What’s in my Computers? A basic guide

By Ayse Stenabaugh

When purchasing a new computer you may find yourself overwhelmed by all of the technical specifications that are presented to you. It’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of what this information means so that you don’t end with a machine that can’t handle the applications you are trying to us. Read on to find out a little bit about what each component is, our recommended specification for each and how components play a role in your computers performance.




Think of your computers motherboard like you do your nervous system. It’s a crucial component that links all the other components together. This main board is the primary line of communication between all components. If you buy a pre-built computer most likely you won’t know what the motherboards brand is but some computer specifications will relate to the motherboard. All external connections to your device will be made either directly to your motherboard or to your computer case (via cables that lead to the front panel on a desktop computer). Specifications for your motherboard that you should be aware of include video output (HDMI, DVI, VGA, Display port etc.), USB’s (3.0 is faster for supported devices), audio outputs, memory card readers and any other kind of external connection.



The CPU is your computers brain. All the instructions and commands that are provided to your computer are processed here. Not all processors are created equal and Atom and Celeron processors are the slowest on the market. Most processors have multiple cores including dual-core, quad-core etc. Processors that have multiple cores divide tasks up between the cores to become more efficient. You cannot upgrade the processor in a laptop computer so its highly recommended that you consider the speed you will need for applications you need and when in doubt contact a computer support professional (such as us at Jester’s Computers) to get recommendations on what will work well for your needs.

Hard Drive

Hard Drive

The hard drive is where all of the data on your computer is stored including programs, documents pictures and settings. Standard SATA (and older IDE drives) have moving parts inside and with use they can wear out causing data corruption and eventually total failure or data loss. The failure rate of hard drives is higher during the first year of operation (typically from manufacturer defects) and increases again after three to four years of usage. It’s important to note that hard drives can fail at any moment. It is always a good idea to have some kind of backup solution in place for anything that you can’t live without. Odd hard drive sizes such as 320 GB and 740 GB also tend to have a higher failure rate. Hard drive speeds can vary so if you decide to upgrade or change your existing hard drive make sure your getting a high quality hard drive with the higher speeds to increase computer performance. Solid State Hard Drives will eventually become the standard since they have no moving parts and are much faster and more reliable than standard drives. See our advertisement in this paper to receive a discount when upgrading to a Solid State Drive.



If you consider your hard drive to be similar to your long-term memory or data storage, your computers memory is similar to your short term memory or short-term data storage. The greater the amount of memory and processing power your computer has the more functions that can be performed faster. When you don’t have enough memory to support the applications you are trying to run, your computer’s hard drive acts as a temporary short-term storage location which is much slower. Each computer’s motherboard works with specific memory speeds and has a maximum amount of memory that can be installed. DDR3 memory and DDR4 memory are the most common types used although DDR4 is not quite as common just yet.

power supply

Power Supply

Desktop computers have power supplies that can be removed and replaced whereas laptops and most all-in-one devices plug directly into the motherboard. Smaller or slim-line desktops that don’t have a standard case size require a special power supply which can be almost double the cost to replace over standard power supplies. If your computer isn’t turning on you may have a bad power supply which can be tested at your local repair shop and replaced if need be. Most laptops and all-in-one PC’s will have an external power supply box that is part of the power cable for the device, these can go bad over time and can be replaced inexpensively. To minimize the possibility of a surge on your computer, shut your computers down anytime you are expecting a storm or if you are going to be away from your home for more than a day.


CD/DVD Drive

Many newer laptops don’t come with CD/DVD drives and if needed, an external usb cd drive can be purchased for use on these devices. These drives can go bad with use and are not expensive to replace on a standard desktop computer. For those with a slim-line PC, laptop or all-in-one device you may pay extra for installation fees and/or the replacement hardware. Some laptops have what is called a slot loading CD/DVD drive which has no disc drawer, instead these drives have a button that is pressed to eject the disc much like a car stereo.


Need more help? Contact us for support!

If you would like to learn more about your computers hardware, software or are interested in having a custom computer built to meet your needs, contact Jester’s Computer Services in Fairfield. We can be reached by phone at (717) 642-6611, email at customerservice@jesterscomputers.com or by visiting us at 5135 Fairfield Road. For more free tips and tricks for your PC visit www.jesterscomputers.com

Not in our local area? We offer remote support for those with an active high speed internet connection.