Daddy Bob



What's In A Computer

As strange as it may seem, many people do not really know what the various parts of a computer system are called and what they do. Often when people bring their computers to me for repairs, they ask what they should bring, and I get it called everything from the tower, hard drive, modem, and others. So maybe it is time these things were explained.

First, to answer your question, the consensus of just what the computer is. The computer is the box that everything else plugs into. Here is a picture with the major external components labeled.

To go into a little more details, here is a picture of the computer internals.

Now, to go a little deeper into the computer, one of the main components is the motherboard. The motherboard is the thing that all the components are mounted on or plug into. Here is a typical motherboard with its components and connections labeled.

1.    Firewire Ports: Firewire (IEEE 1394B) supports 800Mb/s for high speed transfers to external video cameras and external disk drives.

2.    PCIe x1 supports accessory cards such as wireless adapters and TV-tuners. (This board has 2)

3.    PCIe x16 supports the latest graphics cards. Many motherboards have 2 or more PCIe x16 slots to support running two graphics cards simultaneously. The current technology in upgrade component is PCI Express (PCIe). With PCIe, data flows much faster to expansion cards.

4.    Integrated Audio Connection: Most motherboards have integrated sound audio.

5.    CPU Socket: This is where the brains of the computer, the CPU, Central Processing Unit plugs in.  

6.    Fan Headers: Many components radiate heat to the motherboard. It is important to have a motherboard with many fan headers to allow more system fans. 2 pin headers provide simple power, while 3 pin headers provide power as well as bios controlled speed and smart control.

7.    Memory: DDR2 or DDR3 Most motherboards support dual-channel architecture, either DDR, DDR2 or DDR3. By installing memory modules into matching banks, it is possible to double the speed that date moves from RAM to the CPU.

8.    ATX Power: This is where ATX power is connected to the power supply with 20+4 pins.

9.    Serial ATA (SATA): SATA has many advantages including slim, flexible cables and a simplistic serial link. All current motherboards have SATA to support the latest hard drives as well as optical drives. (This motherboard has 4)

10.  USB Headers: The total number of USB ports on a computer can only be accessed using the internal USB headers. Every internal USB header can support two additional full speed USB ports.

11.  EIDE: This is where ATA100/133 hard drives and CD and DVD optical drives connect if they are the EIDE type.

12.  PCI Slots: These are expansion slots where various cards plug in. These may include modems, network cards and others that add features to the computer.

13.  AGP Slot: The Accelerated Graphics Port is a high-speed point-to-point channel for attaching a graphics card primarily to assist in the acceleration of 3D computer graphics. Since 2004, AGP is being phased out in favor of PCI Express (PCIe).

14.  Integrated Audio Chip: The computer's sound system is often integrated into the motherboard. When this is done, the components for it are on the motherboard.  

15.  Integrated Video Chip: The video system can also be integrated into the motherboard. This is usually the case on most computers that are not specifically designed for games and other intensive video requirements.

16.  CMOS Battery: This battery is used to maintain the memory of the CMOS chip which contains things like the time, date, type of hardware and other settings specific to this computer.  

I'll mention one more thing here. Here's how to tell if the components like the sound, video, Ethernet, etc. are integrated into the motherboard or on separate cards in the expansion slots.

If the peripheral device plugs into what is labeled the I/O panel in this picture, it is integrated. If it plugs into what is labeled as Expansion Slots, it is not integrated but on its own card. There may be duplications in the I/O panel and expansion slots but if there are, the one in the expansion slot usually takes precedence.


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