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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

PC Hardware Introduction

AGP = Accelerated Graphics Port is an interface used exclusively for graphics cards. AGP was superseded by PCI-E in 2004.

There are 4 different AGP "speeds" - 1x, 2x, 4x and 8x.
The "speeds" also use different voltages - 1x and 2x use 3.3V, 4x uses 1.5V and 8x uses 0.8V.
This means that you cannot, for example, install an 8x card in a 4x motherboard slot - the card will be ruined!
This is what an AGP slot looks like:

See also PCI and PCI-E

BIOS= Basic Input/Output System is a part of your computer that identifies and initializes system hardware e.g., video card, HDD and floppy disk etc.

The most common instance where a user would want to access the BIOS setup utility would be to change the boot order so that the system can be booted from a CD/DVD in order to reinstall or repair the operating system.

Users should be warned though, to be wary of changing things in BIOS setup if they are unfamiliar with the expected consequences.

Your BIOS setup screen may look like the one below, but there are others which may differ slightly depending on your computer manufacturer.

CPU = Central Processing Unit="Processor". The CPU can be described as the brain in a PC.

Most CPUs are made by Intel or AMD. A Pentium 4 CPU:

CRT = Cathode Ray Tube. "Older" monitor standard.

See also TFT

DIMM = Dual In-line Memory Modules are the actual memory "sticks" (RAM).

There are different kinds of DIMMs - EDO, SDRAM, DDR SDRAM and so on...
More information - see RAM and/or Wikipedia

Ethernet = The word "Ethernet" covers quite a complex subject but for the average computer user, you may be asked to connect your ethernet cable.

The cable which connects your modem or router to the ethernet card in your computer looks like this:

For a more detailed explanation see Wikipedia

FAT = File Allocation Table, is a file system for computers used to control how files are stored.

There are three different standards - FAT12, FAT16 and FAT32.
FAT12 and FAT16 are old file systems mostly used for storage on floppy disks etc (not recommended for hard drives).
FAT32 is more versatile, but cannot handle files larger than 4GB.
Most Windows versions can read all three FAT versions.

See also NTFS

Graphics Card = The Graphics card (or Video card) is a piece of hardware which allows you to see what is on your monitor screen.

It also helps with graphical 3D rendering, thereby relieving the CPU (main processor).

You would find the card in a slot on your motherboard, typically a PCI-E slot nowadays although in an older pc it may be in an AGP or PCI slot.

If you don't see a graphics card in your computer it means that you have onboard graphics integrated into a chip on the motherboard.

For a more detailed explanation see Wikipedia

HDD = Hard Disk Drive. A common misconception by the novice computer user is the idea that HDD (Hard Disk Drive) is another name for the pc tower.

You can read an easy to understand explanation of this and also a little information about RAM ( Random access memory ) at ezine articles.

Here is a picture of one of the more common brands of HDD but there are many others.

Heatsink = Heatsinks are used to absorb and dissipate heat, thereby cooling CPUs, other ICs etc.

They are metal profiles, usually made of aluminium and/or copper - some times equipped with a fan.

A CPU heatsink with fan:

A motherboard heatsink:

IC = Integrated Circuit. Also called chip, microchip etc. A miniaturized electronic circuit, for example the BIOS chip.

IDE = Integrated Drive Electronics interface. See PATA

Jumper = A small metal "clip" covered with plastic. Jumpers are used to change hardware parameters by closing an electrical circuit between two pins.

Motherboards, hard drives etc can be configured by changing the jumper settings.

Motherboard/Mobo =If the CPU is the "Brain" of a PC, then the Motherboard (mobo) is the "Nervous System".

It connects all the hardware (CPU, RAM, HDD, CD/DVD drive, sound card, graphics card -
- not to mention the networking chips or USB sockets to connect you to your modem.
It also has a battery onboard, usually Lithium for long life - this powers the BIOS chip, so it can remember the hardware settings and Date/Time etc.

The choice of motherboard can be more important than the choice of CPU - a cheap-quality mobo will drag the fastest processor down to a crawl.

Get a good "branded" mobo (Asus, Gigabyte - to name just two), that is suited to your needs and your PC will scream along.

NIC = Networking Interface Controller. A piece of hardware used to connect computers over a network.

It can be a chip on the motherboard, a separate expansion card, a router etc.
A network expansion card looks like this:

See also Ethernet

NTFS = New Technology File System - standard file system for data storage in NT based Windows versions.

Windows 95, 98 and ME cannot read NTFS partitions.

See also FAT

= Parallel AT Attachment (or Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment) is an interface to connect hard disks and CD/DVD drives inside a computer.

Also called IDE or EIDE.

The connectors have 40 "pins" and look like this:

See also SATA and SCSI.

Examples of devices using PCI are sound cards, network cards etc.
The PCI bus is slow and not suitable for video cards.

See also PCI-E and AGP

PCI-E = Peripheral Component Interconnect Express is an interface used for PC expansion cards.

It was designed to replace the PCI and AGP interfaces. There are two different kinds of PCI-E slots:

A PCI-E x 16 slot:

A PCI-E x 1 slot:

See also AGP and PCI.

PSU = Power Supply Unit. It is the unit converting the AC power from the wall into "rails" with 3.3, 5 and 12 volts DC.

The PSU is usually placed at the top of the tower and looks something like this:

RAM = Random-access memory (usually known by its acronym, RAM) is a type of computer data storage.

Today it takes the form of integrated circuits that allow the stored data to be accessed in any order, i.e. at random.

More information: Wikipedia
See also DIMM.

SATA = Serial Advanced Technology Attachment. An interface to connect hard disks and optical drives (CD/DVD) inside a computer.

SATA I (1.5 Gbit/s) is the older standard - SATA II is faster (3.0 Gbit/s). Some older motherboards can't handle SATA II drives.

See also PATA and SCSI.

SCSI= Small Computer System Interface. A standard to connect peripheral devices, e.g. hard disks and tape drives, to a computer.

SCSI is more versatile than PATA and SATA - for example can up to 16 devices be connected to a single bus.
The SCSI standard is typically used in servers.

See also PATA and SATA.


= Thin Film Transistor. The term is used when talking about TFT-LCD (thin film transistor liquid crystal display) monitors.

Such "thin" displays are used in TV sets, computers, mobile phones etc.
Most computer displays sold nowadays are TFT-LCD. Older computers (except for laptops) usually have a CRT monitor.

1 comment:

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