Joanna W's CSC231 2014 Page

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Joanna's Lab Report

On 10/7/14 I took a PC apart. The lab instructions are available here


October 7, 2014 In this lab we are taking apart a PC to look at how the inside is designed and organized. We are using this opportunity to look at the physical devices that we rely on when we use the computer, eg. where the memory is stored, how data travels and gets processed and how instructions are executed, and what devices actually do the processing and execution. Steps taken and discoveries

  • The case of the computer before we open it up:
  • The inside of the case:
  • The make of this computer is Dell and the model number is OPTIPLEX GX620
  • The parts visible after removing the cover include:
    • The cooling system
    • The CD-Rom drive
    • The Motherboard
    • The power-supply
    • The RAM
  • The processor was under the cooling system. The model number is INTEL PENTIUM D. It is the central processing unit, CPU, in the computer. The CPU processes digital information and executes application instructions. It has data going in and out of it to the RAM and from computer memory.

  • The RAM was on the Motherboard. The computer had two RAM, 1GB each for a total of 2GB. The company hynix made them. The RAM contains readily accessible memory to the processor. Anything that might be needed in the near future gets stored in the RAM so the processor does not have to fetch data from the hard drive which takes a significantly longer time to do than getting data from the RAM.

  • The Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) drive was in the corner of the computer across from the power supple. It can work as a CD and a DVD drive as well as a CD-R drive. This can read data on CD's and DVD's and it can also write information onto a CD. The data that can be read from or written on a CD include audio, text, and image files.

  • The power supply is also in a corner of the computer across from the DVD drive. The maximum power is 280W. This provides power to any parts inside the computer. The power cable that we connect to an outlet leads to this system which distributes energy throughout the machine.
  • These data cables transfer data from some part of the machine to its motherboard. The motherboard then processes the information and sends some execution to another part of the machine.
  • The hard disk was under the DVD drive. It holds 250 GB of data. The hard disk drive can store digital information including the computer's operating data and operating system. Hard drives are used to store large amounts of data and retains all the data even when the power is off. When the machine is first turned on, the hard drive is accessed for the operating system then depending on what task the computer is doing, memory space of the RAM will start to be used.
  • Inside the hard disk drive there are platters where data is read from and written on and the actuator that reads and writes the data on the platters as they spin.
  • 10-12) The motherboard is underneath all the other devices and is like the base or floor that the machine is built upon. The motherboard connects all the devices together and any data flowing from one part of the machine to another goes through and is processed by the motherboard.

The crystal is on the motherboard close to where the microprocessor is placed. It oscillates at a speed determined by its shape and size. The speed of the oscillations determines the speed at which the computer can execute instructions. It is also used by the machine as a real time clock to keep track of time. The small round battery on the motherboard is used to power the clock even when the entire machine is powered off. This is how the computer keeps track of the real date and time so you do not have to re-set it every time you turn your computer on and off.


This is the speaker of the computer. Whatever audio data would get processed by the motherboard and get sent to the speaker where actual sounds are emitted.