Did you know that building a computer really is like Legos? It’s true! Modern PCs are made of off-the-shelf parts that snap together effortlessly. It’s easy to upgrade your computer, buying only the parts you need, and save money. You can even build a computer for a friend or family member from parts you may have laying around in an older machine!
While this is meant to be a very basic overview of what you can expect to find inside a desktop PC, hopefully it will remove some of the mystery, and make the idea of building or repairing a PC less daunting. There are plenty of more detailed articles out there if you’d like to take the next step and learn more!
Here are the basic parts in a PC:
- Power Supply Unit (or “PSU”)
- Processor (or “CPU”)
- Hard disk drive (where your files are stored)
- RAM (also known as “memory”)
- DVD/CD drive
- Video/graphics card (optional, as many motherboards have on-board video)
- Case cooling fan
This is the empty case, with only the PSU and fan installed. The loose cables are power connectors, and the connections for the case’s power and reset buttons. The connectors are nearly all unique, making it difficult to plug something into the wrong place.
This is the processor, essentially the brain of the PC. It plugs into the motherboard, and a cooling fan is included that snaps on top.
This is the motherboard, with the CPU placed in its socket. The metal latch is then closed to hold it in place.
This is the motherboard, with the fan snapped on over the processor. Notice the many connections? Motherboard manuals are surprisingly easy to read, and very detailed, with diagrams to explain where every connector goes.
The motherboard is now screwed inside the case. Between the motherboard and the metal case are small screw-in inserts called “risers”. They keep the motherboard from touching the metal case, so essentially the motherboard stands on very short stilts.
This is the hard drive. It has two connectors on the bottom edge, one for data and one for power.
The hard drive, installed in its bay and connected. Above it, in the larger bay is the DVD drive (not shown). It is connected in the same fashion.
These wires are the connectors for the case power switch and power light. Notice the friendly sticker, as well as the labeled connectors on the board (above the sticker) that it references.
This is the RAM. The amount of RAM you have affects how quickly some programs, like Photoshop, open. Note: If you’re planning on installing Windows XP, the most ram it can use is 4 gigabytes, so there’s no need to buy larger (more expensive) RAM.
This is the RAM installed on the motherboard. Notice the thumb releases. This allows you to easily pop out the existing RAM in the event you decide to upgrade it.
This is the last piece of the puzzle, the video card. As I mentioned previously, many motherboards allow you to skip this step, letting you to plug your monitor directly into the motherboard’s rear output. Look for the term “on-board graphics” when shopping for a motherboard and processor.
Here’s the finished product (as seen at the top), with video card installed, ready to be be started up!
As you can see, once you have an idea where everything goes, building a PC isn’t really that complicated! Want to learn more about how computers work? Check out Computer and Internet Basics on DE streaming!