While it’s essential to look at the brand when shopping for a new computer, it’s also critical to look at the components on the spec sheet. Learning about the components can also be helpful if you’re saving a few bucks by putting together your own machine. But what do terms like CPU (processor), RAM (memory), GPU (video card), hard drive, and solid-state drive mean? Read on to find out more!
What Is a CPU?
A central processing unit (CPU) is like the brain of your computer and manages all the basic instructions of a program. It interprets a program’s tasks and creates the output you interface with on your machine. When buying a CPU, there are two main features you should look at:
- Clock speed: A CPU’s speed determines how quickly it can perform tasks. The clock speed is measured in GHz (gigahertz).
- Cores: Nowadays, CPUs have multiple cores because it has become challenging for manufacturers to make further advancements in clock speed. The more cores in a CPU, the greater the load it can handle.
What Is a GPU?
If a CPU is your computer’s brain, then a graphics processing unit (GPU) is its muscle. A GPU helps your computer render 3D graphics with visual effects, advanced lighting, shadowing, and more. In a nutshell, a GPU assists your CPU by managing the heavy lifting of graphics workloads. The quality of your GPU can help your computer run more demanding video games.
What Is a Hard Drive?
Many people want to know what is a hard drive and how is it different from a solid-state drive? Well, a hard drive, short for hard disk drive (HDD), is a non-volatile electromechanical storage device that holds data like your documents, media, and games. While an HDD is a cheap way to store plenty of data, it also has moving parts vulnerable to both dust and damage from falls.
What Is a Solid-State Drive?
Many people erroneously refer to a Solid-State Drive (SSD) as a type of hard drive, but that’s not true. An SSD is not a kind of HDD. Unlike hard drives, SSDs don’t have moving parts. SSDs use electronic circuitry to hold data and are typically much faster than HDDs. However, they hold fewer gigabytes per dollar than HDDs. When shopping for a storage drive, you can consider using an SSD for your operating system and apps and an HDD for storing media and backups that you don’t need frequently.
What Is Computer Memory (RAM)?
So, what is computer memory then? Your computer’s RAM is a temporary storage unit that allows it to access data on a short-term basis. To keep it brief, your computer loads programs in the memory to access them quickly as RAM is faster to read than a hard drive. However, RAM is volatile memory, meaning it loses data as soon as the computer is powered off and can’t store anything permanently.
Nowadays, you need at least 8GB of RAM for a computer to run modern apps comfortably. For heavier programs like video games, you may need 16GB or more.
The world of computer components evolves very quickly. For example, while 4MB of RAM was standard a few years ago, 8GB is standard nowadays. Who knows what the future will hold?