CSC231 2010 Aigerim

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Overview

The goal of the lab was to get acquainted with the physical components of computer hardware. In the process of taking apart a PC case we were able to see how the components are placed and connected. Examining each part separately allowed us to see its structure, and determine its functions. We compared the components of the lab item with the ones from earlier generations of computers; this allowed us to note the scope of technological advancement in hardware production.

Computer Components

CPU

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The central processing unit, or the processor, is the part of a computer that does all the computational work and executes the instructions of the computer programs. The processor is situated on the motherboard; in the system we observed it was placed on a special socket.


The processor dissipates heat while working - the Pentium 4 2.8 GHz (which I assumed to be the one we observed) has 68.4 W typical thermal power and 85 W maximum thermal power [1]. Thus, a small fan and a heat sink are installed directly on top of it for spot cooling.

RAM

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Random-access memory is a form of computer storage. It allows any piece of stored information to be accessed at a constant time regardless of its physical location.


RAMs are placed in special slots on the motherboard, so that they can be easily replaced. The model we took apart had two 512 MB memory cards in two slots.

Hard disk drive

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Hard disk is a system for data storage. It is essentially a metal case with a reading/writing mechanism, which consists of a rotating rigid platter, a motor-driven spindle, and several read/write heads.


Hard disk was placed at the front part of the computer case, and was connected to the motherboard with several cords. It probably had a capacity of 120 GB.

Motherboard

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A motherboard is a central board in a computer that holds many of the important parts of the system, while providing connection to other mechanisms.

The motherboard has:

  • several slots and sockets to hold the microprocessor, memory chips;
  • a chipset to provide communication between the processor and main memory;
  • non-volatile memory (HDD) chips;
  • a clock generator and a battery, which produce the system clock signal;
  • power connectors.

Power supply unit

A power supply unit is the component that supplies power to other parts of the computer. It converts general-purpose alternating current (AC) electric power from the mains (110V) to usable voltage direct current power (12V).

PSU of a regular use computer generates on average around 300-350 W of power.

Optical disk drive

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An optical disk drive is a disk drive that uses light or electromagnetic waves to read/write data to and from optical disks (DVD, CD, etc.). It is located in the front part of the computer case, stacked along with the floppy disk drive.

Floppy disk drive

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The computer we took apart had a floppy disk drive - a device for reading/writing data to and from floppy disks (3.5 inch). It is considered to be a legacy computer equipment.

Sound card

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A sound card is a special extension card that is responsible for audio output. It is attached to the motherboard, and has a variety of jacks for various input/output devices, such as headphones and microphones.

Video card

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A video card is an extension card that generates output images to a display. The card is integrated on the motherboard, and has a separate cooling mechanism, as it dissipates a lot of energy.

Network card

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A network card (also called network interface controller) is a device that allows a computer to access a network and handles the interface to that network. It has a chip with a unique number (MAC address) which uniquely identifies the computer on the network.