Computers - a guide to what's inside
Does talk of computers leave your brain befuddled? Do you not know your hard drive from your floppy? Do you think that RAM is a male sheep? If so, then this article is for you. Read this ShoppingTrolley guide to what's inside your computer and you will know exactly what to look for when buying a computer.
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The processor is at the very heart of your computer. The faster the processor, and all other things being equal, the faster your computer will work. The processor is also referred to as the CPU, standing for Central Processing Unit. Processors are primarily manufactured by Intel, who produce the Pentium, Celeron and the new Core CPUs; and AMD, who produce the Athlon, Sempron and the Turion CPU's. (Turions are just used in laptops).
Many computers now offer "dual-core" processors. A dual core processor increases the performance of your computer - it's like have two processors working together instead of just one, to make multi tasking quicker and better.
The motherboard is the main circuit board inside a computer. All the other cards in the computer, together with the processor and the RAM (see below) are attached directly to the motherboard. Other peripherals such as hard drives and cd / dvd drives are connected to the motherboard via ribbon cables, so called because they are flat and look like a ribbon in shape.
RAM, standing for "Random Access Memory" is often referred to as your computer's memory. It is memory that is used for loading data, running applications and performing calculations. Most types of RAM are volatile, which means that the data in the RAM is lost when the computer is switched off. Having extra RAM in the computer will speed up its performance and enhance multi tasking. Extra RAM can be added to your computer by slotting it into slots on the motherboard. There are different types of RAM, and the type that you require is dependent on the motherboard inside your computer. Companies such as Crucial have applications that you can download to identify the correct RAM for your motherboard, making it easier to purchase more.
The hard drive is the media that stores (hopefully permanently) the data and applications on your computer. It is wise to back up data frequently as hard drives can fail now and again. Many computers nowadays have two hard drives fitted. which offers an inbuilt back up system, should you choose to make use of it, although it is still worth having a separate back up that can be accessed should your computer fail to boot up. The size of a hard drive is measured in GB, and the larger it is, the more data it can store. Most hard drives are manufactured by Seagate, Maxtor, Western Digital or Samsung.
A graphics card is a separate processor entirely devoted to displaying graphics and moving polygons (many sided shapes) around your screen. Most of the modern graphics cards support 3D graphics, being supported by DirectX, which is now the leading 3D graphics interface. If your computer has a dedicated graphics card, it will attach to the motherboard via a slot, usually the AGP or Advanced Graphics Port, and will have its own RAM for data processing in addition to the computer system's RAM.
In budget systems, the graphics processors may be "integrated". This means that they use the computer system's RAM instead of their own, which leads to a loss in performance when playing games. However, it is usually possible to upgrade an integrated system with a dedicated card, if desired. However, if you only use your computer for word processing and the internet, this probably won't be necessary.
A sound card is a separate board that plugs into a slot on the motherboard, that enables the computer to output sounds to the speakers, and also enables you to record sounds to the hard drive.
Many systems have integrated sound, provided by audio processors built into the motherboard, that purport to emulate the Sound Blaster (the de facto stand in sound production). However, integrated sound uses more system resources and is of lower quality than the sound produced by a separate sound card.
If you would like to be able to access your computer from another computer anywhere in the world, then you need remote access software.
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