Basic Computer Terms

Power Supply

A power supply is also known as a PSU.  Sizing for each workstation, server, or laptop is crucial.  While you can’t really oversize your PSU, it wouldn’t be beneficial to have a 1000-watt power supply if you only need 450 watts.  We can test power supplies and check whether you are drawing more power than your power supply can handle.  Often you need to size the PSU to handle the boot up process which will draw more power initially then normal use.  You also have to consider how much power will be consumed when you are doing higher level functions such as video intense program or games or processing databases.


The motherboard is the main component that connects various other hardware components to interact with the unit as a whole.  Mac systems commonly refer it as a daughterboard instead.  The motherboard connects ram chips, GPU’s, disk drives, and other peripherals.  The motherboard has some basic coding to instruct other components how to communicate as a unit also known as BIOS – Basic Input Output System.  This is stored in the ROM (Read-only memory).  This information can be stored for longer time frames due to a battery called the CMOS battery.  The CMOS holds the basic information as well as keeping proper date and time.


Random-access memory (RAM), stores code and data that is being actively used/accessed by the CPU.  A good example is when you open up a program such as word or email, it stores the information for the program until the program is closed.


The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is primarily the brain of the computer.  It performs calculations and computer functions and delivers it according to its specifications.  A properly sized CPU is important to the whole operation and function of the computer.  It will deliver information to RAM as needed to offload any processing it can.  Having multithreading and multiple cores assist in being able to open up multiple processes and perform multiple calculations at once.


The Graphical Processing Unit (GPU) is what allows you to see what you need to see on the screen.  This is also known as a video card.  The difference in an integrated GPU and a GPU that uses a slot on the motherboard can make a big impact on performance and quality of what you see.  An Integrated GPU depends on the RAM, Power and CPU to present what you see.  If you are a graphic designer, gamer, drafting engineer it is important to size your GPU accordingly.  Independent video cards can have their own RAM and processing power for the sole purpose of the graphical user interface to operate at optimal performance.  You can also dedicate part of a power supply to the GPU with the proper power supply and GPU.

Hard Drive

The hard drive is what stores programs, data files, pictures, and much more.  With today’s technology it is highly recommended to go with a solid state drive (SSD) for performance, integrity, and longevity of your data.  Standard Hard Drives have moving parts that can wear and break.  Especially in undesirable circumstances where the device gets moved around, bumped, knocked over etc.