The Computer and Its Makeup

Inside the Computer
Just about any PC course out there opens with a discussion about the PC workstation. This has been the
staple computer device of organizations and people across the globe for decades now. The picture below
represents what we normally think of when we consider a PC workstation.

The photo above shows a typical setup that includes a monitor, a keyboard and mouse, and a case that
houses all of the internal hardware. In the photo above, the mouse and keyboard are wireless as they
have no cords attached to them.

. An empty case that doesn’t have any components typically looks something like this. they look something like this.So let’s crack open the typical computer case and see what it looks like inside. And when you add the components.

.Or this.

hard drives. The power supply has a fan on the backside. The picture below shows this classic power cord. It is very important to make sure that the air vent for the PSU fan is free of dust and other collected materials that may dampen or hamper the airflow. You can lightly brush off this exterior area of the PSU or use a can of compressed air to blow it clean. The power supply needs to supply the amount of power that your computer needs to run properly. The power supply provides the electrical power for all of the essential components such as CPU. . Most power supplies will have either a 110 V/220 V switch that you can manually set to choose either voltage or will automatically detect which one. There are specially designed cases with vents that allow better airflow through the system in which the power supply fan can either blow out the air from the back or draw in cooler air. depending on the design of the system. memory. this power cord must use a plug compatible with the standard used in your country or else you must use an adapter. motherboard. and without the aid of cooling devices such as the PSU fan. In order to provide power to the computer. There are many charts and calculators out there to determine the power your PSU must generate by inventorying the components of your computer and determining their cumulative power-consumption demands. which is used by the computer components. Power Supply The fact is that your computer needs power to operate. There is a great amount of heat generated within the computer. It is better to have a PSU that is too big than too small. this fan helps to provide the airflow required to cool the components that reside within the computer and helps to ensure that the computer retains its overall system temperature. it must convert an alternative current called AC. For obvious reasons. Though the PSU fan doesn’t play as critical role as it used to. The North American standard is the NEMA 5-15. and motherboard. into direct current or DC. the computer would overheat quickly which would cause irreparable damage. You see this same power cord on other electronic devices you may own such as your television. so therefore it requires a power supply unit or PSU. The connection between your power supply and the AC outlet is done through a power cord.Let’s talk about these components one-by-one and what is involved from a technician’s standpoint. which is obtained from the wall socket. Personal computers rarely require more than 300–500 watts. Total power requirements for a personal computer may range from 250 watts to more than 1000 watts for a high-performance computer with multiple graphics cards. optical drives. 1.

Power supplies thus provide a series of connectors to connect the PSU to them. The article at http://www. the power supply needs to plug into the motherboard or the devices themselves.html describes how to pick the ideal power supply for your computer. If your computer has a SATA drive then it will require a SATA adapter.kioskea. Most current ATX motherboards today require two power connectors from your power supply: a primary connector that carries all voltages that contains 20 or 24 pins. One type of connector feeds power to the motherboard.Some of the internal devices that the power supply provides power for are connected to the motherboard which we will discuss next. As you can see in the picture above. The article at http://en. and a secondary 12-volt “CPU” connector that includes four or eight pins and supplies power for the processor.com/article/2025425/how-to-pick-the-best-pc-power-supply. Because these devices are plugged or integrated into the motherboard. the majority of the connectors are 4-pin connectors. The picture below shows a typical bundle of connectors offered by a power supply.pcworld. .net/faq/3312-identify-the-connectors-of-the-power-supply does a great job of describing these connectors in detail. These are called Molex connectors and they connect to various hard drives and optical drives.

Notice the various slots available on the motherboard. Everything that runs the computer or enhances its performance is either part of the motherboard or plugs into it via a slot or port. There are a number of critical components of the motherboard. There are several specific form factors that most PC motherboards use so that they can all fit in standard cases. The shape and layout of a motherboard is called the form factor. This component requires a battery that needs to be switched out every once in a while. The socket type determines what type of CPU the computer will utilize. The socket for the microprocessor.com/topic_2904_motherboards. .ehow.  The Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) chip controls the most basic functions of the computer and performs a self-test every time you turn it on. Motherboard The motherboard's main job is to hold the computer's microprocessor chip and let everything else connect to it. The form factor affects where individual components go and the shape of the computer's case. A typical motherboard is shown below.  The chipset is part of the motherboard's logic system and connects the CPU to other parts of the computer.html which covers motherboards in detail and some of the common tasks a technician will undertake regarding them.2.  The real time clock chip maintains basic settings and the system time. Please read the article at http://www.

It is literally the brain of the computer.com/us/Pages/AMDHomePage. Central Processing Unit (CPU) A CPU processes data. to have a quad core processor. It most likely has a dual core processor which actually contains two cores on the same processor. A good computer doesn’t have just a single processor. . It performs millions of individual calculations every second at phenomenal speeds.html) is the industry leader and is considered a higher end processor. sending a command to the monitor through your video card to display it. and executing them in sequence.aspxis) for the more budget-conscious computer owner. The two primary CPU families today are Intel and AMD.3. giving the computer two central processing units essentially and twice the processing power.com/content/www/us/en/homepage.intel. evaluating them. the CPU interprets that command and opens the application.amd. Having a dual core CPU will allow you to run multiple pieces of software simultaneously without losing the performance and speed that you would when running the same pieces of software on a single core CPU. plain and simple. The CPU will instruct the rest of the hardware components inside your computer to do exactly what the software was written to do. the CPU receives the input and will interpret the key stroke. You can see examples of each below. It is not uncommon for a server today. If you click the mouse on an icon to open a piece of software. When you press a key on your keyboard. The CPU can receive instructions from the software at extremely fast speeds and then perform the tasks that are required to run the software. Intel (http://www. which is a robust computer that shares resources for multiple users. A CPU runs programs by fetching instructions from the computer’s memory. while AMD (http://www.

howstuffworks. You should never directly touch a CPU until it has had time to cool down. All modern-day CPUs today have a heat sink. in other words how fast the drive can read or write data  They use a lot less energy and run quieter since nothing is spinning  SSDs have no moving parts so there are fewer things to go wrong  SSDs are not affected by fragmentation (discussed in Lesson 8) Hard drives come with two interfaces. There are also solid-state drives or SSDs. A heat sink without a fan is called a passive heat sink.techradar. IDE ribbon connectors do take a lot of room within the case. also called a hard drive disk or HDD.  Faster I/O rate or in/out rate. IDE is cheaper. Most computers made in the last five to ten years support IDE. is actually a collection of small DVD-like disks called platters that spin very fast around a spindle as an arm reads and writes to the disks. Hard Drives The hard drive is where the operating system that runs the device and its applications is located. The other is SATA. One is an older technology called IDE/EIDE. This is where the user stores data and personal files. which stands for Serial ATA or Advanced Technology Attachment.com/us/news/computing-components/processors/how-do-cpu-coolers-work721366 to learn even more about the fascinating process of the cooling process for today’s CPU. This creates a lot of heat and contributes to the noise level of the computer. Go to http://www.htm adds a lot more insight into everything the CPU does on the computer. which stands for Integrated Drive Electronics and Enhanced Integrated Drive Electronics. IDE ribbon cables are gray and have two rows of twenty pins which connect to both the motherboard and to the drive itself. however. A processor generates a tremendous amount of heat. The picture below shows an active heat sink with the fan residing on top of the heat sink. The article at http://www. Heat sinks are generally made of an aluminum alloy and often have fans. . Both of these devices help to cool the CPU. which have no platters. In fact. Solid-state drives have a number of advantages over HDD. which diminishes the air circulation inside.com/microprocessor. a heat sink with a fan is called an active heat sink.When you open up a traditional workstation. you might not see the CPU because it is buried beneath a CPU fan and/or heat sink and resides in its dedicated CPU slot on the motherboard. which is why it is found on a lot of home computers. A traditional hard drive. these spindles spin at a rate of 5400 RPM or rotations per minute. 4. Though not as fast as SATA drives.

the terms EIDE. While the original IDE drive controllers supported transfer rates of 8. EIDE is an improved version of the IDE drive interface that provides faster data transfer rates than the original standard. Therefore. ATA-2. SATA also has a much faster transfer rate of between 33 and 133 MBs (Megabits per second).3 Mbps.6 Mbps. EIDE can transfer data up to 16. which is twice as fast. The term EIDE also refers to an ATA standard known as ATA-2 or Fast ATA. SATAs have only a thin wire as a connector so it takes up far less room. and Fast ATA may be used synonymously. And its ATA ribbon. .Below is a picture of an IDE Drive. which is critical for a laptop or notebook computer.

SCSI drives are theoretically much faster than either ATA or SATA drives and tend to be much more reliable and much quicker to boot and load programs. the drives for laptops come in either 2. often more than two or three times the price of a SATA drive.5” drives (3. but there are some huge drawbacks. Very few desktop computers are built with SCSI disks in mind. SCSI drives require jumper settings.asp for further reading on the various hard drive alternatives available today. They're also extremely expensive.5” is the diameter of the storage platters). . This all sounds great. They charge a heavy premium for their increased performance and thus are mostly utilized for servers and other business-critical applications. Go to http://www. and very complex knowledge of SCSI systems is necessary to get more than one or two drives going. While workstations use standard size 3.A SATA ribbon is shown below.” 2. Laptops only have a small area of space beneath their case so space is greatly limited. For one.5” or 1.5 being the most popular. Below is the picture of a typical laptop EIDE drive.com/DidYouKnow/Computer_Science/2007/sas_sata.webopedia.8.

and DDR2 and DDR3 have 240. DDR SDRAM is computer memory and serves as temporary storage for data. It is the memory that stores the data that is being processed in real time. The Word Application resides on a SATA drive which is non-volatile memory. the DIMM modules have a notch on them that is located in a different place for each module. To ensure that a user doesn’t insert a DIMM into a motherboard that is incompatible. There are a pair of clips that hold the RAM module in place. For instance. but operates at almost twice the bandwidth or processing speed. You must open these clips to insert and remove the memory. Memory such as DDR3 is used by the computer for the temporary storage of data. The previous version is single data rate or SDRAM. When the document is completed. You then begin to create a new document. Volatile memory on the other hand is memory that loses its data as soon as the power is turned off. A motherboard that supports DDR2 will not accept DDR3 and vice versa. They also have different pin counts. The 3 stands for 3rd generation. Memory A hard drive stores non-volatile memory. you open up Microsoft Word to create a document. making them easily identifiable. and each generation is twice as fast as the previous generation. This is characteristic of what is referred to as Random Access Memory or RAM. the operating system that manages your computer must support 64-bit. you save it to your hard drive. RAM is far faster than non-volatile memory so it is an ideal place for the computer to store data that the computer is working on. Today’s more prevalent type of DIMM is DDR3 SDRAM. If your computer lost power before you saved it. The document you are working on resides in RAM. . which stands for Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory. A DDR SDRAM comes as a module that clips into a slot on the motherboard. RAM is temporary storage. In order to accommodate this type of RAM. DDR Memory transfers the data in 64-bit pieces. DDR SDRAM was built on the technology of the prior version. Pictures of these DIMMs can be seen below. Non-volatile memory is memory that can retain information even after the power is turned off. Computers today use a type of RAM called DIMM which stands for Dual Line Memory Module.5. SDRAM has 168 pins. the document would be gone because it was never saved to non-volatile memory. DIMM modules are not compatible. It is always there to be accessed. DDR SDRAM has 184. It is permanent memory if we can indeed use the word permanent.

htm. then what happens if your computer is working with more data than the computer has memory? In this case. The paging file is a designated area assigned to the hard drive that spills over from the RAM and is managed by the computer operating system. A good sign that your computer doesn’t have enough memory is if this light is constantly flickering. It’s hard to have too much memory. You would then insert two more 4GB memory modules. giving you a total of 16 of memory. especially when you consider how inexpensive RAM is today. Although purchasing a faster processor will speed up your computer as well. for instance replacing all of your 2GB DIMMs with 4GB DIMMs which would double your memory.com/howto/windows-vista/what-kind-of-memory-does-my-computerhave-installed/ to read an article about how to find what type of memory is in your computer. you may have two 4GB memory modules and two more empty slots. When you purchase a computer. an LED light near it will flicker indicating activity. it juggles data back and forth between the paging file and RAM as needed. If you are interested in learning about memory requirements for the iPad go to http://ipad. You usually have to insert DIMMs with the same amount of allocated memory in each slot. If RAM is temporary storage that your computer stores data currently being manipulated by the computer.about. you will then have to replace your DIMMs with larger ones. . For instance.com/od/iPad-Tutorials/a/How-Much-iPad-Memory-Do-You-Need.You want to ensure that your computer has plenty of RAM. Every time your hard drive is running. If all of your memory slots are filled. doubling your memory will have a greater impact on performance than a processor upgrade. If you want to make your computer faster. The memory used is DDR3 SDRAM which has a speed of 1333 MHz. the computer has a spill-over area called the paging file. Go to http://www. This is also referred to as drive thrashing as the hard drive is constantly spinning for the paging file.howtogeek. Memory is often placed in pairs. which then affects the performance of the drive as well. This slows the computer down a lot because accessing data from a hard drive is much slower than RAM. the best thing you can do is add more memory. the memory is usually listed in the following format: 8GB (2GBx4) DDR3-SDRAM-1333 This means that the computer has a total of 8GB of memory that is made up of 4 DIMM modules and each DIMM is 2GB. If your computer doesn’t have enough memory. Sometimes this may involve purchasing additional DIMMs to insert into empty DIMM slots in your computer.

 BD: about 25GB. The three optical drives available today are CD. Your mouse.  R: This is a disc that can be written to once. DVD drives can also handle CDs.  DVD: about 4.blu-ray. They can play only CDs.  ROM: "Read Only Memory" and indicates a disc that cannot be written to. Optical Drives An optical drive is a secondary storage device that offers removable storage.com/faq/ can answer all of your questions about Blu-ray. 7. DVD. There is a USB type A that is the end that always plugs into your computer.  CD: about 700MB of data. This is applicable to all formats.  RE: Only applies to Blu-Ray and is the equivalent of RW. USB Ports All computers today come with USB ports. Printers and some cameras take the Type B while phones and other types of handheld devices take Mini or Micro connectors. Optical drives connect to the motherboard either by an IDE or SATA connector. scanner. These ports allow the user to insert USB standalone electronic devices into them. and written to again. which stands for Dual Layer.  RW: This disc can be written to. Like any hardware. only read. The other end has a different type of connector depending on what type of device is being connected.7GB. . They have become the most commonly used way to connect peripheral devices to a computer. Blu-ray is so named because it uses a finer. The drives are CD. one on each end. which stands for Universal Serial Bus ports. and other devices probably all connect to your computer via a USB port. Each of these three optical disk technologies has different storage abilities. The site http://www. holds about 8. A chart is shown below.5GB. Many memory storage devices such as portable hard drives and flash drives are also commonly connected through USB ports. All computers today come with USB ports.and DVD-compatible. USB cables will usually have two types of connectors. but this process takes place automatically unless the operating system cannot determine what the device is or cannot locate a driver for it. Optical drives have a few more acronyms to understand. printer. DVD DL. USB devices have to be installed by the operating system. digital camera. blue-violet laser for reading data. This is again applicable to all formats. It is called removable storage because you can take the data with you and swap it out. and BD or Blu-Ray.6. but there's a bifurcation here that needs to be discussed later on. erased.

Input devices allow the user to integrate with the computer.  Printers  Monitors  Flat panels  Projector  Plotter (https://en. Some common types of output devices include the following.ask. It can also be used to allow an application on the computer to control the device.  Keyboard  Mouse  Digital scanner (http://www. the computer and the USB device can communicate with each other.thefreedictionary. It can also be used to power the device.com/question/how-does-a-stylus-pen-work)  Webcam Output devices receive or display output from the computer. An input device is a device that sends data and commands to the computer. Go to http://www.wikipedia. input devices and output devices.techradar. 8. This connection may transfer data between the two devices. such as transferring music from a camera to a computer.org/wiki/Plotter)  Speakers . the latest USB technology.Once installed onto the computer. Some common types of input devices include the following. such as installing firmware updates on a USB device.com/us/news/computing/usb-3-everything-you-need-to-know-638185 for a great article on USB 3. Types of External Devices External devices are grouped into two categories. such as charging a smartphone.com/digital+scanner)  Digital camera  Stylus or pen (http://www.

otherwise known as ESD. ESD can occur without the user’s feeling a shock and will only occur while working on the inside of the computer. If it is a popular printer. Let’s say you are installing a new HP inkjet printer onto a Windows 8 computer. or camera. so OS manufacturers such as Microsoft depend on the device manufacturers to create drivers that will install into their operating system and integrate the device with it. the device is ready to run. there are third-party driver websites that sell drivers for outdated devices. Windows 8 may have the driver already. Much like the shock you receives when rubbing your feet on the carpet and touching something metal. printer. you are actually installing it with the operating system of the computer (Lesson 2 is all about operating systems). Simply connect the USB device into one of the USB ports on the computer and the operating system will automatically detect the device. you are ready to install the internal device into its designated slot on the motherboard. Within a matter of minutes. whether internally or USB. During this process you must be conscious of electrostatic discharge. so sometimes drivers are operating system specific so a driver designed for Windows 8 won’t necessarily work for Windows XP. A driver for a 32-bit operating system will work for a 64-bit operating system and vice versa. No matter how these devices are installed onto your computer. in a way you are literally installing the driver of that device. Installing USB devices is very simple. Companies release updated drivers from time-to-time to fix bugs and errors found in previous versions. When you install a device. You should look for driver updates from time-to-time for all of your devices. A driver designed for Windows XP may not work for Windows 8. The driver may be provided on an installation disk provided by HP with the printer. Take a printer for instance. Once you remove the cover of your computer case. There are thousands and thousands of devices out there on the market that integrate with computers. . If not. The operating system needs to be able to communicate with these devices. or it may be downloaded by the user into a folder on the computer. ESD can damage or destroy the computer or selected components.Installing a Device When you install a device for your computer. Windows 8 will either do a web search for the driver or prompt the user to provide the driver by specifying a location. An operating manufacturer can’t possibly keep track of all of the devices out there on the market. they need a driver to communicate with the operating system. ESD can occur when working in your computer and will cause components you touch to no longer work properly. Plug them into the USB port and they are ready to run. If you need to locate drivers for an old device. keyboard. Whether it is the first time you connect a new mouse. Most device manufacturers provide a way to download drivers for their supported devices. Occasionally you may need to install an internal device such as extra memory DIMMs or an internal Network Interface card. the operating system will install the designated driver. To install an internal device that needs to be connected to the motherboard requires that you turn the computer off. Inserting a device into a connector on the motherboard will short the motherboard and you will have to replace it. USB devices are referred to as plug and play devices. This is a more complicated process than installing a USB device.

which in turn begins loading the operating system into memory. Go to http://www. 4. The boot loader is a small program designed to find and launch the PC's operating system. Other beep sequences signal a hardware failure. mouse. You can change the boot disk by configuring the BIOS or interrupting the boot process with a key sequence (often indicated on the boot screens).  Always keep a part of your body such as a hand or arm in touch with a metal part of the computer.). showing details about the boot process. and it loads that boot loader into memory (RAM). 6. such as a wool sweater. 1. it is very easy to avoid ESD while working on your computer.  Remain standing at all times when working on the computer. The boot disk is typically the same hard disk or solid-state drive that contains your operating system. Sitting on a chair can generate more electrostatic. A single beep after the POST signals that everything's okay.computerhope. The Boot Process Turning on a computer isn’t as simple as just hitting the power switch. processor specs. make sure you and the computer are at Zero Potential by continuously touching an unpainted metal surface of the chassis (http://www. There is a lot that goes on during the boot process. the BIOS hands over its work to the boot loader. etc. The meaning of the beep sequence depends on the manufacturer of the motherboard type. The POST is a small computer program within the BIOS that checks for hardware failures. while it means a keyboard error on another. 2. The boot process is the series of steps that a computer takes to start the computer system and open up the operating system. keyboard.wikihow. the amount of RAM installed. The BIOS attempts to access the first sector of the drive designated as the boot disk. Then. it turns control of the PC over to the operating system. Most important. The BIOS confirms there's a bootstrap loader.  Unplug all cords: Make sure everything is removed from the back of the computer (power cord.com/jargon/c/chassis. 7. and the drives detected. in that first sector of the boot disk. When the boot loader finishes its task. The power button activates the power supply in the PC. sending power to the motherboard and other components. Some basic steps to take are the following. The computer may display information on the attached monitor. 5. Once the boot loader is in memory.Fortunately. the OS is ready for user interaction .com/Ground-Yourself-to-Avoid-Destroying-a-Computer-with-ElectrostaticDischarge for an article on how to avoid damaging your computer with ESD. or boot loader.  Wear the proper clothes: Make sure not to wear any clothing that conducts a lot of electrical charge. 3. The computer then performs a power-on self-test (POST).htm) or the computer power supply case. This information may include the BIOS manufacturer and revision.

and attempt to exit.com/kb/243909. When you change settings.  Set or change a BIOS password. For a detailed list of the various BIOS manufacturers go to http://support. A common setting to change is to turn on virtualization if the computer will host virtual machines. If so. The BIOS will not allow the computer to move forward through the boot process without it. Below is a screenshot showing the boot order configuration screen of a popular BIOS application. The BIOS usually tells the user what key or keys to press on the upper right-hand corner of the monitor screen. This is a password separate from the operating system. the computer will reboot again. . You would open up the BIOS and configure the boot order so that the computer attempts to boot from the DVD drive first. you must press a designated key right after the POST check. Other things that you can do within the BIOS include but are not limited to the following. Many of the components inside a laptop are physically integrated into the laptop so it is mostly one piece of equipment.  Change the CPU settings. As far as tablets.  View the memory configuration of the computer. Suppose you want to install a new operating system on your computer from a DVD drive.microsoft. this key will be one of the function keys F1 or F2. Depending on the computer manufacturer. the BIOS will prompt the user to confirm if he or she wants to save the setting changes. the ESC key or the DEL key. It holds the configuration settings for a number of important settings such as the boot order of your computer.The BIOS The BIOS is an important part of your computer. In order to access the BIOS. the concepts are pretty much the same for laptops as well. most of the components with the exception of memory are non-upgradable and it isn’t cost-efficient to repair a tablet other than to trade it in. By default your computer attempts to boot from the C drive unless it is an old computer that has a floppy drive which would then be the default. Although we have focused on the traditional PC desktop throughout this lesson.