Secondary Components of a Computer

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These components are important to your computer, but are not as central as the Core Components.

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Video Output
Some form of video output must be provided by the hardware of a computer as to permit the use of an image display. The majority of home and office computers, which predominantly use 2D graphics for office applications and web surfing can use an ‘onboard’ or integrated graphic processor which will be included on most low to mid range motherboards. For gaming, or 3D modeling, a good quality graphics/video card may be needed and relying on one will undoubtedly permit a simpler upgradeable path. Then there is also high computational tasks from running physics models to process large blocks of data has created a move towards modular Graphical processors units (GPU) that can even be stacked to grant more power, a trend that predates even multiple core cpus.

Currently, two companies dominate the 3D graphics accelerator market; nVIDIA and AMD (formerly known as ATI). nVIDIA and AMD build their own graphics products, and license their technologies to other companies. Both companies make a complete line of cards with entries at every price/performance level, and each brand has its own supporters. Video cards have their own RAM, and many of the same rules that govern the motherboard RAM field apply here: to a point, the more RAM, and the faster it is, the better the performance will be. Most applications require at least 512MB of video RAM, although 1GB is rapidly becoming the new standard. On the other end, 2GB to 8GB video cards top the consumer end of the video card market. As a rule of thumb, if you want a high end video card, you need a minimum of 2GB of video memory — preferably 4GB. Don’t be fooled, though; memory is only part of the card and the actual video processor is more important than the memory.

It is generally better to choose your video card based on your own research, as everyone has slightly different needs. Many video card and chip makers are known to measure their products’ performances in ways that you may not find practical. A good video card is often much more than a robust 3D renderer; be sure to examine what you want and need your card to do, such as digital (DVI) output, TV output, multiple-monitor support, built-in TV tuners and video input. Another reason you need to carefully research is that manufacturers will often use confusing model numbers designed to make a card sound better than it is to sell it better. For example, the NVIDIA GeForce GT series claim to be part of the current line up (as of December 2014, the 700/900-series of cards), however, they are inadequate for modern gaming, in many cases, and perform much closer to old, low-end 500 and 600 series cards than to the GTX 700 series cards.

Newer technologies such as SLI and Crossfire allow the use of two(up to 4) video cards to render the same video scene, similar to using two CPUs or a dual-core CPU. These systems tend to be expensive, as only some video cards offer this option, and you’ll need two of them. However, it can be a useful upgrade path to consider. A SLI-capable motherboard is usually not much more expensive than the regular model, and will work fine with a single video card. You can use it with one card now, and buy another one in the future (which will probably be much cheaper by then), which means you will take advantage of your old video card too. If you do plan to use 2 or more graphics cards , make sure that your PSU is up to the task by making sure that it has enough power and also making sure that it has the requisite ports required.

There are four different current graphics card interfaces: integrated, PCI, AGP and PCI-Express.

Most retail computers will ship with an integrated graphics card. It is important to understand that an integrated graphics card uses the system’s RAM, and relies heavily on your system’s CPU. This will mean slow performance for graphic-intensive software, such as games. Most motherboards that have integrated graphics will also have one of the other three slot interfaces available so it isn’t hard to place a new card to suit your needs if the need ever arises.

Older video cards use the standard PCI slots that are now growing obsolete due to limited speed and memory. These cards are needed for a few rare systems lacking an AGP or PCI-E slot (usually low end desktop systems designed to be cheap.) They are also useful for adding additional video cards to a system.

Although the AGP standard has now, by and large, been superseded by PCI-E, the cards are still available as are a few motherboards that support them. There are 4 different speed and bandwidths of AGP, 1x, 2x, 4x and 8x. While 8x is the fastest and most common for high end products, the true performance of your AGP card is limited by the lower AGP value of your graphics card and motherboard. For example, an AGP 8x card on a 4x motherboard can only run at up to 4x. AGP has mostly been phased out and there will not be an AGP 16x due to technical limitations.

The newest trend in graphics card is the PCI-Express (not to be confused with PCI-X) system that supports up to 16x speeds. Some graphics cards still come in both AGP and PCI-E 16x models but the newest models of graphics cards are often PCI-E 16x only. While most motherboards have only one PCI-E 16x slot, those with two such slots can combine the power of two video cards using technologies known as SLI for NVidia, and CrossFire for ATI. However, you will have to match the video cards to a motherboard supporting the multiple card technology of choice, and use two similar video cards that both support dual video cards.

Keep in mind that to provide best picture quality your graphics card must be capable of displaying the same resolution as your LCD display’s native resolution.



CD-RW writer

Optical drives have progressed a long way in the past few years, and you can now easily purchase DVD writers that are capable of burning 9GB of data to a disk for an insignificant amount of money. Even if you don’t plan on watching or copying DVDs on your computer, it is still worth purchasing a burner for their superior backup capabilities.

When purchasing a DVD writer, you will want one that is capable of burning both the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ standards, and it should also be Dual Layer compatible. This will ensure that you can burn to almost all recordable DVDs currently on the market (the other major format, DVD-RAM is almost unused, for the most part, so don’t worry about it).

Cleaning CD’s and DVD’s
Dust can be removed from a CD’s surface using compressed air or by very lightly wiping the information side with a very soft cloth (such as an eyeglass cleaning cloth) from the center of the disc in an outward direction. Wiping the information surface of any type of CD in a circular motion around the center, however, has been known to create scratches in the same direction as the information and potentially cause data loss. Fingerprints or stubborn dust can be removed from the information surface by wiping it with a cloth dampened with diluted dish detergent (then rinsing) or alcohol (methylated spirits or isopropyl alcohol) and again wiping from the center outwards, with a very soft cloth (non-linting : polyester, nylon, etc.). It is harmful, however, to use acetone, nail polish remover, kerosene, petrol/gasoline, or any other type of petroleum-based solvent to clean a CD-R; the use of petroleum based solvents will damage the polycarbonate surface and the CD-R will become unreadable.

Floppy Drive


3.5″ floppy drive

Though Floppy drives have been made largely obsolete in recent years by devices such as USB “Thumb Drives” and CD writers, they are sometimes installed anyway because they are sometimes required for BIOS updates and exchanging small files with older computers. Floppy drives block air movement with wide cables, and can make computers set to check the drive take longer to start (most have an option in their BIOS to disable this.). One option to overcome the cable problem and to make it easier to install is to buy an external USB floppy drive, these are potentially a little bit faster and can be plugged into a different system (such as a laptop without a floppy drive.) However, not all systems support booting from a USB floppy drive — most notably older motherboards.

8″ Floppy Disk
In the late 1960s IBM invented the 8-inch floppy disk. This was the first floppy disk design. Used in the 1970s and as a read-only disk it had storage-write restrictions to the people it was distributed to. However, later on a read-write format came about.

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Today’s it is near impossible to to find a computer that uses 8-inch floppy disks or even obtain the necessary hardware and consumables.

5.5″ Floppy Disk
This disk was introduced some time later, and was used extensively in the 1980s. These also have fallen in disuse, less rare than the previous format but also no longer supported by contemporaneous hardware.

3.5″ Floppy Disk
This storage medium is the most common of those listed in this section, still in somewhat wide use today. Floppy disks hold from 400 KB up to 1.44 MB. The most common types found are 720 KB (low-density) and 1.44 MB (high-density). Floppy disks have largely been superseded as a transfer medium, first by rewritable CD-ROM (CD-RW) drives and now by flash drives, but are still used as backup storage for small amounts of data. A fair proportion also survive as original installation media for older software applications.

Several other floppy types and sizes have been introduced, such as 2″, 2.5″ and several competing 3″ and 3.25″ formats as well as the ~120 MB SuperDrive which was compatible with standard 3.5″ disks, but none of these were ever very popular and all are quite rare now. Recently, it has become increasingly common for computers to be manufactured without floppy disk drives, and even some motherboards lack standard floppy disk connection headers, so it is expected that the floppy disk will soon fade completely from general use

It should be noted that floppy disks are not suitable for long term storage of data, even in a backup role. Never keep your only copy of an important file on a floppy disk.

Sound Card
Most motherboards have built-in sound features. These are often adequate for most users. However, you can purchase a good sound card and speakers at relatively low cost – a few dollars at the low end can make an enormous difference in the range and clarity of sound. Also, these onboard systems tend to use more system resources, so you are better off with a real sound card for gaming.

Sound card quality depends on a few factors. The digital-analog conversion (DAC) is generally the most important stage for general clarity, but this is hard to measure. Reviews, especially those from audiophile sources, are worth consulting for this; but don’t go purely by specifications, as many different models with similar specs can produce completely different results. Cards may offer digital (S/PDIF) output, in which case the DAC process is moved from your sound card either to a dedicated receiver or to one built into your speakers.

Sound cards made for gaming or professional music tend to do outstandingly well for their particular purpose. In games various effects are oftentimes applied to the sound in real-time, and a gaming sound card will be able to do this processing on-board, instead of using your CPU for the task. Professional music cards tend to be built both for maximum sound quality and low latency (transmission delay) input and output, and include more and/or different kinds of inputs than those of consumer cards.

A modem is needed in order to connect to a dial up Internet connection. A modem can also be used for faxing. Modems can attach to the computer in different ways, and can have built-in processing or use the computer’s CPU for processing.

Modems with built-in processing generally include all modems that connect via a standard serial port, as well as any modems that refer to themselves as “Hardware Modems”. Software Modems, or modems that rely on the CPU generally include both Internal and USB modems, or have packaging that mentions drivers or requiring a specific CPU to work.

Modems that rely on the CPU are often designed specifically for the current version of Windows only, and will require drivers that are incompatible with future Windows versions, and may be difficult to upgrade. Software Modems are also very difficult to find drivers for non-Windows operating systems. The manufacturer is unlikely to support the hardware with new drivers after it is discontinued, forcing you to buy new hardware. Most such modems are internal or external USB, but this is not always the case.

Modems can be attached via USB, a traditional serial port, or an internal card slot. Internal and USB modems are more easily autodetected by the operating system and less likely to have problems with setup. USB and serial port modems often require an extra power supply block.

Gaming modems are normal modems that default to having a low compression setting to reduce lag, but are generally no longer used by gamers, who prefer broadband connections.

Network Interface Card


Network interface card

A Network interface card, or Ethernet card, is required in order to connect to a local area network or a cable or DSL modem. These typically come in speeds of 10Mbps, 100Mbps, or 1000Mbps (gigabit); these are designated as 10Mbps, 10/100Mbps, or 10/100/1000Mbps products. The 10/100 and 10/100/1000 parts are most commonly in use today. In many cases, one or two Ethernet adapters will be built into a motherboard. If there are none, you will have to purchase one. These typically are inserted into a PCI slot. To get the full speed of 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet, it’s best to get a motherboard with that connector built in. A typical Ethernet card usually costs around US$13.

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