Welcome to Computer Training 101

I often get asked if we offer any Computer Training classes, the answer was no, we didn't have the time, now with our new Web site you can get some training. I don't know how many times a potential customer has approached me wanting to buy a new computer, but not knowing where to begin, or what to look for. Well Computer Training 101's where you'll find the answer to those questions, and many more. when you click on a link(TIP: a link may either be a purple highlighted word or a picture for example click on the picture of the CPU below and see where it takes you) you,ll be taken either to more detailed information on the topic or to one of our recommended purcase or informational sources. Before we begin your journey into the inner workings of the computer, take a moment to visit our brand new Ebay store.

We'll Start with the heart of the computer the CPU.

CPU's come in two basic flavors, Intel, which produces the Pentium 4 and Celeron processors and AMD the Athlon 64, and Sempron or Duron. The P4 is Intels performance processor and the celeron is its value line, AMD's performance processor is the Athlon 64, Semron and Duron their value line. I am asked frequently who makes the better CPU Intel, or AMD, thats like asking who makes a better car Ford or Chevy everyone has their personal preferance, however, some say Intel processors are better for video and audio editing, while AMD excells in computer gaming. I like them both, but if you want to know what my dream machine would be, click to find out. CPU's are rated in frequency of megahertz = million or gigahertz = billon the higher the better for examle for example a Pentium 1 might be 100mhz = 100 million while a Pentium 4 might be 3ghz = 3 billion. This form of rating is changing however as the manufacturers are having a harder time increasing gigahertz due to heat and other issues. AMD for example uses a different design for their processors(the 64 in Athlon 64 stands for 64 bit which means it can process bigger chunks of data at a time) for example the Athlon 64 3000+ runs a a clock speed of 2 ghz but performes at the same level as a pentium 4 3ghz which runs at an actual speed of 3ghz. Coming next will be dual core processors which wil be like having two processors in one. Some computer enthusiasts like to overclock thier CPU's click the link to find out more. If you will be doing video editing, mixing music and playing Games you will need the pentium 4 or Athlon 64 of the highest speed you can afford. If you will just be using the computer for school work, surfing the net or business then the value line of processor, Celeron or Sempron is right for you.
Next up memory also known as RAM, the more the merrier.

All of your computers data and programs are permanently stored on your computers Hard disk drive, when you open a program it goes into RAM (random access memory) memory. RAM is very fast, if you do not have enough RAM memory, then, when the CPU needs some information to process, instead of quickly getting the data from memory it must get the data from the relativley slow Harddrive.(when it does this its called virtual memory) Therefore increasing the amount of memory in your computer also increases its speed. Memory comes in different sizes, speeds, and types. The most common sizes are 32,64,128,256,512,1024mbyts. I would recommend a minimum of 256mb for todays computers, but get as much as you can afford. Memory is measured in Megabytes = millons and Gigabytes = billions. The different types of memory are SIMMS, SDR, DDR, DDR2. The most commonly used memory today is DDR. We'll use DDR as an example while discusing memory speed. DDR is rated in megahertz and gigahertz just like the processors. DDR comes in these different speeds PC1600=200mhz, PC2100=266mhz, PC2700=333mhz, PC3200=400mhz, and so on. It is more efficient if your memory speed matches the bus speed of your motherboard.(Think of the bus as a roadway down which information must travel between the various parts or your computer) Although you can use memory speeds that are slower than your bus, you'll get the best perfomance if it matches your bus speed.
Storage is our next topic for discusion, Your Hard Disk Drive or Harddrive is where all your data is permanently stored.

Harddrive size is measured in megabytes and gigabytes. Various sizes are available, from 10 gig and smaller to 300 gig and bigger. The size that you will need depends on what you will be using the computer for. If you will be editing video, and storing lots of media like movies, music, and pictures then you will need a large, fast harddrive. If the computer is just for business, schoolwork, and surfing the net then you do not need a very large harddrive. Inside the harddrive are what is called platters, they look something like CD or DVD disks stacked on top of one another and they spin at various speeds from 5400rpms, to 10,000 rpms. The faster it spins the faster the data can be accessed. A good general speed is 7200 rpm. The harddrive is connected to the motherboard by a cable called an IDE cable in one of two ways either parallel(ATA) or serial(SATA). Parallel ATA is limited to 133mbps, serial is 150mbs at this time but will be increasing in the near future. Harddrive data is transfered through the computer in megabytes per second or mbps for short, the number of mbps varies the different speeds are 33,66,100,133, and 150 mbps for serial ATA. Worried about loosing your data if your harddrive fails? RAID (redundant array of independent drives) is the answer. To use RAID you must have 2 or more harddrives and a RAID controller either built into your motherboard or in the form of a PCI card. There are different levels of raid 0 thru 6, I will will not go into them all here for more info click on the RAID link. RAID level 0 is called striping and the data is split up in such a way that half your data is on one drive and half is on the other, the main advantage to this is speed. It's alot faster if the computer can retrieve the data from 2 harddrives simultaneously and would be a good option for someone working with large files such as video and or audio editing. RAID level one is called mirroring and consists of two harddrives each with identical information, if one fails you still have all your data saved on the other drive. this option is great for say a business in which loss of your data would be devastating.
Now you'll need something to tie it all together, thats where your Mainboard (AKA Systemboard, Motherboard) comes in.

Different types of processors require different mainboards, for example, you can't put a Pentium 4, in a mainboard designed for a Pentium 3. The place on the mainboard where you put the processor is usually a ZIF (zero insertion force) Socket. Pentium 3 uses a socket 370, the Pentium 4 uses socket 423, 478, or 775. As you can see there are several socket types for P4, this is because they are continuously refineing the design and shrinking the die size of the processors, the smaller they are the less energy they consume and the less expensive they are to manufacture, this is good, but they produce more heat, this is not good. Heat is a processor killer. So if you want to upgrade your processor you must stick with the same socket type unless you want to change the motherboard as well. On the motherboard there is a clock that times the transfer of data along the buss (remember the buss, I refered to it as a roadway alongwhich data travels, it resides on the mainboard) between the processor, memory and and other components of the PC, the clock is needed because the processor is faster than the speed data can travel down the buss the Processor speed is arived at by multiplying the bus speed X the Clock speed. For example say your bus is 100mhz data can travel at 100mhz between your processor and memory and youve got a 400mhz processor then you would need your clock to be set to 4 x. 4 x 100mhz bus = processor 400mhz. So as far as an upgrade goes you need #1.to use same socket type processor #2.Know the maximum clock speed setting for your mainboard say its 8 x in the case above. #3.Know the maximum bus speed of your mainboard say its 100mhz = a maximum speed for this board of 800mhz. On the motherboard there is also something called the chipset, it is like a less powerful version of your CPU, I like to think of it as the traffic cop that controlls the flow of data along the bus, it also controlls the clock speed and is usually either made by VIA, Intel or more recently Nvidia.
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You'll need a PC Case

to house all of your components.

Some things to consider when choosing a case are, looks, choose an attractive case if looks are important to you. Size, cases come in a wide range of sizes, micro, mid, and full tower are some of the choices, decide how many drives you'll be needing and choose the size accordingly. Cooling, if you will be Overclocking then you will need a case with good cooling properties, aluminum cases shed heat better than steel cases, also look at the amount of extra cooling fans included, if any, the bigger fans, like 120mm are better, they spin slower, which is good because this will reduce fan noise, while still moving the same amount of air as a smaller faster spinning fan. Power Supply

, does the case come with a Power Supply, if so how many watts. A high quality power supply is essential. A cheap power supply can cause all sorts of problems and power related problems are hard to troubleshoot, so save yourself some headaches right off the batt and get a good quality one with 450 watts or better. Alot of cases come with apoor quality power supply, so consider buying a case without one. In my humble opinion, PC Power and Cooling , makes some of the best power supplies around, consider buying one of theirs, for your high end gaming rig.

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The next computer component I'd like to talk about on our computer training page, is the Graphics Card or Video card. Very important if you are a gamer, not so important if your not. Graphics cards are either integrated onto your mainboard or inserted into an expansion slot on you mainboard, either ISA (industry standard architecture)for really old computers, PCI (periferal component interconnect)for somewhat older computers, AGP (advanced graphics port)for more recent computers, and finally, PCI express the newest type of expansion slot.

Most graphics cards these days are of the AGP type. The two main manufacturers of graphics cards are Nvidia, for the GeForce line, and ATI for the Radeon line of graphics cards, its a matter of opinion on whos cards are better, I like them both. The video card will have a certain amount of memory built onto it,(similar to the RAM your computer uses) some common amounts are 8,16,32,64,128,256mb or more with the same speed classification as your PC's RAM, SDR or DDR of varying speeds. The bigger and faster the better, also you will see an x rating like 2x, 4x, 8x, 16x, which is the speed the video card transfers data to the CPU for processing, similar to the bus speeds for your mother board.(see motherboard section above) In the old days your CPU did most of the work for the graphics card, these days graphics cards have a GPU (grapics processing unit)which does all the work. If you are building a computer from scratch, and you are a gamer, consider a mainboard with PCI Express and SLI (scalable link interface) which allows for the use of two video cards simultaneously, this is the latest cutting edge technology, read the Dream Machine page, to see how I would configure my ulitimate gaming rig. In summary if your not a gamer an integrated video card is fine, but for gamers get a high end AGP or PCI express, card with lots of fast memory and make sure your CPU is up to par as well.

Optical Drives include CD ROM's, DVD ROM's, CD-RW , and DVD-RW drives. These drives are usually rated by read/write speeds. CD ROM's have a maximum read speed of 56x and DVD readers max at 16x. As for burners they have a separate rating for each function they perform. we'll use a DVD burner for an example since it can do everything, but first let me get this +/- business out of the way, the +/- is a format some drives burn only + and some only - formats but most do both + and -, the reason for the formats is because different manufacturers were developing the DVD burners at the same time and each company adopted a standard of its own, something like when VHS and Beta Max recorders came out, eventually Beta max went the way of the dinosaurs. It really doesn't matter which format you use as long as it plays in the DVD player you use to watch your movies on TV, some work only with +, some with -, some both and some older ones niether. That said let me show you what you might be likely to see on a DVD burners box, 12x4x8 DVD +/- RW & 40x24x40 CDRW,

the first speed rating is usually +R in this example 12x most burners burn +R fastest, next is +RW (R is write, RW is rewrite) 4x rewrite, followed by 8x -R, then 40x cd burn speed, 24x cd rewrite, and 40x read speed. Get great deals on DVD Drives/Burners @ Geeks.com!

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