Building A Computer: Hardware Inside Your Machine Explained


Building A Computer: Hardware Inside Your Machine Explained

If you want to build a new computer or just better understand how a computer works this post should serve as a useful, but not overly complicated guide. A computer requires many less components then most people realize. This post will tell you what each main piece accomplishes in a machine.

Central Processing Unit (CPU or Processor)

The Processor you might say is the brain of the computer. The Processor works by taking input, decoding it into a language it can read, and then acting on the input and producing an output. Processors are connected to the motherboard via socket. Each type of Processor has a different socket type. Make sure that your CPU will fit your motherboard by comparing their socket.

Some CPUs are multi-core. Multi-core processors are generally just multiple CPUs in one unit and one socket. They improve performance while multi-tasking, but don’t stack when applied to a single task. For instance, a 4 core 3ghz processor doesn’t work like 8ghz, but rather allows you to use four programs at 3ghz speeds.

Random Access Memory (RAM or Memory)

RAM is where the computer keeps information it needs to readily access and be available. For instance, when you’re running a game and loading it, while it’s loading the game takes all the information off of the hard drive and places it onto the RAM, because the RAM is much faster. There are a few different types of RAM, but at this point in time there is no use for anything under DDR3 as it is the current and the fastest. RAM speeds and amount (measured in gigs) have gone way up in past years, and the prices have massively dropped.

Graphics Processing Unit (GPU/Video Card)

The GPU is a entirely separate processor, similar to a CPU except it’s more geared towards floating point operations used in rendering graphics. The GPU basically not only creates the picture on your monitor, but controls how fast and well something can look while running on your computer. The GPU uses its own dedicated RAM and CPU (like explained above) to complete these operations.

Hard Disk Drive (HDD/HD)

The HD is a mechanical drive capable of storing memory for very long amounts of time. It physically traces the information onto a magnetic disk. The hard drive is by far the slowest PC component, though it is by no means slow. The disk typically spins at 7200 rpms, though more energy efficient models spin at 5400 and server drives (where information is constantly and randomly accessed) at 10,000 rpms. Newer hard drives are called solid states and are explained below.

The HDD connects to the motherboard via cables. Make sure that when buying a HDD you check the connections. Some connections are backwards compatible, but not all, so be sure to double check.

Solid State Drive (SSD)

The SSD is basically a long term storage device with no moving parts. Thus in theory it lasts longer, but is also incredibly faster. SSDs can operate at speeds close to that of RAM, and if you’re looking for a loading time boost, this is the part to check out. SSDs are very expensive and if you’re looking for bulk storage, be advised that a HDD is definitely the way to go. Many people combine SSDs and HDDs, having their operating system on the SSD for faster boot times, and long term storage on the HDD.

Motherboard (mobo)

The motherboard is difficult to describe in technical terms. The basic story I could say is it is like your veins, it carries power and orders to all of the other parts of a PC from the processor. Motherboards only accept certain types of each component. A motherboard might only accept DDR3 RAM, Socket 775 processors, etc. Be sure to make sure all your components are compatible with your motherboard. You also want to make sure it will fit into your case, so be sure to check the size specifications.

Power Supply Unit (PSU)

This is the unit that supplies power to all your parts inside your PC. In essence however, it is a very cheap piece of hardware and the only requirement is to make sure you have enough power to run your machine. (Please see what each piece requires as you set up a buying checklist)


Lastly, we have the computer case. This is very simple as it is the housing for all the other components. The only main difference between these are sizes such as micro-atx, mid-atx, full-tower,etc. Be sure that the parts you order fit inside the case you order (only a worry at micro-atx levels usually!)

Nolan Bishop

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