Grace L's CSC231 2014 Page

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Grace Lee's Lab Report

On 10/7/14 (and again on 10/20), I took a PC apart in CSC 231. The instructions are available here.

The main objective of this lab was to examine the hardware of a PC by taking it apart and identifying the individual parts. Our goals were to disassemble the PC while taking photos of each of the parts we found and noting the part numbers and sizes of the various elements. The PC that we (Pratistha, Linh, and I) worked with was a Dell, model no. DHM, and was manufactured in 2004.


This is what our PC looked like prior to disassemblement (unfortunately we forgot to take a photo, so this is a picture of our PC after reassembling and closing the machine).

CSC231GJL pc.jpg

After removing the cover on the PC, we were able to see the motherboard, the RAM, the video card, the CD/DVD drive, the hard drives, the power supply, the cover for the cooling unit.

CSC231GJL opencover.jpg

The motherboard was attached to the right interior surface of the machine. It was quite large, taking up approximately 3/4 of the surface, and the only other component attached to this side was the power supply. A motherboard is a printed circuit board that contains many of a computer's essential components, such as the processor, the RAM, and the crystal, and allows these various components to communicate with each other. These components are connected by thin copper wires called traces (which are the lines that we see on the board) (source).

CSC231GJL motherboard.jpg

With much difficulty, we removed both the fan and the heat sink and found the processor attached to the bottom of the heat sink. It was an Intel Pentium 4 with a clock speed of 3 GHz. The CPU (Central Processing Unit) of a computer is the piece of hardware that "performs arithmetic/logical operations, extracts instructions from memory, and decodes/executes them" (source). This is the hardware element that contains the registers (eax, ebx, ecx, etc.) that we have worked with in this course. The CPU executes instructions from memory through a series of steps: fetch (retrieve program instructions from RAM with the help of the instruction pointer/program counter), decode (break up the instruction into opcode/operand), and execute (perform the operation). The clock rate of a CPU (which in our case was 3 GHz) determines the number of instructions that can be executed per second. (source)

CSC231GJL processor.jpg

The cooling system, as previously mentioned, consisted of the fan (Nidec BetaV) and the heat sink. It was located directly on top of the processor. The CPU of a computer works incredibly fast, generating a large amount of heat - necessitating a cooling system to cool the processor down and avoid damaging the hardware.

CSC231GJL cooling.jpg

The RAM was located on the motherboard, directly to the right of the fan/CPU (when looking down at the motherboard). Our PC contained 1024Gb of RAM, made by Infineon. Random Access Memory is named as such because the amount of time it takes to read and write the stored data is not dependent on its physical location; it can be "randomly accessed" (in contrast to direct access memory mediums such as hard disks and CDs). (source) The RAM is what stores all of the data elements that are allocated in the data sections of our assembly programs.

CSC231GJL ram.jpg

Our PC actually contained two hard disks. One was a Hitachi Deskstar with a capacity of 80Gb, and the other was a Maxtor D740X-6L with a capacity of 40Gb.

CSC231GJL harddisk.jpg

The crystal was located on the left hand side of the motherboard, below the processor. Our PC contained a 25 MHz Intel crystal. Its function is to help the processor "keep time".

CSC231GJL crystal.jpg

The battery, which was also located on the motherboard, powers the real-time clock (which allows the computer to keep track of the time while powered off) and stores the computer's BIOS (i.e. Basic Input/Output System, responsible for low-level system tasks) settings while the machine is not in use (source).

CSC231GJL battery.jpg

The CD player/burner in our PC was both a CD and DVD drive. It was located at the very front of the PC, above the hard disks.


Our PC's power supply was located at the very back of the PC (behind the CD/DVD drive), above the motherboard. It's maximum power output was 250 Watts.

CSC231GJL power.jpg

The cabling system is what supplied power to the various components of the PC.

CSC231GJL cables.jpg