Windows PCs. The Basics.




If you're looking at purchasing a Windows based computer, whether it's a desktop or a laptop, you probably browse on Amazon or Walmart's website, then take a trip down to Best Buy because they know computers. They can help! Sometimes they can, sometimes they can't, I've noticed it's hit or miss at major retail stores that sell computers and components. In this blog I'll break down the different components, and the important specifications for each.






The processor is the brain of the computer, it processes and calculates all the information that's going through the system. You've probably seen labels at stores that say "i3 Quad-Core 3.2GHz" or "i7 8-Core 3.0GHz” on a computer. What does this mean? Think of each core as independent brains, that can work independently of one another, or 'link' together to complete a task if there's a huge amount of information to process. The more cores a processor has, the more and more difficult tasks it can accomplish. The 'GHz' rating is the clock speed, meaning how fast it'll process the information. Just because the i3 processor in the example I used has a high clock speed, doesn't mean it's faster. Don't compare processors unless they're the same line of processor. An i7 processor is more advanced and can handle more multitasking than the i3, despite having a lower clock speed. However, if you see two i3's of the same generation, advertised with 3.2GHz and 3.4GHz, the 3.4GHz will be faster. If you're using your computer for browsing the internet, doing schoolwork, or basic processes like this, a quad-core processor is more than enough to handle the workload.



RAM or Memory



RAM works in conjunction with the processor, it stores all the information the processor is calculating at extremely high speeds. All RAM is generally created equal if you're looking at the same chipset, such as DDR4 RAM. It's nice developers have made it easy for us, DDR4 is better than DDR3, DDR3 is better than DDR2 and so on. It'll be difficult to find a new computer today that isn't using DDR4 RAM. If you see RAM with a speed of 3200MHz and one with 3000MHz, the 3200MHz will be faster. But there's also size or amount of RAM. If you have a higher amount of RAM, it transfers a higher amount of data.  



Video Card



People often jump straight to the video card, especially for a gaming PC. There's a science to it however. If you splurge on a high-end video card and leave little left of your budget for the rest of the computer, you could find yourself in trouble. It's better to have a well-balanced system where the processor, RAM, and video card all work in synchronization. If you get too high end of a video card, and your processor and RAM can't keep up, it will bog the video card performance. Getting the best video card, but having other outdated hardware is like putting a Ferrari engine in a car that has no rear tires and missing the steering wheel. What use is the engine if the car can't even roll or steer? If you're not using a computer to edit photos, videos, or game, a video card is not needed. With the new AMD Ryzen processors that end with a 'G' as in '3200G', basically have a video card built into the processor, so a video card is not needed for sure at that point.



Storage (SSD or HDD)



Many mainstream computers now use a small Solid-State Drive (SSD) and a larger Hard Disk Drive (HDD), to reduce cost. What many consumers don't know is SSDs have advanced so far since their introduction in 1991 by IBM, they are basically priced the same, gigabyte for gigabyte, compared to a HDD. What's the difference between the two? HDDs have moving parts, SSDs don't, this makes SSDs on average 4.5x faster. A HDD transfers at around 120MB/s while a SSD transfers around 540MB/s, this is like driving a car 20mph or 90mph, which will get you there faster? Therefore, we use SSDs in all our computers. Major companies use smaller SSDs to install the operating system so you can boot the system fast, but everything else seems slow, so we make your main and only drive the SSD.






The motherboard is what ties all the other hardware together. There's different motherboard sizes and designs, known as form factors. If you see a computer with a micro-ATX form factor, it will be smaller than an ATX form factor motherboard. Basically, a micro-ATX will have similar capabilities, but it may not have as many slot options as an ATX motherboard. Motherboard form factors aren't normally advertised for mainstream computers, but it's extremely important to have a well-designed motherboard for what you're doing. Motherboards are designed in ways to dissipate heat more efficiently and may have different or more accessory ports. 



Power Supply



Power supplies are not advertised on a normal basis, but they are not created equal. You have non-modular, partial modular, and full modular power supplies, they come in different wattage ratings, and can also be 80 plus certified. Non-modular means all the cables are there whether you use them or not, partial means you can disconnect some cables, but you may not use all of them, and fully modular means you only plug in the cables you need. Less cables means less clutter, less clutter means less dust and less dust is less heat, which is a good thing. That's why we use fully modular power supplies in our systems. Wattage ratings are simple to understand, a 650W power supply can push out more power than a 550W power supply. Usually 400W is enough for a daily computer, but you may want 750W or more if you're using a gaming computer. The power supplies we use are also 80 Plus certified. It's an economy rating, if it has an 80 Plus rating, that means you'll use only the amount of power you need, it's regulated better. It'll detect whether you're in need of all its power or it's just sitting idle.






The computer case is often overlooked. There's some out there designed for aesthetic reasons, but there's also a science to how they're designed. Laptops usually get hot because they have one fan on the bottom of the system and it can't get the hot air out fast enough to cool the system. Desktops usually have one fan on the back to suck the hot air out, but there's usually no fans on the front to draw cool air in. This causes too much hot air to stay stagnant in the system, which increases heat and stress on components causing them to fail earlier than they should. How do we combat this? Buy an Alpha Omega system. Our systems have multiple fans to draw in cool air and push out hot air. 



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