Main computer components


CPUs/Processors Motherboards  Memory/RAM Memory/SSD Hard Drives Power Supply Computer Cases Interface cards Video/Graphics cards

Central Processing Unit (CPU) and Microcontrollers: The most significant components of computer  is its Central Processing Unit or Processor.  The processor is the heart and brain of the  computer system. The more powerful the processor, the faster the system goes. Processor power is often measured by its clock frequency (on the computer slang - clock speed)  in MHz or GHz. However, clock speed  alone may not be the determining factor. Real speed of such functions as calculation or data acquisition  for processors with 1 GHz and 2 GHz, can differ essentially by less then  2 times. Best way to choose a processor is through an analysis of its rate. Most modern electronic devices (TVs, VCRs, microwaves, watches and so on) contain an embedded microcontroller. It's basically a dedicated computer.

Intel' family of CRU includes  different kind of the  laptops, desktops, servers and workstations processors. See: It is not easy to choose the best from them, very useful information you can find  here.  Wikipedia has  article which  gives a list of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) microprocessors, sorted by generation and release year.


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Motherboard. A typical desktop computer has its processor, main memory, and other essential components connected to the motherboard. Other components such as external storage, controllers for video display and sound, and peripheral devices may be attached to the motherboard as plug-in cards or via cables, although in modern computers it is increasingly common to integrate some of these peripherals into the motherboard itself. An important component of a motherboard is the microprocessor's supporting chipset, which provides the supporting interfaces between the CPU and the various buses and external components. This chipset determines, to an extent, the features and capabilities of the motherboard. Modern motherboards include, at a minimum: the following parts:

CompUSAMemory: Memory is almost as important as the processor, because it also influences  the  real speed of the computer. You may actually get better performance with less-powerful processor and more memory, than you would with the most powerful processor and less memory. Memory  is measured in megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB). Memory comes in a variety of packages, pin configurations, types, and formats. Today, there are  varieties of memory in common use:

RAM (Random Access Memory ) is the short term temporary workspace that the processor uses to store and manipulate  information. There are many different types of RAM which have appeared over the years and it is often difficult knowing the difference between them both performance wise and visually identifying them:

  • SRAM: Static random access memory uses multiple transistors, typically four to six, for each memory cell but doesn't have a capacitor in each cell. It is used primarily for cache.

  • DRAM: Dynamic random access memory has memory cells with a paired transistor and capacitor requiring constant refreshing.

  • FPM DRAM: Fast page mode dynamic random access memory was the original form of DRAM. It waits through the entire process of locating a bit of data by column and row and then reading the bit before it starts on the next bit. Maximum transfer rate to L2 cache is approximately 176 MBps.

  • EDO DRAM: Extended data-out dynamic random access memory does not wait for all of the processing of the first bit before continuing to the next one. As soon as the address of the first bit is located, EDO DRAM begins looking for the next bit. It is about five percent faster than FPM. Maximum transfer rate to L2 cache is approximately 264 MBps.

  • SDRAM: Synchronous dynamic random access memory takes advantage of the burst mode concept to greatly improve performance. It does this by staying on the row containing the requested bit and moving rapidly through the columns, reading each bit as it goes. The idea is that most of the time the data needed by the CPU will be in sequence. SDRAM is about five percent faster than EDO RAM and is the most common form in desktops today. Maximum transfer rate to L2 cache is approximately 528 MBps.

  • DDR SDRAM: Double data rate synchronous dynamic RAM is just like SDRAM except that is has higher bandwidth, meaning greater speed. Maximum transfer rate to L2 cache is approximately 1,064 MBps (for DDR SDRAM 133 MHZ).

  • RDRAM: Rambus dynamic random access memory is a radical departure from the previous DRAM architecture. Designed by Rambus, RDRAM uses a Rambus in-line memory module (RIMM), which is similar in size and pin configuration to a standard DIMM. What makes RDRAM so different is its use of a special high-speed data bus called the Rambus channel. RDRAM memory chips work in parallel to achieve a data rate of 800 MHz, or 1,600 MBps. Since they operate at such high speeds, they generate much more heat than other types of chips. To help dissipate the excess heat Rambus chips are fitted with a heat spreader, which looks like a long thin wafer. Just like there are smaller versions of DIMMs, there are also SO-RIMMs, designed for notebook computers.


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Hard drive ( Hard Disk Drive -HDD) is another type of memory, which stores  programs and information. HDD records data onto fixed platters spinning in an environmentally-controlled container. Hard disks have generally fast access times and connect to the computer via special interfaces, (IDE, SCSI, etc). Hard drives can be internal (inside of case) and external. The needed capacity of the hard drive  depends on how many applications you will use. Usually, without games,  20 GB is good enough. This drive is usually internal, however,  the additional external hard drive has become extremely popular. Usually the external hard drive is connected to the computer via a high-speed interface cable. The interface cable allows the external hard drive to communicate with the computer so that data may be passed back and forth. The most common types of interfaces are USB and Firewire.

A external hard drive is quite a useful piece of equipment, which allows the user to  store important information separate from the main internal hard drive, which could become compromised by online or offline activities. Sensitive documents, large music files, DVD images, movies, disk images, and even a backup of the contents of your main internal hard drive, can all be kept securely and safely on an external hard drive. When you are online, usually recommended to  leave the external drive turned off.


Solide-state drive (SSD) is a  data storage device which uses a semiconductors  without moving parts. This type of memory devices are silent (noiseless) and  less fragile than traditional hard disk drivers. An SSD using SRAM or DRAM  is often called a RAM-drive.


CompUSAVideo and Sound cards: The video card and its performance level are tied tightly to the performance of the other components in the computer system.  A PC with a top caliber processor will have faster video performance than one with a slower CPU, all else being equal. The type of motherboard (and a chipset), the amount and type of memory, the size of system cache all also have an effect, as does the system bus. The degree to which video performance is tied to the processor performance depends on the application. The same is true for sound cards. It is best to  not change the Video and Sound cards, recommended by manufacturer.


 Power supply unit (PSU). Manufactures  offer a variety of computer power supplies for all  computing needs.  Power sources range from AC and DC adapters, power inverters, and many more options, helping customers  not only work in office, but also  get out of the office and into the world. Usually Power supplies converts  110-115 or 220-230 volt alternating current (AC) into a steady low-voltage direct current (DC) usable by the computer. AC inputs include input voltage and input frequency.  Choices for input voltage include 115 VAC and 230 VAC.  Input frequencies for computer power supplies can be 50 Hz, 60 Hz, or 400 Hz.  Common choices for DC output voltage include +/- 3.3 V, +/- 5 V, +/- 12 V, +/- 15 V, +/- 24 V, and +/- 48 V. 



Power supplies generate a large amount of heat in the process of converting the high voltage current into the lower voltage currents.  This is reason why active cooling fans have always been placed inside of computer power supplies. Many of the newer power supplies will often have 2 fans, one to pull air into the unit and one to expel the hot air out of the unit.

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Rechargeable battery for portable computer. A portable computer usually is powered by mains electricity via an AC adapter, and can be used away from an outlet using a rechargeable battery. A  battery in new condition typically stores enough energy to run the portable computer for three , five  and more hours, depending on the computer usage, configuration and power management settings. When for example,  a laptop is plugged into the jack, the battery charges, whether or not the computer is running. A battery life of last Toshiba netbook is more than 8 hours.

Most laptops use batteries that can last for 3-5 years, or about 1000 charges. (A premium laptop's battery might last longer.) Every time you charge your battery, the total capacity of the battery is diminished. Fox example, if originally it may have had a run time of 3.5 hours, but after a year it will  run out of juice at 3 hours, even on a full charge. If your battery capacity has diminished, there are a few things you can do about it. First, you have to correctly gauge how much capacity has been lost. There are free downloads to do this job, like Battery Bar (for Windows PCs) or Coconut Battery (for Macs). These will compare your battery's current maximum capacity to how long it lasted when it was new.


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Computer cases: The case  holds the motherboard, drives, cooling systems, power supply system, and so on.  It also protects the system from the outside world.  Case can have the different forms: desktop, tower, mid tower, there are on the market the computers with everything  inside of keyboard (CYBERNET, Inc.) , or flat panel (IBM) and other  unusual forms. Sometimes  companies create "form-factor" cases  (or type of physical arrangement of a computer hardware object). For example,  IBM used  many form-factors: desktop, integrated Flat panel PC, mini desktop, small form factor, and tower. When buying a computer , make sure that case  is expandable. There is nothing worse than needing a new hard drive and not having any room for it. The case is also the item that helps to connect together all computer equipment.  It means, that it must have all necessary jacks and ports. Also, make sure the case looks good.  An ugly case can be a real reason to swap a good  computer.


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