Computer 101

I’ve noticed that when I walk into a Bestbuy or a Fry’s electronics that many people don’t understand what all the specifications on the computer tag means. For instance, many think that the CPU is the computer itself which it is not. The CPU—Central Processing Unit—also known as a “Processor” is the brains of the computer not the whole computer itself. Also for other stuff like memory, hard drive, graphics, etc. Most but many people don’t know what they mean or do. Here I will explain to you what those specifications on the tag means and do.

CPU—Central Processing Unit—A.K.A. Processor

The CPU as I have mentioned before is the brains of the computer. It’s job is to process and calculate the mass amount of data that your programs and applications needs in order to run efficiently or run at all period. The CPU can be located in the middle of the Motherboard under a relatively big fan and metal heat sink. Certain programs like Windows 7 for instance requires a certain processor speed to run. If the processor speed is to slow, the program will not run or will run but will not work as fast as it should which will cause lagging in your program or whole system together. So buying a computer with a processor speed of at least 2.5ghz—gigahertz—or greater is a good thing to keep in mind.

Now a days processors come in core sizes ranging from 2 to 6 cores and even 8 in upcoming months. Cores are basically mini CPU’s fitted into one CPU. For example, if a tag of a computer says that the processor is a quad core CPU, it means that there are 4 mini processors that makes up that one CPU. But more cores in a CPU doesn’t necessarily mean the better. Because most programs don’t utilize each core of the CPU fully yet. But it is a safe bet to buy a computer with a Quad core CPU since Dual core CPU’s will soon be fazed out, not to mention newer programs are nearing close to utilizing Quad cores.

Memory Unit

Memory is what many confused as actual storage space for files and what not. But memory is what is known as virtual memory because what ever is stored on it will soon be lost once power has been turned off. Memory is used by the operating system and programs to temporally store and access data the operating system or programs need. In the case of memory size, more does mean the better because the more memory a computer has, the faster it’ll run. Not to mention you will be able to run multiple programs at the same time without slowing the computer down. A good memory size for a computer is 8gb—gigabytes—because it meets Windows 7 memory requirements while also leaving some wiggle room to do more. But if you can spend the extra cash for a little bit more memory, I say go for it.


Graphics is what is used to display images and high resolutions videos on the screen. Not all graphic or video cards are made the same because they themselves come in different configurations. There are built-in graphics A.K.A. Integrated—a graphics chip built into the motherboard, APU graphics—a graphics chip built into the CPU itself, and discreet graphics—a graphics unit that is separate from the motherboard and CPU.

Built-in graphics A.K.A. Integrated graphics, was known as the best way to cut down the cost of a computer and allowing the computer to be built in a small size. But most often built-in graphics failed to perform properly and were known to burn out. Leaving the user unable to view anything on their monitor. So companies are now going away from built-in graphics to the more desirable better performing APU graphics.

APU graphics is the new technology out to replace built-in graphics and low end discreet graphic cards because they perform a lot better and doesn’t require any extra space on the motherboard. The new 2nd generation intel i5 CPU’s and AMD A series CPU’s come with APU graphics built into the CPU.

Discreet graphics have been around since the early 90’s and have been known to bring great video performance at a reasonable price. Because discreet graphics card can push the cost of the computer, they are mainly found in mid to high end systems made for gaming, 3D, video editing and so on. The best thing about discreet graphics A.K.A. dedicated graphics is that you can pair them up with another existing discreet graphics card—better, APU graphics—best, or built-in graphics—good—to up the video performance. As of current, AMD has the best graphic cards out there for your money.

Hard Drive

The hard drive is where all your files, programs and even operating system gets installed and stored on for safe keeping. Hard drives can range from sizes between 80gb—gigabytes—to 2tb—terabytes—of space. The more space you have on a hard drive the better, depending on what the drive is used for. If the hard drive is your primary drive, meaning that it’ll be used to hold the operating system, installed programs, and some files. Its a good idea to keep your primary drive no bigger than 500gb because the larger the drive the longer it will take to access files on it and shorten the lifetime of the drive. If you want to have a drive with a lot of space, it is best to buy a second drive to be used for storage.

Operating System

The operating system A.K.A. “OS” is what allows you to use your computer, run programs, surf the internet and so on. Majority of all computers are sold with a Windows operating system, most likely a Windows 7 for today’s day and age. All computers sold comes with the Windows 7 home premium edition, though it is a good derivative of Windows 7, it can be a bit lacking since some features are turned off to bring down the price of the computer. I’m not saying that you should buy a computer with the Windows 7 ultimate edition, but if you can spare the extra cash, Windows 7 professional will do you just fine.


Now that you know what the specifications mean on the tag of the computer your looking at, you will be able to make a better decision on your purchase. But like anything you are going to buy, especially when it involves a computer. You got to do your research on the product and read the reviews that professionals and other consumers have to say. To be even more precise, you might even want to research the parts that come in the computer. Happy hunting.


One comment on “Computer 101

  1. One of the biggest reasons for this lack of knowledge when going into your local electronics store is simply that the retailer doesn’t look for people who have knowledge of the items they sell but instead look at hiring people that have “SALES skills”. People who are able to sell anything when they know no more than the customer about how the product is said to work.

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