Monday, 15 February 2010

Why You Should Install Extra Computer Memory During the Computer Building Process

Welcome to Building Computers for Beginners where you can learn how to build a PC step by step using this guide. In days of old, computer memory used to be a rather complicated and very confusing component to configure in a new build. These days installing memory into a motherboard as part of build or an upgrade is as easy as can be. First of all it would probably be a good idea to establish exactly what memory is, what it is made of and what it does inside the computer. The type of memory used in most computers is called Random Access Memory. RAM is a type of memory that stores data in a way that allows it to be accessed in any order (or randomly). There are other types of memory that will only allow stored data to be accessed in a sequential order. A memory module or chip is built in a similar way to a microprocessor and is an integrated circuit made from transistors and capacitors. Double Data Rate DDR (also DDR SDRAM or DDR RAM) is a type of fast computer memory. DDR is based on the same memory architecture as standard SDRAM but uses the clock signal in a different way to transfer twice as much data in the same amount of time. If you really want to know the ins and outs of it you can read about computer memory architecture in Wikipedia. There are lots of articles on the internet that explain (amongst other things) how computer memory works. In very basic terms when the computer uses a program the data is held in memory.

When an application or computer program uses a lot of memory the computer system’s performance can slow down. This type of performance slow down can be considerable in machines that do not have enough computer memory installed. Computer memory size is measured in megabytes (Mb). It is not the size of memory that is the most important factor. The idea is not to go for the largest computer memory. It is more important to consider the speed of data transfer. To reiterate it is better to go for speed rather than for the biggest computer memory available. When it comes to internal computer memory it is worth paying for good quality components. Good computer memory can be quite expensive in comparison to cheaper brands of memory but it is far more reliable. Motherboard manufacturers will usually specify which brands of computer memory they recommend for their products.

Something that you may need to consider when you build a new computer is how much memory to install. A simple way to think about computer memory is to assimilate it to a desktop or table. Imagine that you want to lay documents flat on the desktop. The larger the computer memory the more open documents you can have at the same time. Memory upgrades are one of the most popular ways to speed up older computers that are beginning to lag. When you build your own computer it is a good opportunity to add extra computer memory during the initial build.

Computer Memory Installation Guide
Computer memory installation could not be easier. Remember to take anti-static precautions when handling the memory modules (even when removing the packaging). Installation is no different whether you are interested in how to build a media PC, how to build a gaming PC or simply how to build a new computer system from scratch. The technique of installing the memory is largely the same for all types of systems. Place the memory module or unit into the memory slot on the motherboard. The memory will be notched so that it can only fit into the slot the right way round. Press the module down gently but firmly (do not force it down as you could damage the module or motherboard). When the memory module is pressed down firmly it the retaining clips will click down and lock it into position. The motherboard manual will provide installation information for installing dual or triple channel memory correctly. In general the memory banks are installed into matching banks on the motherboard. The memory banks (or slots) on the motherboard are usually colour coordinated which makes this task straightforward.

It may not be imperative but it is good practice to install PC memory in pairs (or in triplet). This will take advantage of dual or triple memory channel architecture. Computer supplies and component retailers sell memory module kits that are aimed at this type of installation. The principle is to install the exact same size, speed and brand of memory into the available memory banks. This has been proven to provide a more stable computer system and reduces the time spent troubleshooting, repairing or upgrading the computer in the future. If your budget allows, install more computer memory than you think you will need to run your programs. It is better to have too much than too little. Another major advantage of dual or triple channel memory modules is that they assist with system cooling. In some motherboards the memory modules act as small walls directing airflow towards other components. This greatly assists the cooling of the machine by drawing cool air into the system box. The technology is more down to the clever design of the motherboard rather than the memory modules themselves. In saying this, the memory modules are also very advanced technology. When the two technologies are brought together in the PC their individual strengths can be realised.

To conclude, we have established that there is a lot more to computer memory than meets the eye. PC memory is a very important component within the computer system. Modern computer are not just built to perform faster and faster, they are built to do cope with the workload of taking on more tasks simultaneously.
Some of the top brands of computer memory are Kingson, Corsair (this is the brand that I use in my computers), OCZ, Crucial, Samsung, Elixar and G-Skill.

Monday, 11 January 2010

How to Find the Best Central Processing Unit

Welcome to Building Computers for Beginners

Question: what does CPU stand for?

Answer: Central Processing Unit

The central processing unit in a computer is sometimes referred to (incorrectly in my opinion) as a microprocessor. In some circles also known as a CPU microprocessor (which is a little bit long-winded as well as over-the-top). The CPU is the component within a computer system that performs instructions initiated by a computer program. In very basic terms the CPU carries out computer functions or low level calculations. To reiterate, the CPU executes a sequence of instructions (a program) from the computer's memory. You don't need to know how the CPU works to build a computer but you need to know which one is compatible with your motherboard and components.

Researching the best CPU can be a little bit confusing for the beginner to computer building. This is because central processing units are manufactured in a multitude of different shapes, clock speeds, and form factors (or sizes). The first point to consider is that there are only two major brands of CPU to consider. These are Intel (you should have heard of this company) and their main rival AMD who you should also be familiar.
Intel are well known for their Celeron, Pentium and Core I processors. AMD built their reputation around their Sempron, Athlon and Phenom processors.

AMD Processors for Desktop Computers

AMD Phenom X3 and X4
AMD Athlon II
AMD Athlon X2 Dual Core (Desktop)
AMD Sempron

AMD Processors for Notebooks (or Laptops)

AMD Turion X2 Ultra 64 Dual Core
AMD Athlon NEO
AMD Athlon X2 Dual Core
AMD Sempron for ultrathin notebooks
AMD Athlon 64 x 2 Dual Core
AMD Sempron

AMD also manufacture Opteron processors for servers and AMD Firestream processors for workstations. AMD Processors

Intel Processors for Desktops

Intel Core I7 Processor
Intel Core I5
Intel Core I3
Intel Core I7v Pro
Intel Core I5v Pro
Intel Pentium Processor
Intel Celeron Processor

Intel Processors for Laptops

Intel Core I7 mobile
Intel Core I5 mobile
Intel Core I3 mobile
Intel Core I7 v Pro
Intel Core I5 v Pro
Intel Celeron Processor

Intel also manufactures a range of XEON processors for servers and workstations. Intel has also developed the ATOM processor for small devices including laptops and/or notebooks. Intel Processors

*Please note that this is how the product lines looked at the time of writing this article. The computer industry develops products at quite a fast pace and undoubtedly this page will soon (if not already) be out of date. This is why I've included links to both manufacturers’ product pages on their respective websites. If the links are broken please alert me to the fact by leaving a comment.
How to decide which is the best CPU for your new computer build?
Choosing a central processing unit can be a daunting task for the beginner to building computers. The decision has to be made alongside selecting a motherboard. This is because the components have to be compatible so that they work together. An early decision that has to be made is whether to build an AMD or Intel powered computer. If you want to build an AMD CPU powered computer you will need to use an AMD compatible motherboard. If you decide to build an Intel CPU powered system you will need to use an Intel compatible motherboard.

As always Budget plays an important part in most computer builders plans. CPUs can be catagorised into simple price ranges of low, middle and high based on their specification. AMD sempron and Intel Celeron processors are low end (and low budget) components. This makes them suitable for basic machines built for simplistic tasks such as home computing. To build a computer capable of taking on more comprehensive tasks you will need at least a mid range processor. It is possible to find some real bargains in this range of products. In fact some builders believe that these are actually the best processors because they are stable. High end expensive processors are at the cutting edge of technology. They are very popular with hardcore gamers and computer builders because they offer the fastest speeds. The drawback being that in some cases using largely untested components may involve extensive troubleshooting of any problems that arise.

How to Install the CPU
Whether building a new computer or upgrading a CPU in an old one, installing the CPU is generally a simple task. The CPU connects directly to an interface on the motherboard most commonly called a socket. Once the CPU is positioned into the socket a heat sink is added and this sits directly above it on the motherboard. A cooling fan is then fitted to the heat sink to absorb and dissipate heat by thermal contact. Retail versions of CPU are usually supplied with all these components ready assembled with thermal paste pre-applied. If your CPU is not a retail version (CPU only) you will probably need to buy a heat sink, thermal paste and cooling fan separately. The cooling fan is used to draw air through the heat sink which makes it work more efficiently. A more expensive alternative is to use a water cooling system. This provides a more effective method of cooling where the CPU has been heavily overclocked.

Warning: Remember to take Electrostatic discharge precaution when working on any computers. This means wearing an anti-static wrist band and/or using anti-static mats. Failure to do so may lead to damage to computer components (which is not always immediately evident).

When the time comes to install the CPU into the motherboard carefully remove all the packaging. Remove the CPU socket cover from the motherboard and align the CPU to the socket. A modern processor (such as an Intel Core I7) will only fit into the socket the correct way round. Place it so that the interface faces downwards. Use the spring loaded clip on the motherboard to lock the CPU in position. For some processors these clips can be very stiffly sprung - a little bit of force may be required to lock the processor down. It is important to ensure that the correct amount of thermal paste is applied to the processor before the heat sink is connected. Use a very small dab of thermal paste (also called thermal grease) and spread it thinly over the area. Add the heat sink and fan to the processor and connect the power supply. A modern processor takes its own power supply which has to be connected to the correct interface on the motherboard. The processor fan will require connecting to the CPU fan interface on the motherboard. On most motherboards the connection interfaces are clearly written on the board.

[on some older motherboards the heat sink clips to the motherboard and this mechanism locks the CPU into position]

Finally, ensure that the cables are tidy and do not obstruct the blades of the CPU cooling fan. When wiring ensure that you always take the shortest possible route. Use cable ties to keep cables tidy inside the computer case. This may not seem important but it actually makes a lot of difference to air flow and can be important for avoiding electrical interference. Obviously, it looks better too!

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