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What's on the Inside of your Computer?

The main piece of hardware inside your computer is the motherboard. Every device on your computer connects to the motherboard in some way, whether it be a hard drive, a sound card, or even a mouse. Below is a photograph of a typical motherboard (in this case, an Epox KHA+).

Item Number
(from photo)
Item Name Item Description Item Number
(from photo)
Item Name Item Description
1 External Ports These are the serial ports, PS/2 ports, etc... that you see on the outside of the computer. 2 CPU slot This holds the brains of your computer--the central processing unit. This chip executes every program you run on your computer, and allows those programs to live in harmony without destroying each other. Today, the two major processing manufacturers are Intel and AMD. Intel creates the Pentium and Celeron lines of processors, while AMD creates the Duron and Athlon line. These processors are rated in hertz. This value is how many times an internal clock "ticks" each second. It is when this clock "ticks" that your computer actually does work.
3 Controller Chip This chip is what allows all of the internal and external items plugged into your computer to operate in harmony. It controls which data is sent to what and when. 4 Memory Slots This is the volatile (primary) memory of your computer. Every time your computer is turned off, everything in this memory is lost. However, every program that is running on your computer is stored here. Every file that is currently opened on your computer is accessed through this memory. Memory is usually measure in MB, and common amounts include 256 MB and 512 MB, although most modem motherboards can support up to a full gigabyte, or more.
5 AGP Slot AGP slots are used for one thing and one thing only: video cards. AGP was a specification created by Intel to allow the video card to have direct access to the computer's primary memory, without it having to go through the computer's processor to load and store data. This allowed video cards to do more, and to do it faster. 6 PCI Slots PCI slots are used for every other internal peripheral on your computer. Your sound cards, tv tuner cards, cards to give you additional ports (such as Firewire) all go into these slots.
7 Floppy Drive Connector Up to two floppy drives may be connected to your computer through this connection 8 IDE Connectors Every internal drive (CD, DVD, Hard Drives) with the exception of floppy drives connect to your computer through these connectors. Most motherboards have two (a primary and a secondary). And each one can hold two drives (a master and a slave). So, far example, you can have a DVD drive, a CD-RW drive, and two hard drives, but no more. You, however, can add more of these too you system through cards that are inserted into the PCI slots.

You may be wondering what the computer looks like with all of these devices plugged into the motherboard. To answer this question, take a look at the photo below.

A computer with its case open


Created by: Russell O'Neill (roneill@gmu.edu)