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Upgrading and Repairing PCs Tip #1: Know Your PC's System Components

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In this excerpt from the 22nd edition of Scott Mueller's Upgrading and Repairing PCs, Scott walks you through all the components and peripherals in a modern PC system.

Find more tips from Upgrading and Repairing PCs here.

From the book

A modern PC is both simple and complicated. It is simple in the sense that over the years, many of the components used to construct a system have become integrated with other components into fewer and fewer actual parts. It is complicated in the sense that each part in a modern system performs many more functions than did the same types of parts in older systems.

This section briefly examines all the components and peripherals in a modern PC system. Each item is discussed further in later chapters.The components and peripherals necessary to assemble a basic modern PC system are listed in Table 2.3.

Table 2.3 Basic PC Components




The core of the system. It really is the PC; everything else is connected to it, and it controls everything in the system. Motherboards are covered in Chapter 4.


Often thought of as the “engine” or “brain” of the computer. It’s also called the central processing unit (CPU). Many processors include a graphics processing unit (GPU) as well. Processors are covered in Chapter 3.

Memory (RAM)

The system memory is often called RAM (random access memory). This is the primary working memory that holds all the programs and data the processor is using at a given time. Memory is discussed in Chapter 6.


The frame or chassis that houses the motherboard, power supply, disk drives, adapter cards, and any other physical components in the system. The case is covered in Chapter 17.

Power supply

Feeds electrical power to the internal components in the PC. The power supply is covered in detail in Chapter 17.

Hard drive/SSD

The primary high-capacity storage media for the system. Hard disk drives are discussed in Chapter 8 and solid-state drives in Chapter 9.

Optical drive

CD (compact disc), DVD (digital versatile disc), and BD (Blu-ray disc) drives are relatively high-capacity, removable-media, optical drives; most newer systems include drives featuring write/rewrite capability. These drives are covered in Chapter 10.


The primary device on a PC that is used by a human to communicate with and control a system. Keyboards are covered in Chapter 14.


Although many types of pointing devices are on the market today, the first and most popular device for this purpose is the mouse. The mouse and other pointing devices are discussed in Chapter 14.

Video card*

Contains the GPU (graphics processing unit), which controls the information you see on the monitor. Video cards are covered in Chapter 11.


The monitor or display shows information and is controlled by the video card. Monitors are covered in Chapter 11.

Sound card*

Enables the PC to generate complex sounds. Sound cards and speakers are discussed in detail in Chapter 12.


Most PCs ship with a wired and/or wireless network interface. Network cards are covered in Chapter 16.

Components marked with an asterisk (*) may be integrated into the motherboard or processor on many systems.

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