Computers have quite a few different parts inside. Most computers are bought as a whole, but there are plenty of people who choose their parts and build their own computer from scratch. Here is a rundown of some of the the things you need to keep in mind when buying a computer or building one yourself.
Central Processing Unit (CPU) or Processor
CPU socket on a motherboard
The CPU is the piece of hardware responsible for doing everything. It is what processes all of your commands and runs programs. There are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when choosing a processor.
Processors have “cores”. The more cores a processor has, the more tasks it can handle at once. The most common are dual-core and quad-core. Hyperthreading is a feature of Intel processors; this allows each core to perform more than one task at once.
You’ll see the clock speed of the processor listed in GHz (gigahertz). A 2.6 GHz processor will have 2.6 billion ticks. The higher the GHz, the more ticks per second it has. Each tick means the processor has a chance to work the amount of bits equal to its capacity. Processors are either 32-bit or 64-bit; 32-bit processors can work on 32 bits at a time, while 64-bit processors can work on 64 bits at a time.
When building a computer, the processor is one of the main parts you want to build everything around. The processor sits in a specialized socket on the motherboard. This socket isn’t the same for all processors, so it is possible to buy a processor and motherboard that won’t work together. Once you find out what processor you want, you can start looking for a motherboard.
Motherboard with fan for the processor
The motherboard is the piece of hardware that connects all of the other components. As stated above, there is a socket for the processor. There are generally 2 to 4 slots for RAM.
Motherboards come in different form factors (shape and size). The most common form factors are Mini-ITX, DTX, Flex-ATX, MicroATX, and ATX (listed smallest to largest). Each is a different size and will need a computer case designed for the form factor.
The computer case is the shell in which all of the parts are installed. Some cases are decked out with LEDs and clear side panels. Some cases are plain Janes. The fancier the case, the pricier it is. Cases may or may not include the case fans. Sometimes cases even have their own USB ports on the front panel or on top. You can never have too many USB ports!
Now that you’ve picked out the processor and motherboard, it’s time to pick out a case. Cases are built to fit a motherboard form factor. Some cases may have the ability to hold different sizes of motherboards. Make sure you choose a case that is meant to hold yours.
Next week, we will be posting the rest of this list! Still to come: RAM, Video Cards, Hard Drives, and Power Supplies!