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Desktop Computer Basics

2 min read

When buying a computer it helps to know some basic information about components and processes. Hopefully these explanations will give you a better understanding of how a computer functions, and enable you to ask the salesman some productive questions.


The CPU or central processing unit, basically the CPU interprets instructions and processes data generated by computer programs. The CPU is often seen as the ‘brain’ of the computer. The central processing unit controls other components.


The motherboard is often referred to as the mainboard, system board or mobo. The motherboard is the primary circuit board, Most components (CPU, Memory, Graphics cards, Sound cards, Hard drives, Optical devices, Network cards etc..) are attached to the motherboard. Either by cables or by plugging directly into the motherboard slots. Mainboards come in a range of sizes, or factor forms, however the most common is ATX.


RAM or Random Access Memory describes storage formats and equipment that allow data to be accessed in any order (random), not just sequence. RAM can be thought of as the ‘working space’ of your computer. Typically memory is cleared when the computer is shut down or reset.

Hard Drive

Hard drives allow the storage of data on the computer. They are generally found in two formats IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) or SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment). Hard Drives utilise magnetism to read and write data. A hard disk uses rotating ‘platters’ or disks which are made up of millions of ‘bits’. These ‘bits’ can be aligned in two directions, one direction is assigned ‘0’ the other ‘1’. Data is stored in binary code by exerting a magnetic force on each bit, causing it to align in the desired value.

Graphics Card

The Graphics card or Video card provides, as the name suggests, the video output from your computer. Some cheaper motherboards, referred to as “All-in-One” Motherboards have onboard graphics. However these are very low end graphics solutions, and will only be useful for those not wishing to do anything but basic word processing, internet browsing and work. For those that use their computer to play games a separate video card is a must.

Sound Card

Sound cards provide the audio output for your computer. Nearly all motherboards come with an onboard sound module these days, which for most people will be more than sufficient. However separate sound cards can be purchased for those seeking higher quality, more feature rich audio.

Optical Drives

Optical drives (DVD/CD readers and writers) are similar to standard CD or DVD players. They utilise the same technology to perform the same tasks as the conventional devices, only made to function in computers.

Hopefully this has given you an insight into the modern desktop computer, and will help you when making a purchase. For more information regarding saving money when purchasing a desktop computer visit [].

Dave Stewart

All content in this article is for informational purposes only and in no way serves as investment advice. Investing in cryptocurrencies, commodities and stocks is very risky and can lead to capital losses.

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