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Unit 2 – Computer Internals

Items In This Unit


  • Motherboard
  • CPU / Processor
  • ROM
  • RAM
  • Hard Drives
  • CD/DVD/Blue-ray Drives
  • Network Interface Card
  • Sound Card
  • Video Card
  • Power supply
  • Assignment


The Motherboard

  • A motherboard (or mainboard) is the main printed circuit board found in computers which connects all of the computer components together.
  • It holds, and allows communication between CPU, memory, hard drive, video card etc. while providing connectors for other peripherals.
  • A motherboard can come in different shapes and sizes (e.g. ATX, Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX).


The Central Processing Unit (CPU) / Processor

  • CPU stands for Central Processing Unit
  • CPUs are typically referred to as processors
  • A modern CPU is made up of billions of transistors that can contain multiple processor cores.
  • A processor core is an individual processor within a CPU.
  • A multi-core CPU is like having multiple processors which can run more tasks at once.
  • Leading CPU makers include Intel, AMD, ARM etc.


CPU Processor Bits

  • Think of bits as highway lanes. The more bits there are the more highway lanes, the more cars can pass at the same time (e.g. the more information can flow at the same time)
  • CPU bits also signify the maximum memory RAM size that a CPU can work with and refer to
  • The 32-bit processor works with data units that are 32 bits wide
  • The 64-bit processor works with data units that are 64 bits wide
  • There is no CPU/processor that is 128 bit in existence for practical and cost reasons (e.g. there is no need for it, at least not yet)


ROM, Read Only Memory

  • In the 80s ROM was used to store BASIC programming language interpreters and operating systems.
  • In newer computers, ROM (or FLASH) was used to store firmware code for the main processor, video cards, keyboards, as well as BIOS software which handles the computer bootup process.
  • The idea of ROM was to store data that was not expected to change for the life of the computer
  • Information stored on a ROM does NOT get erased when the computer is turned off.


RAM, Random Access Memory

  • Thinks of RAM as your working memory
  • RAM memory is used as a computer workspace for frequently accessed information such as program code.
  • Any byte of memory can be accessed randomly without touching the preceding bytes hence the name “random”.
  • RAM chip makers include Kingston, Samsung, SK Hynix, Micron, etc.
  • More RAM memory makes your computer run smooth and fast
  • Information stored on RAM is temporary as it gets erased when the computer is turned off.


Hard Drives / Hard Disks

  • The hard drive is a permanent storage device
  • Information stored on a hard drive is accessible between computer reboots
  • Hard drives are still used today but more and more people have started using their newer counterparts solid-state drives (SSDs)
  • The largest hard drives can store terabytes of data
  • Hard drives store your files as well as operating system files (e.g. Windows, Mac OSX, Linux etc..)


CD/DVD/Blue-ray Drives

  • CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs are common types of optical media that can be read and recorded by such drives.

  • The advantage of CDs, DVDs, and Blue-ray disks is in their portability and low cost
  • All 3 types suffer in one big way, they can easily be scratched which makes them unusable.

Network Interface Card (NIC)

  • A computer network interface card allows your computer to connect to your home or work router, and internet

  • Network interfaces can be wired or wireless
  • Network Interface can be built into the motherboard for the onboard LAN and WIFI functionality
  • With each new generation of NICs, the network transmission speeds keep growing
  • While WIFI technology has significantly improved over the years, it is still not as reliable or as fast as wired network connections


Sound Card

  • A sound card is an internal expansion card (or a built in integrated circuit) for producing sound on a computer
  • Sounds cards were not common on IBM compatible PCs until 1988
  • IBM compatible PCs utilized the internal PC speaker which made PC compatible computers a very poor choice for aspiring music creators
  • Apple and Commodore computers had an early lead when it comes to computer music and sound creations
  • Sound cards are frequently built into the motherboard


Video Card

  • A video card or display adapter is an expansion card that connects to a computer motherboard.
  • Video cards create a picture on a display monitor or TV
  • Piece of hardware inside a computer that processes images and video, some of the tasks normally handled by the CPU.
  • Video cards are mostly used by gamers and architects in place of integrated graphics due to their extra processing power and video ram
  • Low-end video cards often come built-in to the motherboard

Power Supply

  • Every computer comes with a power supply that provides power to the motherboard and all of the attached internal components
  • The power supply converts the AC power to DC before providing the DC power to the motherboard, attached expansion slots, USB attached devices, mouse and keyboard.
  • Power supplies come with various power ratings to accommodate the various computer needs (e.g. some computers have power-hungry internal peripherals such as the latest CPUs, fancy gaming video cards etc.)

Assignment: Identify parts on a motherboard


Previous Unit 1 – Brief History of Computers
Next Unit 3 – External Hardware Peripherals

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