103b-aj PC Lab

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Kate Zdepski's PC Lab

Beginning the Lab

  • On Monday, February 7th 2011 everyone in CSC103 disassembled a PC!
  • Here is a picture of my team:
Pam (left), Kate (right)
  • We took apart a Dell Optiplex GX620
  • When we removed the cover, we could see most of the components - the power supply, wires, CD/DVD drive, the heatsink, the fan, the motherboard, and the hard disk.
Tower with side removed

The Components

The Power Supply

  • The power supply was located in the top right corner of the tower; it could output 305 watts.
Power Supply
  • The cables connect the power supply to the other components.
Cables, cables everywhere!
Close-up of a disconnected cable

CD/DVD Drive

  • This PC had a DVD drive at the top left of the tower. We didn't take it out, but here's how it looks from the inside:
DVD Drive

Heatsink and Fan

  • To get to the processor, we had to first remove the heatsink. This was one of the more difficult parts of the lab, because it was held by both screws and hooks. After taking this piece out, we could also see the fan.


  • The processor was an Intel Pentium 4, located on the motherboard under a heatsink.
It's so tiny!


  • The RAM was also attached to the motherboard, next to the heatsink. This PC had two sticks of RAM, with 512 megabytes each. They were made by Samsung.

Graphics Card

  • We took out the graphics card; to do this, we had to open a small flap on the side of the tower. I thought this was kind of cool, and took a picture through the flap after the graphics card was removed.
Graphics Card
Motherboard, where the graphics card was connected

The Motherboard

  • The motherboard is located below the power supply, and behind most of the other components. It spans most of the tower, and every other component is attached to it in some way. The lines are circuits -- buses -- that allow the motherboard to communicate with its components.
Pam holding the motherboard - front
Pam holding the motherboard - back
  • On the motherboard is a crystal, which constantly ticks to the processor -- at every tick, a step computation occurs. So the faster it is able to tick the faster the computer can run!
  • There is a small battery on the motherboard which keeps the date, time, and computer settings in place while the computer is turned off. It is the first to function when the computer is turned on.

The Hard Disk

  • The hard disk was located in the lower left corner of the tower, held in by a blue plastic frame. According to the sticker, it holds 250 gigabytes of data. It was easy to pull the hard disk out of the tower, but a bit tricky to open it up. The screws were different than those on other parts of the pc, and one was hidden under the sticker.
The hard disk, just after being removed
Back of the hard disk
  • Inside the hard disk are the actual disks (three of them) and an arm holding the read/write head. In this picture, it has been out of the case for less than a minute but dust and fingerprints are already visibly accumulating on it.
Platters and read/write head, inside the hard disk

Wrap Up

Then we put it all back together!

Re-assembled PC tower

I had a lot of fun with this lab. I was surprised at how easily the pieces came apart. It makes sense for them to have been designed that way, but that wasn't something I had thought about before going into the lab. I was also struck by how few parts there really are -- how simultaneously simple and complex the computer is. It was great to get an idea of what the components I've seen referred to in computer specs actually look like.