103b ae 2012

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CSC103 PC Demolition Lab

On February 13th, 2012, for our Computer Science Class, my friend and I ("Demolition Partners," as my friend eloquently put it) took apart a Dell (model X1023533) computer, exploring all the parts and determining the function of each piece inside. However, we were only one pairing out of many delving deep into the innards of PCs. You may peruse the other groups discoveries here.

Quite arguably, our findings in particular were rather magnificent. This is our story.

103b-ae jedwards and mandy.jpg

First Impressions

103b-ae pc initial.jpg

My Demolition Partner had the pleasure of removing the computer's cover to revealing all its glory. After a brief glance, we determined that these parts were visible to the eye:

  1. the fan for the microprocessor
  2. the power supply unit
  3. the random access memory (RAM)
  4. the disk drive
  5. the hard drive
  6. various cables

Microprocessor (Central Processing Unit or CPU)

103b-ae processor.jpg

The microprocessor of this PC was located underneath the fan on the motherboard. Its brand was Intel (Pentium 3) and its make was SL6WJ. This particular microprocessor was capable of moving at speeds up to 2.80 GHz/512/800.

According to Tech Terms, “this little chip is the heart of a computer. Also referred to as the "microprocessor," the processor does all the computations such as:

  • adding
  • subtracting
  • multiplying
  • dividing

The speed of a computer's processor is measured in megahertz, or cycles per second.” (in Tech Terms. Retrieved Feb. 21 2012, from http://www.techterms.com/definition/processor).

Power Supply Unit (PSU)

103b-ae power supply.jpg

The power supply unit took up half the space of the bottom half of the PC. It laid to right of the motherboard. Its maximum output was 210 watts. If using 5 or 3.3 volts, its output should not exceed 108 watts.

According to Tech Terms, “a power supply is a hardware component that supplies power to an electrical device. It receives power from an electrical outlet and converts the current from AC (alternating current) to DC (direct current), which is what the computer requires. It also regulates the voltage to an adequate amount, which allows the computer to run smoothly without overheating. The power supply an integral part of any computer and must function correctly for the rest of the components to work.” (in Tech Terms. Retrieve Feb. 21 2012, from http://www.techterms.com/definition/powersupply).

Hard Disk or Hard Drive

103b-ae hard disk.jpg

The hard disk for the PC was located to the right of the disk drive and could hold up to 40 Gigabytes of data.

According to Tech Terms, “the hard drive is what stores all your data. It houses the hard disk, where all your files and folders are physically located. A typical hard drive is only slightly larger than your hand, yet can hold over 100 GB of data. The data is stored on a stack of disks that are mounted inside a solid encasement. These disks spin extremely fast (typically at either 5400 or 7200 RPM) so that data can be accessed immediately from anywhere on the drive. The data is stored on the hard drive magnetically, so it stays on the drive even after the power supply is turned off.” (in Tech Terms. Retrieved Feb. 21 2012, from http://www.techterms.com/definition/harddrive).

Once we opened the hard disk, we discovered two magnets inside, a head/writer piece, and the actual drive. Below is what the inside looks like.

103b-ae hard disk 4.jpg

IDE Cables

103b-ae IDE.jpg

The IDE cables connected important PC parts (such as the disk drive and the hard drive) to the motherboard. These cables allowed for the different parts to communicate with one another.

According to Kids Online, “IDE stands for Integrated Device, (or Drive), Electronics. EIDE is a later standard of IDE. It stands for Enhanced Integrated Device, (or Drive), Electronics. EIDE is three to four times faster than the older IDE standard… Using jumpers that are normally located on the back of a drive, the top drive should be made the "master" and the bottom drive should be made the "slave." The master drive is the primary drive. It is normally located at the end of a two connection IDE cable. The slave, or secondary drive, is connected to the IDE cable between the master drive and the motherboard IDE connection. Since data can not go to and from each drive at the same time, it is necessary to make one drive the master and the other drive the slave.” (in Kids Online. Retrieved Feb. 21 2012, from http://www.kids-online.net/learn/click/details/idecable.html).

Disk Drive

103b-ae disk drive.jpg

The disk drive was located on the left side of the hood of the PC. It was capable of playing both CDs and DVDs.

According to Tech Terms, “a disk drive is a device that reads and/or writes data to a disk. Each drive operates by spinning a disk and reading data from it using a small component called a drive head. Hard drives and removable disk drives use a magnetic head…” (in Tech Terms. Retrieved Feb. 21 2012, from http://www.techterms.com/definition/diskdrive).


103b-ae motherboard.jpg

The motherboard took up the bottom half of the PC cover; it sat to the left of the power supply unit. The lines on the board were chipsets, which "[describe] the architecture of an integrated circuit. This includes the layout of the circuitry, the components used within the circuit, and the functionality of the circuit board." (in Tech Terms. Retrieved Feb. 21 2012, from http://www.techterms.com/definition/chipset).

According to Tech Terms, “the motherboard is the main circuit board of your computer and is also known as the mainboard or logic board. If you ever open your computer, the biggest piece of silicon you see is the motherboard. Attached to the motherboard, you'll find the CPU, ROM, memory RAM expansion slots, PCI slots, and USB ports. It also includes controllers for devices like the hard drive, DVD drive, keyboard, and mouse. Basically, the motherboard is what makes everything in your computer work together.” (in Tech Terms. Retrieved Feb. 21 2012, from http://www.techterms.com/definition/motherboard).

Random Access Memory (RAM)

103b-ae RAM.jpg

My Demolition Partner and I found two sticks of RAM in the PC, located on the motherboard between the microprocessor and power supply unit. The two sticks were capable of holding 512 MB put together, and the company that made them was Mt.

According to Tech Terms, “RAM is made up of small memory chips that form a memory module. These modules are installed in the RAM slots on the motherboard of your computer.Every time you open a program, it gets loaded from the hard drive into the RAM… The more RAM your computer has, the more data can be loaded from the hard drive into the RAM, which can effectively speed up your computer.” (in Tech Terms. Retrieved Feb. 21 2012, from http://www.techterms.com/definition/ram).


103b-ae crystal.jpg

Any crystals on the motherboard were protected by a metal cover. The one pictured above was located next to the battery and the RAM. The crystal regulates the time on your computer (along with the battery.)

According to PC Computer Notes, “the clock speed of a CPU is defined as the frequency that a processor executes instructions or that data is processed. This clock speed is measured in millions of cycles per second or megahertz (MHz). The clock itself is actually a quartz crystal that vibrates at a certain frequency when electricity is passed through it. Each vibration sends out a pulse or beat, like a metronome, to each component that's synchronized with it.” (in PC Computer Notes. Retrieved Feb. 21 2012, from http://www.pccomputernotes.com/clockspeed/clockspeed.htm).

Bios Battery

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The battery, in coalition with the crystal, keeps track of the time on your computer so your clock will be accurate when you turn the PC on again.

According to Chephren Repairs, “the Bios is in fact a little program that lives on a little chip on the mother board. It is a very important and vital chip that is very important to the PC's functioning. When Your PC boots or starts, the bios is the little program that is going to find virtually all the hardware in the computer and, of course, it stores the time and the date as well.” (in Chephren Repairs. Retrieved Feb. 21 2012, from http://www.chephrenrepairs.com/bios_battery.html).