103a-xx PC Lab

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Christina's Open-it Up! Lab

The Main Parts Inside A Computer, And How They Work:

Let's read more about the computer here:


  • The Processor: the brain of a computer system, also named the CPU or the central processing unit. The CPU consists of hundreds of transistors or circuits wired together. According to Marshal Brian, one of the first CPUs ever made was the Intel 4004 in 1971 [1]. Intel produces the ever popular Pentium processors to the general public. Intel also improves the microprocessor with each generation from the Pentium II to the Pentium IV processor. The speed of a processor is measured in Megahertz; the more Megahertz a processor has, the faster it can request information from memory and/or other computer parts to perform several different tasks at once. [2]

Memory SIMM Cards
  • The Memory: Memory is electric storage of data that is understood by the bit or binary code system. Memory is usually stored on Memory SIMM cards that are connected to the motherboard. Memory is measured in bytes. [3]. Several forms of memory can be found in the operating system such as the ubiquitous RAM and ROM memory. In [4], every execution that is performed by a computer, whether it is closing a computer application for the user, the CPU requires memory because when the application is saved on RAM memory, the computer must "remember" the next time when closing a program to shut off it. Thus, instructions to terminate a program are saved for future reference in memory. Today, laptop computers and personal computers are equipped with memory that is measured in megabytes (1 million bytes) or gigabytes (1 billion bytes).

Hard Drive

  • The Hard Drive: A rectangular device that stores data on circular patters or read-write heads with magnetic surfaces [5]. Gigabytes of data files can be stored on this device [6]. Usually the C:/ or H:/ drive in which you save Microsoft documents on is called the hard drive.

CD Rom/ DVD Rom

  • The CD-Rom/DVD Rom: A compact disc is an optical, circular disk that is inserted into the CD Rom or DVD Rom drive. Microscopically, there are openings on the compact disc called pits that can store megabytes of audio, video, and other forms of data. Every piece of information either read or analyze by the CPU or the CD/DVD drive(s) are only comprehensible through bits or the binary code system. In [7], when you insert a compact disc into a CD Rom drive, laser lens inside the drive read the data from the pits as the compact disc rotates spontaneously every second. If successful, the user can be able to play the data on the CD. If there are marks on the pits of the CD, data can either get erased and/or distorted, preventing software applications like Itunes to play audio or video files properly.

Power Supply
  • The Power Supply: An electrical rectangular device that converts AC current from the wall to DC current for the computer to generate electric energy within the computer framework. According to Gary Brown in [8], "The 3.3 and 5 volts are typically used by digital circuits, while the 12 volt power supply is used to run motors in disk drives and fans." The fluid 110 Volt DC current from the wall gets converted into 12 volts of constant AC current. Consequently, 12 volts is the appropriate voltage the CD Rom drive for instance requires to burn or play compact discs on the computer.

The Motherboard
  • The Motherboard: The motherboard is basically the heart of the computer. It holds the processor, memory SIMM cards, audio cards, connector, and other computer equipment in place and allows them to exchange information and instructions electrically with one another through wires and contraptions like the BIOS and the South and North Bridges. As Wilson and Johnson concludes in [9] about buses, "a bus is simply a circuit that connects one part of the motherboard to another. The more data a bus can handle at one time, the faster it allows information to travel."

Computer Cables

  • The Computer Cables: IDE cables are elastic material with rectangular grooves that allow bits of information to travel from the optical drives (CD ROM drive for example) to the motherboard. As shown on [10], computer cables can be attached to an optical drive to the motherboard or the hard drive.

  • The Battery: Lithium ion batteries are usually found on the motherboard. In [11], Marshall Brain discusses that the major reasons why computers and other electric devices use lithium ion batteries is because you can store a lot of energy and that they have a longer time span than NIHM batteries.

Quartz Crystal
  • Quartz Crystals: Quartz crystals are found on the motherboard. They prevent high frequencies from interfering with the operating system. The speed in which these crystals function are measured in megahertz or 1,000,000 hertz per second. According to Ken Dwight, quartz crystals also "generate the basic timing signals needed by the system bus and CPU.[12]"




  • [3] David J. Eck, The Most Complex Machine: A Survey of Computers and Computing.' Natick, MA: AK Peters, LTD, 2000. pp. 3-13.

Hard Drive:


Power Supply:


Computer Cables:

The Battery:

Quartz Crystal:

How Computer Works: PC Lab Report

Christina Brown

Monday, September 22, 2008

Computer Model: Dell 620GX

Partner in Crime: Michelle Miyoshi


Before I registered for this class this semester, I knew a little bit about computer components like the CPU, RAM, and motherboard. However, I did not know where to locate them from inside a computer system. Today's PC lab was an interesting way to finally do that and to understand how computers are designed and manufactured to millions of computer users across the world. Let's look and see what Michelle and I discovered on our journey inside a old 1999 Dell computer. :)

Before the Lab

103a-ar computer.jpg
  • This is an old 1999 Dell 620gGX personal computer. Look what we discovered as we dismantled the computer system and investigated all the computer components.

Let the Madness Begin!!

103a-ar computer2.jpg
  • Here is the inside of the computer case with all the computer components. It took Michelle and I some time to actually open it because at first, we could not find a way to open the computer from the top. But we managed to open it up with the help of our human strength and a screwdriver.
  • You can see the small fan on the left. It helps cool the computer's temperatures down as it runs computer programs and other applications. To the right, you can observe the CD hard drive and floppy disk drive in tact. You can also see all the wiring and the protective metal that secures the hard drives, motherboard, microprocessor, and other computer hardware.

Power Supply

Image A: Before Image B: After
103a-ar computer3.jpg 103a-ar computer12.jpg
  • After a hour, we managed to disassemble everything within the walls of the computer system. Image A shows the power supply before we opened the top. At the bottom of the power supply, you can see groups of wires attached to rectangular slots. Those slots were originally attached to the motherboard.
  • Image B displays the inside of the power supply. You can barely see the transistors but you can defiantly see wires, large structures, and large batteries. The power supply normally converts the AC current from the walls into DC current for the computer in order to run programs and other functions.

Floppy Disk Drive

103a-ar computer5.jpg
  • Here is our beloved floppy disk drive. New laptops and PCs rarely have A:/ drives anymore because all new computers have the new USB drives which can store 10x as much digital information and files than the old 1GB floppy disks. Yet, this drive brings such fond childhood memories back in the 1990s.

CD/DVD Hard Drive

103a-ar computer10.jpg
  • Here is the CD/DVD drive all exposed. What I observed was that the hard drive consists of pulleys, a spinning disk, and film. If I had played with it a little longer, I probably would have seen it rotate just like it moves when you insert a CD or DVD in the hard drive to play movie and music files on the computer. To see an actual demonstration online though, visit this link here [[1]]

The Motherboard

103a-ar computer88.jpg
  • Taking the motherboard out of the computer case was the most challenging task in this lab because the motherboard was at the very bottom of the computer and that everything was sealed tight. The connectors, power supply, fans, and other equipment were placed on top of the motherboard, so it took Michelle and I the majority of our class time to disassemble everything else to reach this piece of equipment.

  • Thus, we unscrewed dozens of bolts and disconnected computer cables from the motherboard every step of the way. At first glance, the motherboard seemed like a complex system that is incomprehensible to the human mind. But as I learn more from this class, it will be easier to understand its functions and why a computer needs one in the first place.

The Microprocessor/CPU

103a-ar computer8.jpg
  • Next on the list of discoveries is the Pentium III microprocessor or the brain child of the computer, the CPU. A computer cannot function without a central processing unit. The microprocessor was rather lightweight.

Memory SIMM

103a-ar computer9.jpg
  • Here are the RAM memory cards. Without memory, how can a computer store digital information? Without memory, we could not save our academic papers on Microsoft Word!

Other Findings:


103a-ar computer55.jpg
  • Here is a fan that Michelle and I found inside the computer. I believe it was used to cool down the temperatures inside the computer because overtime, the computer generates so much thermal energy, it needs an outlet for heat to decrease so the computer does not get overheated.


103a-ar computer56.jpg

  • When I came across this, I thought it was a processor. I was wrong. It is actually called a "connector." I think that connectors allow bits to be transferred from audio or memory cards to the connectors and eventually through the whole computer system. The biege and black slots are probably the vessels that allow bits to move freely.


What I liked about this lab is that we learned more about a personal computer from a hands on approach. I think sometimes it is better to see what you are studying in class up close and person than reading from a textbook. This was a fun experience and I hope to do something like this in the near future.

After the Lab

An Empty Computer Case All the Parts Inside the Empty Computer Case
103a-ar computer15.jpg 103a-ar computer14.jpg
  • A job well done I might say. :)