The Insides of Your Computer
Have you ever seen someone open up a computer? Solvere One System Administrators are known to do this from time to time in order to replace a part, clean out the dust, or just make sure everything is where it belongs. Perhaps you’ve wondered what those pieces of metal and wires are for. Here is a basic explanation of a few of the pieces inside most personal computers. Together they run the programs you use to work every day.
The motherboard ties all the components of the computer together. It looks like a large flat piece of metal that is usually green and has lots of circuits, wires, and other components sticking out. Everything is connected to the motherboard in one way or another, and the motherboard makes sure that all the parts of your PC receive power and can communicate with one another. In this way the motherboard acts like a mother, bringing all the members of the family together. The motherboard also determines what upgrades are available for a machine. If an upgrade is not compatible with the motherboard, you will not be able to use it to upgrade your PC.
CPU stands for Central Processing Unit and is often simply called a “processor”. CPUs are usually very small and square and fit right into the motherboard. The CPU is the “brain” of the computer. It is constantly receiving information, deciding what to do with it, and relaying it to other parts of the computer. Recently many computers have dual or multi-core processors. These allow PCs to do more things at once. If you’re the type of person who likes to have Outlook, Word, and 12 tabs in Firefox open while listening to music in iTunes all at the same time a dual-core processor would be a smart choice.
There are two main types of memory on your computer. The first is Random Access Memory (pictured above in green), which is abbreviated as RAM. It’s “random” because you can access the memory in any order. It is used to run programs on your PC. While new data is being continually stored in the RAM, the computer’s Read-Only Memory (ROM) remains unchanged. It is used for running processes on your machine that you don’t usually think about but are essential: such as the software that makes the hardware on your computer work.
All the components in your computer need electricity to run. You plug the computer into the outlet, and the power from the outlet travels into the power supply. The power supply ensures that the correct amount of electricity is provided to each part of your computer.
CD and DVD ROM Drive
Most computers today have DVD ROM drives (shown above) that play both DVDs and CDs, although there are still a few with CD-only drives. The drive is where you insert the CD or DVD. The drive reads the CD or DVD gathers the data so you can access it on your computer.
When you look at what’s on your computer screen it usually makes sense, or at the very least, you can recognize images and text. The graphics card (also known as a video card) is responsible for taking all the data from your computer and displaying it on the screen in a way that you can understand. Some graphics cards are separate components and some are built right into the motherboard.
All the electricity running inside your computer can get hot very quickly. If your computer has no way of cooling itself down it can easily become overheated and stop working properly. The heat sync is made of a type of metal with high thermal conductivity and works to draw heat away from other parts of the PC that could otherwise become damaged. The fan (shown above) is a smaller version of one you might use inside your house. It draws cool air from outside the PC and moves hot air to a heat sink to keep the computer cool. Fans get dusty easily and can slow down your computer, so they should be cleaned with compressed air on a regular basis.
The hard drive is like the long term memory of your computer. When you save a file to your computer’s desktop or in your my documents folder you are saving the file to your hard drive. The design of the hard drive allows a lot of information to be stored and accessed quickly. It also saves information in such a way that when you shut down your PC, everything is still stored on the hard drive and you can access it next time you start up your machine.
Like a human body, a computer needs all of its components to run smoothly and efficiently. For more information on what’s inside your computer, visit the Computer section of HowStuffWorks.com.