103b-ar PC Lab

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Taking Apart a Computer

By Signe on Monday, February 7, 2011

The Computer

Dell Optiplex 6X620

103b ar looking into computer.jpg

When the cover was removed, we saw the motherboard, the CD/DVD drive, the RAM, media card, power source, hard disk, and the heat sink, as well as wires.

The Processor

103b ar CPU1.jpg

The processor, or central processing unit (CPU), is the component of the computer that carries out instructions. When we first opened the computer, the processor was hidden underneath the heat sink, attached to the motherboard near the middle of the tower. We discovered that the CPU was covered in thermal glue, which works in conjunction with the heat sink to cool the "brain" of the computer. Our CPU was an Intel '04 Pentium 4 processor.

103b ar CPUcloseup.jpg


The Memory

103b ar RAM Module.jpg

The RAM, or random-access memory, is a temporary storage device that holds information until a computer is turned off, when the information is stored in the hard disk (see below). The RAM modules plug into the motherboard, underneath the power source and above the CPU, around the center top of the tower. Each of the two Samsung RAM modules has 512 megabytes of memory, for a total of a little over a gigabyte. The RAM cards were surprisingly easy to pull out; surprising because I expected them to be steadfastly wired in place, and screwed down like many of the components of the motherboard. I liked the RAM in particular, and took a stick of RAM as a souvenir.


The Power Supply

103b ar power supply.jpg

The Power Supply was located at the very top right of the tower, and could output 305 Watts. As its name makes explicit, the power supply provides electricity for the computer, which travels through an intricate system of wires (note the two horizontal lines in the photo beneath the power supply; these are the slots for the RAM). The power supply looked relatively immovable, and so we did not even attempt to take it apart.


The Hard Disk

103b ar hard disk in cover.jpg

The Hard disk, shown above in its light blue protective gear, was located on the bottom left of the tower. It holds 250.0 Gigabytes of data, and therefore holds 250 times more than the RAM does. Inside the hard disk is a shiny disk with arms like a record player, shown below, which works using magnetic recording techniques.The blue protective gear made it easy to take out of the computer, as it snapped in and out of its slot, but opening the hard disk to see the insides was far more difficult. With help, we discovered the hidden screw that prevents people from messing with their hard disk and voiding the warranty.

103b ar hard disk open.jpg


Media and DVD drives

103b ar dvd.jpg

The CD/DVD drive was located in the front of the tower, at the top left from the view into the computer (side/back view shown above). It, too, looked immovable, and so we did not try to dissect its inner workings. The Media drive, shown below, connected to the back of the computer, and had slots for input and output connections. The media drive was difficult to get out and put in, until we were shown a trick maneuver that made it much simpler.

103b ar media.jpg


The Motherboard

103b ar motherboard.jpg


Looking into the opened computer, the motherboard is against the "back." The last thing to be taken apart from the computer, the motherboard was very securely fastened to the tower, and we had a lot of trouble while trying to pull it up. The lines on the motherboard look like streets in a city; they are actually like very small wires communicating between components of the computer. The motherboard houses a coin-sized battery used to keep track of the clock when the computer is turned off, and a crystal that ticks to the CPU. More ticks per second means more data is processed in the CPU.

Reassembly

My partner, Julianne (right), and I (left) reassembled the computer.

103b ar reassembled.jpg

Fin.