Updated: Dec 14, 2021
In light of the pandemic, a growing number of people are buying computers (also known as PCs) to perform various tasks, ranging from work to school to gaming. In order to be able to execute a wide variety of things, PCs need to have many different components that work together seamlessly to provide a great experience for the consumer. So, what exactly makes a PC tick?
A PC cannot exist without its motherboard. The motherboard is the focal point of a PC and connects all of the other parts together. It is also called the mainboard or the logic board. Tiny wires from other PC components connect at the motherboard where they go through a series of complicated circuits that direct signals to certain areas. Oftentimes, when you are building a PC from scratch rather than a premade one, you must choose the motherboard carefully since not all of them work with every part.
Another important part of a PC is the CPU. The CPU (central processing unit) controls all of the operations and computations that the PC performs. Intel and AMD rule the CPU market, but other manufacturers of CPUs can be found as well. CPUs come in 32-bit and 64-bit architecture, with 64-bit being newer and faster but 32-bit being cheaper. Some of the top-level CPUs include the latest Core i9 and Ryzen 9 generations, which are powerful but expensive!
The GPU (graphics processing unit) is another important part of a PC, especially for people who play video games. The GPU controls the graphics rendering of the CPU, which means that a higher-end version can decrease loading times and produce a better quality image or video. Due to their prowess with image and video rendering, they are now also being prioritized by content creators, video/movie producers, and even AI and machine learning engineers. NVIDIA and AMD are the prime producers of GPUs today, with NVIDIA’s RTX 3000 series and AMD’s RX 6000 series being the cream of the crop. NVIDIA also offers a Quadro graphics card which is specifically optimized for content creation and design. However, it is important for potential buyers to note that all of these graphics cards are selling for multiple times their retail price due to the ongoing chip shortage as of August 2021. Therefore, it may be wise to wait for prices to go down before purchasing a GPU.
There are two different types of storage needed for your PC. RAM (random access memory) is used for recalling information on a short-term basis. More RAM will allow your computer to run faster as it can keep more applications loaded at once. However, a lot of RAM may not be a significant improvement for its price. The other type of storage is standard storage often stored in the form of drives. An HDD, or hard disk drive for short, is one of the original (and more primitive) types of drives: a magnetic coating on the hard disk stores the data, and a “read/write head on an arm accesses the data” (Brant, 2020). An SSD, on the other hand, is newer and faster. It performs the same general functions, but uses flash chips (known as NAND) to store the data. This is similar technology to that of a flash drive, but on a larger scale and thus more expensive. SSD and HDD choices can be more varied than the other parts, so price and capacity can play a large role in choosing what’s best.
In order to build a proper PC, there are multiple other parts that are less known but still essential for the overall functionality of the computer. One of these parts is the power supply. The power supply is what takes in electricity from a wall socket and provides energy to the rest of the PC. Because all of the complex electronics inside the PC will be working double-time for your creative endeavors, they will inevitably reach incredibly high temperatures and will not be able to perform as efficiently as before. Therefore, cooling systems are necessary to cool down your CPU and GPU while performing an intense task. Of course, to enclose all of the PC parts, a case will be necessary. Some cases are modern and minimalistic, whereas others are more focused towards gamers with over-the-top RGB lights and aggressive styling. There are also other important PC parts that don’t go inside the computer itself but go outside—these are called peripherals. Some peripherals include a monitor, a keyboard and mouse, speakers, and even a printer if needed. When a PC is being custom-made, it will not have an operating system built-in like a premade computer, so you will have to purchase and upload Windows 10 or another OS to the computer through a flash drive.
In conclusion, a PC includes many different parts that work simultaneously to provide an excellent experience for the user. A PC is customizable to your needs and budget, which is what enthralls so many about building them.
Do you like building PCs? Then BUILD your STEM portfolio with our wide range of STEME events coming up!