BushArts.com - Training ...Hardware
(Example only). You may have seen the ads... Intel i7, 2TbSATA, 128Gb SSD, 8Gb DDR SDRam, DVD+R, 21"LED, 2Gb NVidia 3D, 802.11b/g/n, Windows 10 ...etc.
Personal computer specs, it's another language is it not?.
- Intel i7 ...Processor (Type)
- 2TbSata, 128GbSSD ...Hard Drives (size, and connection type)
- 16Gb DDR SDRam ...Ram or Memory (size, type)
- DVD+R ...DVD (type)
- 21" LED ...Monitor (size and type)
- 2Gb 3D ...Graphics Card (inbuilt memory size)
- 802.11ac ...Network (wireless type)
- Windows 10 ...Operating System
When purchasing a computer, upgrading a computer, or attempting to understand how your system functions, there are numerous components of computer Hardware that you would need to be aware of. All of these components are required to be compatible, far more so than how fast the component is, or how pretty it looks.
It is recommended for those without access to the computers original documentation, that a PC diagnostic/ system information program be used to identify the existing parts. eg: "Speccy" ...available in free version).
With almost daily changes announced by major parts suppliers, it is not intended that this page be any sort of review or recommendation of any particular style or brand of PC. Rather, it's a very brief overview of the individual major Hardware items likely to be found in a common Desktop system. You would have most of these in operation at this moment, as you read this page.
The Motherboard is the central control board of your computer. It is the baseplate that allows the other components a space to be slotted into. This includes the CPU (Processor), Ram (Memory), PCI and AGP slots for Networks, Sound or Graphics, plus a connection for all of your physical Drives, and includes connections (usually positioned at the computer rear) for all of your other extra peripheral devices.
Which of the current standards your Motherboard supports, designates which extra items you are able to add to your system. The current "buzz" standards in question include e-SATA and Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Many computers are now advertising HDMI compatibility, to allow an easy TV connection.
Only if in particular need, would you need to know about any of these standards. (Such as allowing for the future proofing of your current or new system).
A chip containing a Basic Input Operating System, (BIOS), is also on your motherboard, and is the first thing read when your computer is turned on. This instructs the computer to go and look for an operating system on one of the Drives and use that Operating System (OS) for its primary functions. The OS could be a simple set of instructions small enough to fit on a Floppy Disk, or a set of setup instructions contained on a CD for example. In our case, the OS would be Microsoft Windows previously installed on the Hard Drive. Other users could have "Linux" as an OS in one of its various flavours, or perhaps one of Apple Computers MAC systems.
CPU (Processor or Brain)
There are only two realistic Central Processing Unit suppliers, Intel corp with the Pentium, and Core(i) ranges of processors, and AMD with its own range. There are many variations within both brands, and even within each speed level. Mainstream computers are most likely to use an Intel processor.
The Box holding your system together is one of the lesser important items. How your case allows Heat to escape, and keeps Dust from entering, is far more important than how pretty it looks. Usually a case would be supplied with a Power supply, to distribute to your components sufficient electrical wattage to operate fully. How much wattage may vary.
Random access memory (ram) is the temporary memory used by your Operating System to transfer data in and out. It is a holding area, and in general terms, the more Ram you have, the more data can be held, and the faster your system will operate. Older Windows versions have limits in the amount of Ram useful to these systems. In 1995, 16 Megabytes of Ram was considered to be the minimum necessary to reliably run Windows 95. In 2005, a practical minimum was considered to be 256 Megabytes of Ram. Now 3 or 4Gb plus are much more common minimums, ...with the more the better. "Windows Vista" stated 512mb as a minimum system requirement for the basic version, 1Gb plus a substantial graphics system for the "higher" Vista systems.
Ram is usually one of the cheapest and quickest methods to upgrade a slow computer.
This component too, comes in different varieties, and it is the type supported by your Motherboard that you would need to use.
Graphics (3D Card)
For a very long time, processing the graphics out to your Monitor was a "Bottleneck" that would slow down a system considerably. Every single pixel has to be drawn on screen many times a second. With the advent of 3D cards into computers, some of this bottleneck has reduced, relieving the Processor of some of the heavy duty work.
Current top shelf Graphics cards are virtually mini computers themselves, (and just as expensive). With their own processing chips on the card, a good graphics card will allow a PC to function somewhere near the designed system capacity. Cheaper systems have the graphics chip built onto the Motherboard, sharing your system Ram.
Hard Drives (Storage)
Hard drives that hold your Operating System, all of your Program files, and all of your own work are now becoming very large. 1 Terabyte + Drives are minimum today, in speeds ranging up to 10,000 revs per min. These also depend upon what your Motherboard supports.
SSD or Solid State Drives are the current "buzz" drives.
Usually you would recognize the Hard Disk as your "C" drive, although it is common for systems to be built with more than one drive, or to have the Drive "partitioned" or divided into seperate individual drive sections.
Floppy disks drives, (used to be your "A" drive), are now redundant, due to the limited capacity of only 1.38Mb. These have been replaced by USB drives the size of Keyrings with capacities beginning at 1Gb and upwards (128Gb standard in 2016). Other alternatives may include an external Hard Drive connected via a USB port.
DVD drives are now standard equipment, but may be confusing in the variety now available. A DVD Rom can be read only, a DVDR (R for "write") will be read by your computer, plus the ability to write (burn) once to the DVD, whereas a DVDRW (RW for "re-write") can be treated as a Hard Drive by Reading and Writing numerous times. Usually these will also read or burn to a CD as well. Blu-Ray is the latest standard.
Monitor, Keyboard, Mouse
Monitors do vary greatly in quality and a person using a computer for long periods will benefit from the use of a large, good quality monitor. LCD/LED or "Thin" screens are the current trend. Quality also applies to Keyboards and the Mouse.
Printers, Scanners, Digital Cameras
Many personal preferences are required to be looked at before purchasing any of these items. The considerations should include whether your computer has the required connections fully supported.
Sound Cards, Speakers, other devices
Sound can be generated by a chip on the motherboard, or preferably by using a dedicated Sound Card with good quality speakers. The SoundBlaster range from Creative Labs was the defacto standard for Sound Cards in a home system.
Also becoming common is a TV "Tuner" card to receive digital Television and Radio signals within your computer, thus allowing you to watch or record programs as you work on your system.
Media readers are yet another common newer feature. These are slots ready to accept your memory card directly from your Digital Camera or Mobile Telephone for example.
Networks, Modems/Routers, WiFi
On Board support for Networking is a common feature these days. Connecting Two or more computers together by cable or the various wireless standards has numerous benefits. A Small Business would most likely operate a Local Area Network (LAN), but every Home user gains advantages with this method too. Sharing Files and Printers, a single Internet connection, and playing games between computers across the network are just a few to mention.
"WiFi" devices to connect without any cables are the current trend.
Broadband/Cable/Satellite/Wireless Internet users require speciallist equipment, commonly connected via a network modem and/or Router device.
Bits and Bytes
Measurements used by computers confuse many people. Above we have mentioned Megabytes(Mb) and Gigabytes(Gb) for example. There are five levels of measure in common use at this time. (There are more, just not relevant here).
- KiloBytes (Kb)
- MegaBytes (Mb)
- GigaBytes (Gb)
- TeraBytes (Tb)
Think of each level as being a thousand of the previous level. (In truth it is times 1024, but for easy calculation 1000 is used). Thus 1000 Kilobytes to a Megabyte, 1000 Megabytes to a Gigabyte etc. For scaling, this complete page, including all text and images, is less than 50 Kilobytes.
Three to Five years seems to be the expected life span of many systems. Faster speeds and Larger storage methods enable software makers to create far more advanced titles, leading to the need for even faster speeds and larger storage methods, leading etc etc.
When purchasing a system, you would be well advised to consider the trends Hardware and Software makers are following/setting. Consider what you intend to do with the system. Are you likely to only need the Internet and Word Processing for example? If so, then your requirements will be less than for a person that is to play the latest games.
The current trends in computing lay in the direction of multimedia delivery. Music, Video and Live TV streamed to your home computer, and delivered quickly via the internet.
Laptops (or Notebooks), Netbooks, Tablet PC's and PDA's are another type of computer. (As are the current range of Mobile phones) Laptops share all OS requirements but use slightly different, purpose built Hardware, with Modern Laptops being the equal of many Desktop PC's.
Commonplace Tablet PC's are now dominating , thanks to the popularity of the Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy, Google Nexus and other Android Tablet competitors. Along with "Smart" mobile phones, these are the current main battleground in the computing war for your dollars.
Whatever your Hardware, Windows will need to know how to communicate with it. This is done with the aid of software that we refer to as "Drivers", being files containing all the necessary information for your Hardware Device to function as expected. Whilst Windows will usually include a generic type of support for your device, many manufacturers update these drivers to improve or comply with current standards. These updates are usually freely available to download from the Internet. Drivers for older systems with uncommon devices are becoming increasingly harder to find.
For a deeper look into your own system, we suggest using one of the previously mentioned diagnostic programs to list all of your Hardware, followed by a visit to the manufacturers website for Technical detail or further information.