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Build Your Own PC: Computer Hardware Basics

by Paul Sanders

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Whether you want to build your own PC from scratch or you simply want to upgrade your old computer, you need to know the basic computer hardware to include. As long as you include all of these components, you will have a functional home computer, perfect for Web browsing and common PC tasks. If you leave any of these out, your system won't run. If want a more advanced system, use this list as your foundation and build from there.

Computer Hardware Basics:

  1. Motherboard: For everyday computing power, only a very basic, inexpensive motherboard is necessary. If you're upgrading an old computer, you can use the existing motherboard as long as it is compatible with other hardware you want to use. Pay attention to computer hardware specifications, such as the compatible CPU types and expansion slot types, which will determine what type of other computer hardware you will be able to use.

  2. Memory: You computer needs random access memory (RAM) to function. More RAM will help improve the speed and multi-tasking ability of your computer, as will faster RAM types. You'll find both DDR2 and DDR3 types of RAM to work with most motherboards, though DDR3 is faster. RAM, like the rest of your computer hardware, must be compatible with the motherboard you are using.

  3. Processors: New processors will always be "multi-core" processors, meaning that the chip has multiple microprocessors working in tandem with one another. These processors are fast, but they may not be compatible with older motherboards. Check the compatibility of your computer hardware before you buy.

  4. Hard drive: A new hard drive can dramatically increase your storage space for very little money. Storage computer hardware, like internal and external hard drives, connects to your motherboard via SATA cables or IDE cables.

  5. Expansion cards: Video cards and sound cards add extra capabilities and processing power to your computer. While they technically are not essential computer hardware, they will be necessary for certain video games and home theater functions. Computer parts like video cards require compatible expansion slots on your motherboard, such as PCI-E or AGP. PCI-E is the industry standard for most cards, but older motherboards may still use regular PCI slots.

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