CS231 Demo Lab

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PC Demolition Lab Report


  • Author: Rebecca
  • Class: CSC 231
  • Date of Lab: 9/9/10

This lab was an introduction to the inner workings and parts of a Dell desktop computer. Because assembly language works on such a low level, it is useful to understand how things like the processor and the memory are connected and to be able to see the parts that will be manipulated by the assembly programs we will write later in the class.



CSC231 rm fan.jpg

Fans are used to cool the parts of the computer as they run and generate heat. Because over heating can cause failure of parts, it is important to allow cool air into the computer and hot air out. This fan aerates the entirety of the inside of the computer, as opposed to the types of fans that are mounted to cool specific computer parts, such as the CPU fan or the graphics card fan.

Hard Drive

CSC231 rm Harddrive.jpg

A hard drive is where users save data, whether it is a word document or an application. The central part of the hard drive is the disk the data is written to. The data is written by read/write heads onto the disk magnetically. They have grown steadily smaller in size and larger in capacity since they were first invented. This is one of the parts of the computer that users are most familiar with because it is where all of the programs and documents are retrieved from. Many computers come with 100 GB to 200 GB and this one comes with 80 GB.


CSC231 rm motherboard.jpg

The motherboard is a circuit board that holds and connects many of the crucial parts of the computer. In Apple computers, it is referred to as the logic board.(reference) Motherboards contain things like, sockets for microprocessors, slots for memory, chips containing the BIOS(basic input/output system), the system clock, power connectors to supply power to the CPU and memory, among other things.

Network Interface Card

CSC231 rm Networkcard.jpg

The network card allows the computer to connect to networks, like a LAN or the internet. The computer's MAC (media access control) address is burned directly into the chip, so the computer automatically knows what its address is. Because this is a desktop, there is a port for an ethernet cable that the computer will send and receive data on.

Ribbon Cable

CSC231 rm ribboncable.jpg

Ribbon cable is a group of wires embedded side by side in a plastic casing that connects non central devices to the motherboard. An example of one of these devices would be the CD drive. Ribbon cables are only used in the inside of computers, as opposed to power cables or USB cables, which are used to connect separate devices to the computer.

Zip Drive

CSC231 rm zipdrive.jpg

Zip drives are similar technology to floppy drives, in that they are used to insert a storage device into the computer to allow a user to store data. The zip drive held more data than floppy drives, but were replaced by flash drives and CDs. All of these modes of data storage allowed users to move data from the hard drive of the computer and store it on a more transportable device.



The Central Processing Unit is one of the most important, if not the most important, part of a computer. I say most important because it is the computer part that executes the code to run programs. CPUs read programs, execute the steps, access memory when needed, and writes out the program results. It is the part that brings together all the necessary pieces to allow a program to run and access and use all of the resources it needs. Computers come with anywhere from 1.6 GHz to 2.6 GHz. A CPU of this size would generate anywhere from 70 to 90 degrees, which is why there is a separate heat sink dedicated to the CPU.

Heat Sink


A heat sink is a part of the cooling system . Sometimes coupled with a fan, the heat sink draws the heat from the device it is placed on top of. If it is coupled with a fan, it will circulate the hot air away. If it is a heat sink by itself, the heat will simply dissipate into the casing of the computer to be dealt with by the computer fan. Copper and aluminum are the most common metals for heat sinks because they conduct heat well. There is a central heat sink to deal with the heat generated in the computer overall, but some parts, like the motherboard and the CPU have their own heat sinks because they generate so much heat.

Sound Card


Sound cards process audio files so they can be played through speakers or headphones. Audio jacks connect directly to the sound card. There is also the capacity, and the jack, for a microphone so sound can be inputted to the computer through the sound card as well. For the sound card to function properly, drivers and software have to be installed on the hard drive but computers usually have these pre-installed if there is a factory installed sound card.

Video Card


The function of a video card is to generate the images and video for the display. Video cards are paired with a graphics processing unit, firmware and their own memory. They also have outputs directly to the display and have their own heat sink and a connection to the motherboard. The standard outputs that most people are familiar with are VGA, and the more recent DVI connectors. This machine has a DVI port.



This type of memory is called RAM, Random Access Memory. It is used for quick access to data and is used by the CPU when running a program because accessing the hard drive memory takes longer. This is because data is stored electronically in RAM, as opposed to magnetically on the hard drive. Many computers come with 2 GB of RAM standard and this one has 512 MB.

Power Supply

CSC231 rm powerSupply.jpg

This image is from http://www.build-your-own-computers.com/how-to-install-a-desktop-power-supply.html

The power supply converts the 120 volts of AC voltage from the wall socket into the 3, 5, or 12 volts of DC power that the computer can use. The power supply connects directly to the motherboard, to provide power for it. It also connects to drives, like the hard drive or the zip drive to supply those with power as well. This is the part of the computer that the plug from the wall is directly connected to.