. One of the most popular sound cards is the Creative's soundblaster range. a Creatives Sounblaster Live 1024 shown below.
Modem Modem stands for Modulator Demodulator. It converts digital signals to analogue so that it can travel via your telephone line, and vice-versa. A modem is an essential item if you are intending to connect your PC to the internet. There are many kinds modems out there based on the Rockwell/Connexant v.90 chipset. There are two kinds of modem, software and hardware. Software modems uses your CPU resources to perform its tasks and is run on a virtual COM port. Hardware modem performs its tasks using the onboard chipset and therefore does not take up the CPU resources. It also runs on a physical COM i.e. communication port 3. Software modems, which are also known as winmodem can only run on a windows operating system, while the hardware based modem can run on other operating systems like linux. External modems are mostly hardware based and connect to the serial port. You can also get external modems that connect to the USB port, however most of these are software based. Analogue modems are currently on the decline as they are being replaced by Digital modems which are used for high speed broadband internet. Also known as ADSL modem or ADSL routers. ADSL modems are mostly external although you can get Internal ADSL modem's. Many people are also using Wireless ADSL routers as it offers an excellent way to share internet connections with multiple PCs. Some common ADSL Router suppliers are Netgear, Belkin and D-Link. a Connexant 56K v.90 software modem shown below
Floppy Disk FDD to access floppy disks. Although floppy disks are limited in capacity, only 1.44 mb, every old PC is almost guaranteed to have a FDD. Floppy disk drives and now coming the end of their life span as some current PCs are built without a floppy drive. This is due to the popularity of USB Flash drives. Floppy disk is
ideal for storing small files and documents, creating boot disks, and transferring small files. Samsun 1.44 mb floppy drive shown below
Hard Disk Hard disk drive stores all your data including operating system, applications, user files and documents. It is a non-volatile storage, which means the contents of the HDD is not lost if the PC is switched off. There are three different types of HDD, which are IDE/ATA, SCSI, SATA (Serial ATA). Majority of home PCs are equipped with IDE Hard drives. SCSI hard drives are mostly included in servers and powerful workstations as they offer better data transfer rate which results in better performance than the IDE drives. However modern SATA drives are not far behind SCSI drives in terms of performance with the introduction of the newer SATA 300 drives. A home user can have minimum drive size would be 80 GB to 120 GB. The major HDD manufacturers are IBM, Seagate, Maxtor, Western Digital and Fujitsu an IBM ATA100 drive as shown below.
CD-Drive Nearly all operating systems and applications software comes on CD. It is therefore essential to have a CD-ROM drive for installing your applications. Certain programs requires the CD to be in the CD-ROM drive for that program to run. For example, various encyclopedia and games. CD-ROM can also be used for playing standard audio CD's on your PC. To watch DVD movies on your PC then we would require a DVD-ROM which can perform all the tasks of a CD-ROM as well as play DVD movies. CD-ROM's come in various speeds, the faster drive, the faster it will install our applications. DVD drives specifies two types of speeds, one for the software installation and other for the DVD extraction. For example a DVD drive with 16x 32x 40x 52x specification means that it is a 16 speed DVD and 32 speed CD.
Some of the CD/DVD-ROM manufacturers include Toshiba, Poineer, Hitachi, LG and Samsung. LG cd-drive is shown below
Monitor Monitors come is various sizes and refresh rate. 17" monitor are becoming entry standard monitor. 15" monitors are OK if we are running it at a low resolution and not using it for long hours. We can run these monitors at higher resolution and refresh rate, which means they are more comfortable to view and we can work with them for long hours. Monitors are measured diagonally. If a monitor is 17" it does not mean that it is the actual viewable area. Some 17" comes with a viewable area of 16" which is good where as others can be as low as 15.6". Monitors consist of thousands of pixels (the tiny dots you see on the screen). Smaller pixels produces high definition sharp display. Settle for something which is at least 0.25 mm dot pitch. If you purchase a 17" monitor make sure it can handle refresh rate of at least 85 Hz at 1024 * 768 resolution. A 19" monitor should handle at least 1280 * 1024 at 85 Hz. Currently the most popular viewing device are TFT Flat panels. They are now more affordable than before. Most people prefer TFT Flat panels as they save lot of desk space. They are also more comfortable view. Samsung 14” monitor shown below
CD-Writers CD Writer / DVD Writer are a very good option for a backup device. It allows us to backup the contents of our HDD onto a CD-R, CD-RW & DVD-R disc. It also allows you to backup your existing application CD's., it is an affordable backup device.
Like all other PC hardware a CD/DVD Writer comes in various speed. A 32 speed drive can write a full 650MB CD in around 4 mins and a 52 speed drive can write it in around 3 mins and so on. CD-ReWritable's are available in IDE and SCSI interface. We will require a SCSI card if choose to get a SCSI model. CD / DVD Writer is more than just backup device, you can use it to create your own Audio CD, Photo CD, Video CD etc. We can also use your CD or DVD meida just the way you use hard drive, using the usual drag and drop file copy. Most CD/DVD writers are bundled with software which can perform all the tasks I have mentioned. Samsung CD-Writer is shown below
TV- Tuner Card A TV card gives you the option of watching TV on your monitor. TV cards are quite useful as it offers more than just watching TV. You can connect your VCR to the TV card so that you can watch video's too. One of the useful things about having a TV card is that you can use it for capturing Video. Using the necessary software we can capture video in various format such AVI or MPEG files. One of the popular TV card is Haupauge WinTV PCI as shown below. Older TV cards were all analogue device. Now you can get Digital TV cards which allows you to view Digital terrestrial TV channels. You can even get Digital Satellite and Cable TV cards.
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