103a-ay PC Lab

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The Main Parts Inside A Computer, And How They Work


Hard Drive-This is the hard disk where the computer stores the most permanent information. Information stored in the hard drive can be brought up time after time, even if the computer has been turned off since storing it. It consists of a disk that spins very quickly and stores information in the form of tracks on the disk, similar to a CD or DVD. The tracks hold magnetic memory in the form of bits. These tracks are rewritable and they are read by the read-write head which moves very fast and can retrieve information from multiple sources at once. To keep from overheating and catching fire, the read-write head floats over the disk instead of actually touching it.


Floppy Disk Drive-Not usually included in new computers, the floppy drive is intended to read floppy disks, portable disks full of saved information. Floppy disks were used for over twenty years before being replaced with CD/DVD's and USB memory sticks.


CD/DVD Drive-This drive reads and writes CD-ROM's and DVD's. The disks are spun at a high speed so that they can be read. They are read by a small laser that points at the disk and can be reflected back or bounced away from the optical sensor. CD and DVD disks are full of small holes, called pits, which each hold one bit of memory. The pits are representative of the 0 and 1 in binary code, allowing for large amounts information to be stored on the disk in a relatively small space. CD/DVD drives are useful for installing software on a computer as well as playing music, movies, and games.


Fan-Computers have many moving parts that can build up heat quickly. By having a fan in the computer, outside air is circulated throughout the parts to keep it from overheating.


Motherboard-This is a large part of the computer and is made up of many different components. The motherboard transports power throughout the different parts and allows them to work together efficiently. Some of the parts included in the motherboard are the battery, the processor, memory cards, and sound and video cards. The motherboard also allows different systems of computer parts to connect in systems called buses. The most important role of the motherboard is allowing everything to connect to the processor. The components in the motherboard are connected through cables and wires.


Cables-In order for different parts of the computer to interact, they must communicate through cables. Inside the computer there are multiple cables which transport bits of data through the computer's components. Cables allow for the fast transportation of information through the small metal wires that they are made up of. The wires are encased in plastic and are attached to many other ones, creating a flat and flexible cable.


Memory Card-The memory card saves information pertinent to whatever programs the user is running. Unlike the hard drive, the memory card will not be able to hold memory once the computer has been turned off. Also, the memory card stores the computer's operating system, such as Windows, Linux, or Macintosh. Memory cards store memory that is called random access memory, or RAM. This memory is stored in the form of bytes, which are eight binary digits. Single binary digits (0 or 1) are called bits on their own. Large amounts of bytes are usually grouped into megabytes or gigabytes. Megabytes are 1 million bytes and gigabytes are 1 billion bytes.


Processor-The processor, or CPU, acts as a heart for the computer. The processor is what executes actions that the user has asked the computer to do. It consists of many transistors that allow for bits of information to be passed into and through the processor or ignored. The first processor was made by Intel, one of the current leaders in the production of processors. Since then, Intel has made newer and faster processors, the most recent of which is the Pentium 4. The speed of the computer is also controlled by the processor. The speed is measured in megahertz.


Lithium Ion Battery-The computer's battery is important because it keeps track of time. Even when the computer is turned off, the battery keeps an internal clock running.


Power Supply-The computer's power supply is important because it converts AC power from an outlet into DC power that the computer can use. Typically, the voltage of power in a household outlet is between 110V-120V, which is too high for a computer to use. There are usually four power connector wires (two black, one red, and one yellow) in the power supply, so that they can connect to different parts of the computer. The black wires are ground wires, the red wires are 5V, and the yellow wires are 12V. (photo from http://www.jestineyong.com)


Brain, Marshall. "How Microprocessors Work." 01 April 2000. HowStuffWorks.com. <http://computer.howstuffworks.com/microprocessor.htm> 07 October 2008.

Brown, Gary. "How Floppy Disk Drives Work." 26 February 2001. HowStuffWorks.com. <http://computer.howstuffworks.com/floppy-disk-drive.htm> 07 October 2008.

"Bus (Computing)." Wikipedia. 7 October 2008. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bus_(computing)>.

"CD-ROM." Wikipedia. 7 October 2008. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cd_drive>.

"Central Processing Unit." Wikipedia. 8 October 2008. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cpu>.

"Hard Disk Drive." Wikipedia. 8 October 2008. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_drive>.

"Motherboard." Wikipedia. 6 October 2008. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motherboard>.

"Power Supply Unit (Computer)." Wikipedia. 23 July 2008. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_power_supply>.

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Lab Report

Lab done on September 22, 2008

Dell Computer

Partner: Emily Huesman


Inside the computer before disassembly


Hard Drive


Floppy Disk Drive


CD/DVD Drive




The Motherboard (and components)




Memory Card




Lithium Ion Battery

Brief Description of Disassembly

After opening up the computer, we immediately started unscrewing any screws we could find so that we could pick up and examine the parts of the computer. After getting the second sheet that described what the different parts were based on their location, it was easier to identify exactly what we were looking at. We did have some trouble lifting up the lithium ion and with finding the processor, but ended up getting help from the volunteers. It was very interesting to pull apart the components of a computer, and it gave me a better understanding and appreciation for what makes a computer work. Also, seeing how the different parts were connected gave me a bit of insight about how the parts in a computer work together.