Motherboards contain specific slots for RAM. The RAM needs to meet the motherboard specifications for speed, type, and size. Otherwise, the RAM won’t work in the system, and could potentially cause damage to the hardware. Make sure to look at your motherboard specifications before obtaining new RAM.
RAM is used to temporarily hold data that is being accessed on a computer. Running programs will use the processor, hard drive, and also RAM. If your computer doesn’t have a lot of RAM, you may notice it running slowly. The same may apply to having a bad stick of RAM in your system.
Laptops have smaller RAM chips than desktops. RAM meant for a laptop isn’t compatible in desktop systems, just like RAM meant for a desktop isn’t compatible for laptops.
All motherboards have a built in video chip. It offers basic graphics, but there may be some restrictions on screen resolution (depending on the chip).
Red and black video card with two built-in fans
Most computers can have an additional video card installed, which provides higher resolution and better graphics. Like RAM and processors, there are specific slots for video cards. Some video cards are physically longer than others, meaning it will need either a longer slot, or more room in the computer case. Checking the size specifications is important before making a decision.
Some video cards come with their own on-board memory, heatsink, or fan! The heatsink and fan provide additional cooling specifically for the video card.
Whether the video card is built into the motherboard, or you’ve added one on, it will have some sort of port for a monitor to plug into. Check out Having Multiple Monitors is Awesome for more information on the different ports.
Hard drives are where all of your data is stored. This is where the operating system lives, and where all of your programs are installed. Think of it as a filing cabinet.
Traditional hard disk drives (HDD) contain spinning disks and magnets. Magnetism holds data onto the platters. A newer type of drive is a Solid State Drive (SSD). Solid state drives use the same technology as USB thumb drives, but on a larger scale. SSDs used to be expensive, but as technology progresses, the price drops.
SSDs are faster than HDDs. Systems which boot their operating system off of an SSD boot in seconds compared to minutes on an HDD. Programs will also load quite a bit faster.
Most prebuilt systems will have a regular HDD. Most people who build their own computer prefer to boot off of an SSD and have an additional HDD for extra hard drive space. Computers can indeed hold multiple hard drives.
Power supply, not installed
The power supply will provide power to the internal components. The most common components that will hook up directly to the power supply are the motherboard, video card, optical drives, and hard drives. Some components plug into the motherboard itself and draw power through the motherboard; fans and case LEDs are some of them.
When choosing a power supply, you will need to calculate how much power all of the components are going to use. Prebuilt systems will come with a power supply that can support the system.
If you are building your own computer, check the minimum power requirements for your components. The video card usually requires the most power. You won’t want to get a power supply that only meets the requirement of just the video card, though.
While this list describes the internal components, there is always more to learn! If you have any questions about building your own computer, feel free to contact us at 907-868-7300