IT Essentials v6.0 – Chapter 1: Introduction to the Personal Computer

Sections & Objectives

1.1 Personal Computer Systems

  • Explain how personal computer systems work together

1.2 Select Computer Components

  • Select appropriate computer components

1.3 Configurations for Specialized Computer Systems

  • Explain how hardware is configured for task-specific computers

1.1 Personal Computer Systems

1.1.1 Cases and Power Supplies

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  • Influences the motherboard form factor choice
  • Must allow for good air flow
  • Available in different sizes

Power Supplies

  • Provides power to all computer components.
  • Must be chosen based on current and future needs.
  • Deliver different voltage levels to meet different internal component needs.

Power Supply Wattage

  • P = V x A

1.1.2 Internal PC Components

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  • Backbone of the computer
  • Interconnects computer components


  • The brain of the computer
  • Most processing is done by the CPU

Cooling Systems

  • Dissipates the heat generated by computer components.

Memory (ROM and RAM)

  • RAM: Stores data temporarily, aiding processing
  • ROM: Stores data permanently; often storing firmware and low level programs.

Adapter Cards and Expansion Slots

  • Adapter Cards extend computer functionality
  • Adapter Cards connect to the motherboard through Expansion Slots

Storage Devices

  • Designed to permanently store user data, user applications and the Operating System
  • Can be internal or external to the computer

Video Ports

  • Connects a video system to an external display device such as a monitor or projector
  • Video systems are often designed as an adapter card.

General Ports

  • Provide connectivity between the motherboard and various external devices such as printers, external storage and video cameras.

1.1.3 External Ports and Cables

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Video Ports and Related Cables

  • A few different standards govern video traffic between the computer and external video devices.
  • HDMI and displayPort are examples of video ports that require a specific cable to operate.

Other Ports and Related Cables

  • Motherboards have a number of other ports used for device connectivity; USB is a common example.

Adapters and Converters

  • Adapters and converters can be a solution if a motherboard does not have the proper port to connect to a device.
  • Adapters do not usually process the signal; they simply redirect it to another pin.
  • Converters are more likely to process and transform the signal, converting it to be accepted by an existing port.

1.2 Select Computer Components

1.2.1 Select PC Components

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Select the Motherboard, CPU, Case and Memory

  • CPU, memory, motherboard and case choices are inter-related.
  • The motherboard should support all customer required applications and still fit properly in the case.
  • The case should host the motherboard, the proper power supply and provide good airflow for the internal components.
  • The CPU must be compatible with motherboard CPU slot and voltage; it should be compatible with the chosen memory speed for maximum performance.
  • The memory must also be compatible with motherboard memory slots and voltage.
  • The amount of memory will depend on the type of applications requested by the customer.

Select the Case and Fans

  • Case and fans must be chosen to maximize internal airflow.
  • The fans must fit the case and be within the power limits provided by the power supply.

Select the Power Supply

  • The power supply should be selected based on the maximum amount of power required by all the internal components.
  • Remember that some components will draw more power while under heavy load.

Select Adapter Cards

  • Make sure the motherboard has compatible expansion slots to support the adapter cards.
  • The motherboard must also have enough expansion slots to receive all the required adapter cards.
  • Customer needs will define what adapter cards must be procured and installed.

Select Hard Drives

  • Important hard drive factors to be considered are speed, storage space and communication interface type.
  • The drive’s underlying technology (HDD vs SSD) directly impacts speed.

Select a Media Reader

  • The media reader must be compatible with customer media.

Select Optical Drives

  • Make sure the drive is compatible with customer media.
  • Other factors to consider are speed, communication interface type and the ability to write to the media.

Select External Storage

  • Important factors when selecting external storage are storage space, speed and communication interface.
  • Make sure the computer has enough ports to accommodate the external devices and peripherals.
  • Note: Some external devices do not require an external power supply but rely on a second USB port for power.

Select I/O Devices

  • The selection of I/O devices is application specific and will depend on customer requirements.
  • Make sure the computer has enough communication ports and that they are compatible with the types required by the I/O devices.

1.3 Configurations for Specialized Computer Systems

1.3.1 Specialized Computer Systems

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Thick and Thin Clients

  • Thin clients have little processing power and are designed to act as a terminal to a server (thick client).
  • Thick clients have more powerful CPUs, more memory and their own storage. They serve as processing stations for thin clients.

CAx Workstations

  • Designed to support CAD and CAM applications.
  • Plenty of RAM, fast disks, powerful CPU and special input devices are common resources.

Audio and Video Editing Workstations

  • Common editing workstation resources include much RAM, fast disks, powerful CPU and special adapter cards such as audio and video capture.

Virtualization Workstations

  • These workstations are designed to run virtual computers.
  • Virtual computers use and share the workstation’s physical resources such as CPU, memory and disks.
  • The selection of physical resources will depend on the number and purpose of the virtual machines.

Gaming PCs

  • Due to high resource requirements of modern games, gaming PCs are very resource demanding.
  • A few requirements of gaming PCs are: top end CPU, lots of fast RAM, fast disks, high performance input devices and audio systems.

Home Theatre PCs

  • These computers must be able to play various media formats and, in some cases, receive TV signals.
  • Common HTPC requirements include powerful CPU, fast RAM, large disks, fast NIC and video card with TV input.

1.4 Chapter Summary

  • This chapter introduced the components that comprise a personal computer system and what to consider when choosing upgrade components.
  • Information technology encompasses the use of computers, network hardware, and software to process, store, transmit, and retrieve information.
  • A personal computer system consists of hardware components and software applications.
  • The computer case and power supply must be chosen carefully to support the hardware inside the case and allow for the addition of components.
  • The internal components of a computer are selected for specific features and functions. All internal components must be compatible with the motherboard.
  • Use the correct type of ports and cables when connecting devices.
  • Typical input devices include the keyboard, mouse, touch screen, and digital cameras.
  • Typical output devices include monitors, printers, and speakers.
  • Cases, power supplies, the CPU and cooling system, RAM, hard drives, and adapter cards, must be upgraded when devices fail or no longer meet customer needs.
  • Specialized computers require hardware specific to operate. The type of hardware used in specialized computers is determined by how a customer works and what a customer wants to accomplish.

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