Computer Components | The Book | HexR

Wow, it's already February!

This month, we're going to introduce the basics of computers.

A computer has a lot of different parts, with many subparts. The most important components / parts of any computer are the motherboard, RAM, the processor and data storage. Let's dive into further detail!

Think of the computer as an human. Humans have different components that makes them whole, just like computers.

The Motherboard

Think of the motherboard as the nervous system of a computer. It connects everything together through inputs, such as SATA (data-storage), PCI(E) (graphics cards and adapters) and USB (plug 'n play devices), which in turn allows everything to communicate seamlessly.


RAM, also known as Random Access Memory, is the temporary data storage mechanism. Think of it like short term memory - we only keep it as long as it's important. It's usually used to store information that the computer uses a lot - such as system variables, the steps needed to accomplish something (such as open a new program) which is also called opcode, and program-specific storage (such as JavaScript variables). RAM is volatile, meaning when it loses power, the data is lost. RAM is also categorized; there is VRAM (Virtual RAM; stored on the OS drive), DRAM (Dynamic RAM; constantly has to be updated but faster access), SRAM (Static RAM; slower but uses less power), etc. DRAM and SRAM are usually placed closer to the processor via memory (RAM) modules. SRAM isn't used often because of the latency (response time). DRAM has the lowest latency outside of the processor and VRAM is the most latent, since it has to come from the OS drive.

The Processor

Think of the processor is the brain of a computer. It's responsible for processing! It works with the other components to perform calculations that range from basic (addition, subtraction) to complicated (media processing, rendering). If any calculations are necessary, you can thank the processor!

Data Storage

Data storage is equivalent to memories in humans. It's non-volatile (you can remove power and the data will not be lost) which is important for all those baby pictures! These are what we buy in large quantities - hard drives, flash drives, DVD's, floppy disks, etc. The two biggest types of long-term storage are mechanical (based on magnets) and flash (based on logic gates). As of now, flash storage is really expensive, but is much faster and has more write cycles (The amount of times you can write data to a specific part of the drive). As of now, mechanical hard drives have higher capacities and are cheaper, but a lot slower. Another disadvantage of mechanical drives is the fact that they're mechanical. Mechanical drives read data using an arm that physically moves along plates that store the data, while flash doesn't have a moving mechanism for reading. Flash memory is used in devices that are constantly moved or dropped, like phones and tablets, because of the fact it has no moving parts. The use of mechanical drives would cause drive failure relatively quickly in these devices since the mechanism would be exposed to more wear. No matter what medium of storage you use, assume it has a lifetime of around 6 years. After that, you should replace it with a new drive. It is highly recommended you use a RAID array in systems that support it, because it provides faster and redundant storage, which is needed for important data. We'll discuss RAID in a future article.

We’ve discussed the most important aspects of any computer - the motherboard, the processor, RAM and data storage.

Next month, we’ll discuss operating systems, and how these aspects of computers work together!

See you then!

Until next months,
~ The HexR Minions

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