General hardware component education

Hi there,

Allow me to sound really uninformed for a few sentences, then I’ll get to the question. Don’t roll your eyes until the end. ;-)

I’m starting to build my first computer, and I’m getting bogged down in a lot of details and acronyms. For example, just when I think that I’m starting to understand what’s going on because I know what “1155,” “1156” and “AM3” sockets are, and that I probably want an i7 or i5 or Phenom II, and I think all I have to do is figure out which MBs go with those, along come these terms like “x58” or “z68” which turn out to be “chipsets” which are somehow neither MBs nor processors. (No need to address that, it’s just an example.) Then to throw things further into confusion, the one thing I was counting on, which was that I definitely need a dedicated graphics card for the work I do (3D-geospatial raster and vector modeling, plus Adobe CS5) is now not such a sure thing, with these APUs showing up and claiming that they’re faster because they’re TRULY integrated, not just integrated in the old sense of being bolted on. So here’s my question for any and all: How about some pointers to article series, websites, or not-too-old books, that explain the architecture of each hardware component, how they work, and how they work with each other? I’m trying to learn, in a linear rather than haphazard fashion, the basic workings of the MB, CPU, GPU, chipsets, sockets, graphics cards, and network cards. Right now I’m looking at this through the wrong end of the telescope (that includes my research on Wikipedia). So any suggestions are welcome. Then hopefully I can disappear for a month and come back with intelligent questions. Thanks!!
10 answers Last reply
More about general hardware component education
  1. This topic has been moved from the section Opinions and Experiences to section Systems by Grumpy9117
  2. Thanks Grumpy!
  3. Ok ill try and help with a few things here:

    1) Intergrated graphics means built into the motherboard (the motherboard has a HDMI/DVI/VGA port attached to it).
    2) Dedicated graphics cards are bought seperatly (for example Nvidia GTX560 or ATI 6950) and these can be added to one of the PCI x16 slots on the motherboard)
    3) Yes, the first thing you should chose is the processor. This is the basis and the "brain" of your build.
    4) Once you have chosen a processor, check its socket type. The socket type (socket 1155) for example, will determine which motherboard you get (after all the processor has to be compatible with the motherboard). So if you chose a Intel i5-2500k processor its socket 1155, so you will need a socket 1155 motherboard.
    5) RAM - Generally i believe 1.5v RAM, 1333mhz, 1600mhz are the general choices. If you wish to run better RAM 1.65v or higher MHz, check its compaitble with the motherboard.
    6) Optical drive, HDD - you can pretty much buy anything here, almost all are compatible with all motherboards. Generally you will be looking at SATA II or SATA III 7200rpm HDD's. Optical drive can pretty much be anything to suit your needs, BluRay if you need it, if not a standard SATA II or SATA III DVD/CD drive will be fine.
    7) Graphics card - this really depends on your budget/requirements
    8) PSU - PSU will mostly depend on the processor your using and the graphics cards your using. One you have chosen a processor and graphics card(s), come back here for a reply on a suggested PSU wattage or alternatively use this PSU calc:
    9) Case - MOST builds will operate around an ATX form factor motherboard. So any mid-tower or full-tower ATX case will fit your build.
    10) Overclocking - if you plan on overclocking you will need to take into consideration PSU wattage and also you might want to be looking at an aftermarket CPU cooler.

    Hopefully this has helped feel free to post anymore questions and ill do my best to answer. This NewEgg video is also great to watch if your a first time builder:

    In short - rough list of the order to pick components:
    Optical Drive
  4. Wow, thanks for such a great write-up, Adrian! I will definitely check out the links you posted, too. One quick, last question for now....

    So is a "chipset" usually already attached to a motherboard? That is, are MBs usually defined by their chipsets, or are they mix-and-match the way a CPU and a MB can be mix-and-match (to the degree that they're compatible, of course). ..?
  5. Chipsets are built into the motherboard. They are components that are soldered on and cannot be changed.
  6. Excellent, thank you!

    --noobie ;)
  7. Also to add to the above, many newer motherboards also support something called LUCID VIRTU. This basically means the motherboard will use the onboard (intergrated) graphics, aswell as the Graphics card. (it will intelligently chose which to use for each given situation, to give best performance)

    P67 - Has no built in graphics (Good for gaming/OCing)
    H67 - Built in graphics (not really for OC/Gaming)
    Z68 - Basically P67 and H67 combined with a few extra features too
  8. Hey, Happy T-Day! You guys helped me out a few months ago, and I'm back. I posted this on the main "New Build" forum, but there are lots of people freaking out and trying to get advice before Black Friday ends, so I thought I'd post this here as well. Bad timing on my part, but if you're not too full of tryptophan and beer (or even if you are), maybe take a look and give advice on my very first build, when you get the chance. Here's the post:
    .................................. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    Hi Folks,

    After several months of research starting with some excellent advice from forum members here, I’d like to run the components of my first build by you guys. I’m keeping it simple—not overclocking, not even gaming. I think it’s a pretty typical build—the only unusual thing is that I’m going for a FirePro GPU instead of a Radeon because I do GIS/CAD work. I am hoping to get your opinions on whether this is a solid build, or if it’s somehow wrong or inefficient. I’m also wondering if you think I need more than a 550W PSU.


    AMD Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition Thuban 3.3GHz, 3.7GHz Turbo Socket AM3 125W Six-Core Desktop Processor HDE00ZFBGRBOX

    GIGABYTE GA-990XA-UD3 AM3+ AMD 990X SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX AMD Motherboard

    ATI 100-505606 FirePro V4800 1GB GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 Workstation Video Card

    Corsair Vengeance 8GB DDR3 (already purchased)

    Antec BP550 Plus 550W Continuous Power ATX12V V2.2 80 PLUS Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply

    Western Digital Caviar Black WD5002AALX 500GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

    Not sure yet, a mid-tower made of more steel than plastic. Something along the lines of an In Win BUC or a Cooler Master HAF. Depends on Black Friday sales.

    Approximate Purchase Date: this weekend
    Budget Range: 700-800
    System Usage from Most to Least Important: No gaming, but heavy processor and graphics card use for 3D CAD and GIS software (panning and zooming large geographic datasets in 3D)
    Preferred Website(s) for Parts:
    Country: USA
    Overclocking: No
    SLI or Crossfire: No
    Monitor Resolution: 1920x1080
  9. Quote:
    Can you buy anything from and pick it up from their local store?

    You could get a GG deal on cpu+mobo combo of a z68 + i5 2500K or even an i7 2600K since they have amazing deals right now.

    Thanks for the tip, nice Horsie ;-) I'm in Vermont, nowhere near the closest microcenter store, but Newegg is having some good Black Friday deals.... in case I were to go to an i5 or i7, can you recommend a mobo that would play nice with the Firepro?
  10. Cool, man, thanks for the good advice!
Ask a new question

Read More

New Build Systems Product