Computer Upgrade 3415

With increasing popularity of computer games, and multimedia home PC users often

need an unexpensive computer system upgrade. By building a custom computer one

is able to combine componenets, and operating system to provide maximal gaming

performance. Computers are often called number manipulators, because of their

ability to run millions of mathematical operations per second (White 43).

Computers use binary system of numbers, which allows them to operate system of

microscopic switches called transistors found inside of computer chips. Binary

system is defined as counting system that uses two digits one and zero (Gookin

49). A transistor is a basic building block of microchips; transistors are

combined in formations called logic gates (White 39). “Transistor can only

create binary information: one if current passes through or zero if current does

not, to work with transistors”(White 39). Computer software uses Boolean

logic, which is based on selecting true or false values used in computer

programming (White 39). All personal computers have BIOS, which is an acronym

for Basic Input Output System. The BIOS runs every time the computer is started,

and it basically tells the computer how to act (White 19). The BIOS is a part of

the boot up process, or a complex set of operations checking hardware that

components are working properly. Besides BIOS and several other operations there

is power–on self-test – POST being ran. POST test runs at the start up, and if

it finds an error, it sends a warning message (White 5). Central processing unit

– CPU is the most important part of the personal computer, all other

components work as a bridge to CPU (White 59). The speed of the processor is

usually defined by using units called megahertz (MHz, also million frequency

waves per second). CPUs are generally divided into two categories- CISC and

RISC. CISC – complex instruction set computing, uses many small instructions

to carry out a single operations. CISC is a standard in today’s processors.

RISC – reduced instruction set computing, uses less complicated instructions

with simpler design. RISC microprocessors are cheaper, they produce less heat,

and they are generally smaller in size compared to CISC. With less heat and

smaller size RISC processors have great advantage in reaching higher frequencies

with less danger of overheating. The major disadvantage and also reason why RISC

microprocessors are not widely used, is less compatibility with available

software. The earlier programs were written for CISC chips. In order to reach

maximal speed, and compatibility the major manufacturers of microprocessors such

as Intel, use some advantages of RISC technology, to improve the performance of

their CISC compatible microprocessors (White 55). Computer microprocessor is the

most important part of the PC, but it can not work by it self. One of the few

primary components is BUS, also called a highway of the computer. BUS transports

data among the processor, random access memory, and hard disk. Speed of the BUS

depends on the type of motherboard where it is installed (White 119). Random

access memory- RAM is also attached to the motherboard- base of all the

components, but unlike BUS, RAM can be easily removed and changed. Random access

memory works as a staging area for the central processing unit (White 43).

Capacity of random access memory is very important for the performance of a

computer. In case there is not enough RAM the software can create space on the

hard drive to be used as temporary operating memory (White 31). Random means

that any part of the memory can be accessed at any time, it is not necessary to

read all of the memory to find one location. RAM is usually fast, temporary

memory where data is saved until removed or power is turned off on the computer

(White 43). “A hard drive is the workaholic of a PC system.”(White 87)) It

is based on using magnetic plates; spinning at extreme speeds up to 7,200

rotations a minute, which are 120 spins every second. Even with extreme speed

and microscopic accuracy modern hard drives are unlikely to fail. The hard disk

is a combination of electronic and mechanical portions, which makes it the one

of the slowest parts of the computer (White 87). A graphic card is usually

plugged into one of the expansion slots, which are metallic contacts on the

motherboard (White 119). One of the most common expansion slots is PCI –

peripheral components interconnect. PCI are most commenly white slots used to

attach a graphic or sound card, also modem or network card (White 120). Latest

expansion slot used for graphic cards only is AGP – accelerated graphic port,

which is faster than PCI (White 121). Both PCI and AGP based adapters use SVGA

– super video graphics array as a modern standard, which added new

capabilities, such as higher resolution and color depth to the previous VGA

interface. Super VGA allows as many as 16 million colors also called 32-bit

color, or true color(Stephen 1253). There are three major factors defining the

speed of a graphic adapter, overall performance depends on the chipset speed,

performance and capacity of graphic random access memory and the expansion slot

architecture (Stephen 1258). One of the other factors defining speed of a video

adapter is the software driver. “Even the finest accelerator board hardware

can bog-down when run with careless, loosely written code”(Stephen 1259).

Graphic cards have their own BIOS software which is firmware, or permanently

recorded in a memory device such as ROM – read only memory, and usually can

not be modified. Graphic card is actually a device what enables visualizing of

data on the monitor’s screen. Graphic adapter sends signals to the monitor.

The monitor uses glowing dots of red, green, and blue rays, which then blend

into millions of colors. The display dots are called pixels –picture element,

also the smallest area of the monitor’s screen. Pixels are on/off to create

and image, the graphic adapter sends the information about position and color of

pixels in form of a bitmap. Bitmaps are also the most common form of computer

graphics (White 143). The CD-ROM –compact disk read only memory became

standard equipment in personal computer systems in late 1980’s. Data is

retrieved from a compact disk by using a laser beam without any physical contact

between the disk and the drive. No physical contact makes compact disks long

lasting data storage media (White 205). Since early 1990s the CD-R – compact

disk recorder became more reliable for home users. CD-R allows one to record

CD’s on a home personal computer. The newer technology is CD-RW compact disk

rewriteable, which enables rewriting CD’s after it is recorded (White 139).

The latest way to store very large amount of data are DVD-digital versatile

disk, which allows to store up to thirteen times more data than a CD. DVDs are

usually used for movies because of their large capacity, and digital quality

sound and picture(White 205). Another common component of the personal computer

is a modem. A modem works as a connection between digital and analog signals.

The modem itself is an analog device. It uses analog telephone lines which were

invented before any digital device. Modern 56K modems combine both analog, and

digital transfer, making it perform better than analog – only devices. Newer

technology in data transfer are DSL – digital subscriber line, satellite, and

cable. All of those are generally faster, but a more expensive way to connect to

the Internet (White 171). A sound card is one the devices that has been

overlooked in early systems, besides a simple speaker the early PCs were mute.

Due to the of increasing popularity of computer games, designers developed a

soundboard, which was able to read and reproduce sound data recorded in separate

files. Modern soundboards allow users to enjoy realistic three-dimensional sound

surrounding a person while playing computer games (Stephen 1187). To build a PC

providing maximal gaming performance, one of the most important things to

consider is choosing a CPU. There are several choices meeting individual needs,

and purposes. Traditionally the speed of the processor is defined by it clock

speed, but that is often not very certain because different developers can pack

more performance into fewer clock cycles (Stephen 289). However to reach good

gaming performance, today’s CPU needs a clock speed of 400 MHz or more, which

eliminates selection below that point. The two major manufacturers making high

performing processors are Intel and AMD. Both producers have selection of low

and high price range CPUs between one hundred dollars up to one thousand

dollars. Intel Celeron is one of the good performing and low priced CPUs, but

compared to higher priced Intel Pentium II/III Celeron does not perform quite as

well . The reason why Celeron is not as fast as Pentium II/III, is no presence,

or low amount of cache memory. Cache memory is a very fast type of memory where

data is temporary stored to avoid accessing slower RAM or hard drive. Older CPUs

such as Pentium were using cache memory implemented on the motherboard; newer

processors have cache memory installed on them, which makes the data transfer

faster. AMD- advanced micro devices, as Intel’s largest competitor is known

for providing well- designed and highly compatible processors. Currently to

compete with Intel, AMD sells two good performing types of processors. The

highly priced, and great performing AMD K7-Anthlon, and the “Celeron

competition” AMD K6. The Anthlon CPU in most benchmarks performs better than

its clock speed equivalent from Intel (Hwang 1). After selecting CPU next thing

to consider is motherboard. There is a wide selection of motherboards, but only

few well performing and high compatible. Abit is one of the well-known mainboard

manufacturers, their policy has always been to provide greatest flexibility and

feature set available. Their fair priced Abit BX6 rev. 2.0 features five PCI

slots, two ISA and one AGP. BX6 supports up to one gigabyte of RAM, and is

compatible with all Intel’s Slot – one processor, making it an excellent

choice for Intel’s CPUs (Hwang 1). If AMD K7- Anthlon is the choice for CPU,

outstanding MSI MS-61-67 is a high quality mainboard supporting all Anthlon

CPUs, and providing same as Abit BX6, five PCI, and two ISA slots. AGP slot is

implemented as well. MS 61-67 supports up to 768 megabytes of random access

memory, which provides plenty of upgrading options. The mainboard also provides

“Plug and Play” BIOS which detects the peripheral devices and expansion

cards of the board automatically(Hwang 3). A good graphic card is one the most

important things to consider while building a gaming computer. 3Dfx Voodoo3 is

one of the best performing graphic cards available on the market (Vederman 204).

Its impressive test results in Glide interface based games are unbeatable by any

other graphic card, just because 3Dfx is the only manufacturer using Glide

interfacing. Using other interfaces such as Open GL or Direct 3D the Voodoo 3

3500 looses speed compare to TNT 2 Ultra based accelerators. One of the features

of the high priced Voodoo3 3500 is a TV tuner that allows user to watch

television on computers monitor (Case 49) . Voodoo 3 supports all three

interfaces- Open GL, Glide, and Direct 3D which makes it one of the fastest, and

most compatible graphic cards available. Only sixteen megabytes of graphic

memory does not allow Voodoo3 to run true color, three dimensional scenes in

high resolutions, and that is what Nvidia TNT 2 Ultra does (Case 204). Several

graphic card manufacturers use TNT 2 Ultra chipset. Well known, and one of the

largest is Diamond Multimedia producing Viper 770 Ultra, using previously

mentioned TNT 2 Ultra chipset. Viper 770 is a very fast graphic accelerator with

implemented thirty-two megabytes of graphic memory, allowing true coloring in

high resolutions. Retail version of the Viper includes a large software bundle

with several valuable games. Another feature is an excellent toolbar that allows

the user to tweak up a lot of details improving performance, such as an

overclocking utility (Case 99). After all the hardware parts are assembled it is

time to install the most important software, the operating system. The computer

is unable to do anything unless it is running an operating system, which is a

basic type of software that acts as a supervisor for all the applications (White

9). Although the operating system is the most important software it is not

included in computers, because of the need to upgrades. Operating system is

loaded from hard drive to the random access memory before the CPU can perform

any operations. Operating systems were originally created to handle

communication with other drives, because without an operating system programmers

would have to invent software with instructions to run the hardware (White 19).

Currently the most popular operating system is Microsoft Windows 98 Second

Edition. One of the new features of the Windows OS is an upgraded version of USB-

universal serial bus support, which allows to use USB compatible modems. The

feature improvement since Windows 95 includes for example Disk Defragmentation

Optimization Wizard, using the process of disk defragmentation to increase the

speed of the most frequently used applications (Stephen 53) The newest Microsoft

operating system Windows 2000 is still available only in beta test version.

Impressive new features such as very complex plug and play detection devices, or

performance improvements due using the newest drivers are only few of the new

implementations (Cleveland 75). Todays reality – like games require high-end

PCs, sold for thousands of dollars. By building a custom computer a user is

really able to tweak up the best performance for the best price. Cheaper, custom

built PC allows user to play any of the hundreds of games available, and reach

the best frame rates.

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