The motherboard or main board is the central circuit board of the entire computer. All other board and computer components connect into the motherboard, hence it’s name. The motherboard is the most important piece of hardware in your computer, not that other parts aren’t important, but rather your motherboard should be high quality if you’re building your own computer and it needs to be ready to handle any future upgrades. This is an advantage when building your own computer.
When you buy a pre-built unit from the store you can’t really control the quality of the motherboard, you just hope the manufacture is shipping packages of quality parts. If your motherboard is more on the low-end, you might end up buying an awesome video card for gaming only to find out your motherboard isn’t built to gaming standards or the card you purchased.
The processor or CPU (Central Processing Unit) is the brains of the computer. For the most part it is the chip that all processing goes through. The CPU is also a very delicate part of the computer and you should not remove it unless you know what you are doing. Damaging one of the hundreds of pins on the chip can destroy the CPU permanently. The faster your CPU the faster your computer can process data.
CPU’s have two important factors, speed or frequency and cores. Frequency is the speed of the CPU. Think of it as the speed limit on a highway… the higher the limit the faster it can go. Cores can be thought of as lanes of a highway, if a CPU has 4 cores think of it as a 4 lane highway, it can do more things at once. Both of these are important.
RAM or Memory is the component on your computer that temporarily stores information that you are working on. When you load a program or open anything on your computer it is stored in the RAM until you close it. RAM can be a quick and affordable upgrade to your computer. More RAM means more space for your computer to run more programs, if your RAM fills up, your computer is forced to put information back onto the hard drive’s virtual memory which makes it slower.
If your computer has less than 2GB of RAM you should upgrade right away. If you’re doing gaming, working on an ecommerce solution or multi-tasking you should have 4-8GB of RAM and if you are doing high-end gaming or video editing 16GB would probably be helpful.
Hard Drive (Storage)
Hard Drive Storage is where all of your files and folders are stored. When you save or install something it goes onto your hard drive. Most hard drives are magnetic type storage devices and use disk platters to store information as this type of storage is affordable and most commonly found in a computer. However new types of storage called SSD or Solid State Drive is becoming more popular with those wanting faster performance. A SSD can run 10 times faster than a standard magnetic drive. This reduces the time it takes to load a program and for your computer to start up.
Many people believe that if you have a lot of stuff on your hard drive that your computer will slow down, this is not entirely true. Your hard drive is made to store lots of information up to it’s capacity. You can easily see how much space you are using by clicking Start > Computer or My Computer > right click on a drive under Hard Disk Drives and click Properties. There are 3 ways a full hard drive could slow down your computer.
First you need to defrag your hard drive once a week, if you use Windows 7 or higher it should be done automatically. If you use Windows XP then you would need to run it manually or schedule it weekly. To open Disk Defrag go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defrag. Second, if your hard drive is old it can begin to weaken and slow down slightly and Third, if your drive is completely full you could encounter slow downs as the drive will lack space being used by the Operating System. Windows 7 will alert you of this by showing a red bar under the drive.
The Video card is very importance depending on what you are doing. It is the device that processes all the graphics on your computer. Most computers will use on-board video graphics which share the computer’s CPU and RAM to process graphics. This is fine for normal everyday use and you’ll probably not even notice any issues. However, if you intend on doing gaming or video editing you may want to look into getting an add-on Video Card to give dedicated power and performance to graphics, especially when it comes to 3D graphics.
Last but certainly not least is the power supply. The power supply does exactly what the name implies… supplies power. It coverts the voltage from a power outlet into usable 12V power for your computer components. When building your own computer be sure not to buy the cheapest power supply, you should look for something that is 80 PLUS certified. This ensures that your computer components will get clean and safe power, which will help computer function and avoid damage to components.