Alice Y's CSC231 2014 Page

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Goals of Lab

The goal of this lab was to deepen our understand of how a computer works.

Lab Instructions

The instructions for this lab are available here.


On 10/7/2014, I took a PC apart. Here is my journey...

Case of Unopened Computer

The make of our PC, Margaret, is a Dell and the model number is DCNE.

CSC231AY case.jpg
CSC231AY case2.jpg

Inside the Case

When we removed the cover, we saw the motherboard, RAMs, cd/dvd drive, cables, power cords, battery, crystal cover and power supply.

CSC231AY insidecase.jpg

Cooling System

The cooling system, comprised of a fan and heat sink (from Sany Denki Cooling Systems), was a large component secured tightly on the motherboard over the processor. The cooling device used to keep Margaret from overheating since her components, especially her processor, works so fast and executes billions of functions every second. The heat sink ventilates the heat while the fan expels the air out of the computer.

CSC231AY HeatSink.jpg
CSC231AY Fan.jpg

The Processor

The processor (also known as the central processing unit, CPU) was located under the fan and a metal cover secured with a metal buckle, is an Intel '84 with 3.0 Ghz. The processor acts as the brain of the computer, running the operating system by communicating with and handing out instructions to every other component in Margaret. The processor gets its instructions from programs and files stored in the computer. Margaret's processor is 3.0 Ghz which means her processor can process an average of 3.0 billion cycles/instructions/lines of code in one second. For such a vital part in the computer's function, the processor is surprisingly small compared to other components in the computer such as the fan or power supply.

CSC231AY processorOutside.jpg
CSC231AY processorInside.jpg


There were two RAM cards. Each RAM card was clipped tightly perpendicularly to the motherboard. Margaret's RAMs were made by infineon. They are each 1GB, so Margaret had 2GB of RAM in total.The RAM is responsible for holding the Margaret's data in a way that can be quickly accessed by the processor while Margaret is turned on and running. Once Margaret turns off, the data in the RAM is erased.

CSC231AY ram.jpg
CSC231AY closeup.jpg

CD/DVD drive

This is a CD and DVD drive that can play and burn CD and DVDs. It was located in one of the corners. One of its sides was touching the gridded panel that users can see through. By pushing one of the buttons outside of the computer, the disk holder in the drive should eject from the pc so that a user can place a CD/DVD in to read.

CSC231AY DVDdrive.jpg

Power Supply

The power supply was located in another corner across from the CD/DVD drive. It was one of the larger components, similar in size to the fan. The power supply's job is to convert the power obtained from an outlet to usable power within the computer, while also regulating the voltage. Margaret's power supply can output 280 Watts of power.

CSC231AY PowerSupply.jpg


These flat and thick grey cables supply power from the power supply to the motherboard, DVD drive, and other devices within Margaret.

CSC231AY Cables.jpg

Hard Disk

The hard disk made by Western Digital was the same size as the CD/DVD drive and was located directly beneath.

CSC231AY HardDriveOutside.jpg

Inside the hard drive is the disk where memory is stored in and a spindle motor that reads and writes the information onto the disk. The disk can store up to 250.0 Gigabytes of data and retains the information even when Margaret is turned off.

CSC231AY HardDriveInside.jpg


The motherboard is the green board attached underneath and connecting all of the other components through slots and and sockets. The many lines on the motherboard are metal traces, electrical paths/circuits where data, instructions and power are moved between components.

CSC231AY Motherboard.jpg


On the motherboard is a quartz crystal hidden underneath a small oval shaped metal cover. The crystal oscillates which creates an electrical signal with a frequency of 25.0 Mhz. The frequency is used to keep track of the time.

CSC231AY Crystal.jpg

Small Battery

There is a small battery made by Panasonic on the motherboard that is responsible for powering the Real Time Clock, which is a quartz watch that keeps track of time. Therefore, the battery runs when Margaret is turned off.

CSC231AY battery.jpg


Question 1 What is the make and model number of the computer you are taking apart?

Question 2 What are the parts visible when you remove the cover?

Question 3 Where is the processor? What brand and model number is it? Remove it from the motherboard!

Question 4 Where is the RAM (Random Access Memory)? How much RAM is in the PC you're taking apart? What company makes it?

Question 5 Where is the CD/DVD player/burner? Is it a CD or DVD drive?

Question 6 Where is the power supply? How many watts of power can it output?

Question 7 What are all the cables for? Cables supply power from power supply and other mother board and other components in PC

Question 8 Where is the hard disk? How many Gigabytes of data does it hold?

Question 9 (Optional) What is inside the hard disk?

Question 10 Where is the motherboard? What are the lines you see on the board?

Question 11 On the motherboard is a crystal. Where is it? What is it for?

Question 12 You may find a small battery on the motherboard. What is it for?