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What’s Inside My Computer?

Ever wondered what’s inside your computer? Have you ever called tech support and had a technician talk to you about some technical jargon that you couldn’t understand?

Fret no more! We’re here to explain what those ‘thingamajigs’ inside your computer are and what they do. So, the next time you talk to a technician, you’ll actually know what they’re talking about. We’ll also discuss some common issues attributed to certain components.

Just in case you ever encounter these problems in the future, you’d have a good idea of what parts of your computer hardware might be failing.

So, grab your screwdriver and let’s take a quick look at what’s inside your computer!



What's Inside My Computer?
The central processing unit with a cooling fan. Top-right: a close up photo of a CPU


1. Processor (or CPU)

The processor, or the central processing unit (CPU for short), is the ‘brain’ of your computer. Everything that goes on inside your system goes through the CPU. When you look inside your machine, this component usually has a cooling fan on top of it. This is because while processing, CPUs can reach very high temperatures and need to be constantly cooled
The most common CPU issue is a broken (or usually very dirty) fan that often results to your system overheating and crashing. Other issues are instances when your computer won’t start, but just gives you a series of beeps. When this happens, do make sure to take note of the beep sequence because this tells you (or the technician) what’s wrong with your system.



What's Inside My Computer?
A motherboard connects all computer components together


2. Motherboard

The motherboard is what makes all your computer components work together. You can think of it as a central hub where everything that makes up your computer ‘communicate’ with each other. (And yes – it’s a circuit board that does look like a small city complete with streets, buildings, and highways.) Most common motherboard issues are the “BSOD – the Blue Screen of Death” and random crashes – which can mean that there may be failing components on the motherboard itself.

Your motherboard is also very susceptible to physical damage like short circuits, water damage, or heat damage.  So, it’s always best to keep your computer away from dirty surfaces, humid places, and water. And oh – also make sure that your system always has enough ventilation so that the components connected to the motherboard (or the motherboard itself) get protected from heat damage. The last thing you want is a melted component!



What's Inside My Computer?
Desktop and laptop RAM modules


3. Memory (or RAM)

The RAM (short for Random Access Memory) takes care of most short-term processing for your system.  RAM modules for desktop computers are chips about the size of small bookmarks. For laptops, these modules are chips about the size of business cards. RAM allows your computer to do multiple tasks at once. So, the more memory you have, the faster your computer will perform.

Common issues attributed to failing memory modules are sudden, random crashes, and blue error screens. Another common issue is the computer not booting up – just giving you a black screen when you power it on.



What's Inside my Computer?
A hard drive (left) and a solid state drive (right)


4. Storage Drive

Storage drives are where your files – documents, images, videos, and the operating system itself – are all saved. Currently, there are two common types of drives. The first one is the mechanical ‘hard drive.’ A hard drive is a solid, rectangular piece of hardware (literally a ‘hard’ drive) that uses a mechanical arm to read and write data on a spinning disc.

The second type is called an SSD, or a solid state drive. It somewhat looks like a big thumb drive / external drive and operates using the same concept. Instead of saving information on a spinning disc, SSDs use microchips to read and write data. Most common storage issues include corrupted files, viruses, and malware. The system freezing when you boot up the computer, access files, or run programs is a strong indicator of storage drive failure.



What's Inside My Computer?
A power supply unit distribute power to all your computer’s internal components


5. Power Supply Unit (or PSU)

Of course, your system wouldn’t be complete without power; and the power supply unit or PSU exactly does just that – supply power to all your computer’s internal components. For desktop computers, it looks like a big block with an internal cooling fan. For laptops, it’s where your power adapter and battery are connected. You can easily identify the PSU because it is where most of your computer’s internal wiring comes from. Moreover, it is also where the power plug is connected.

The most common PSU issue is the computer not powering up – no noise and no lights whatsoever. To add, a dirty PSU fan can also overheat and get heat damage. And in more extreme cases, it can short circuit and catch fire. So, always make sure that your computer has enough ventilation and is connected to a power outlet with a stable electrical current.



What's Inside My Computer?
A graphics card is a dedicated processor for graphics


6. Graphics Card (or GPU)

A graphics card (or GPU) is an optional component for computers; because most of the time, the CPU, already has the capabilities of a GPU. However, for systems that are used for graphics-intensive computing like video games and video/photo editing, a dedicated GPU makes the system operate faster.

The GPU acts as a second processing unit; however, it’s solely dedicated to processing graphics. It looks like another CPU with a fan on top. And for desktops, it’s usually connected to a slot on the motherboard and is where you connect your monitor to.
You know that your GPU is at fault when you see different ‘artifacts’ – blocks or lines of different colors -on the screen. Also, if you hear loud fan sounds coming from the computer, most of the time it means that your GPU is on the verge of overheating. And when it reaches very high temperatures, it causes your computer to suddenly turn off.



What's Inside My Computer?
A slot for a CD/DVD


7. Optical Drive (CD/DVD Drive)

Optical drives are where you put the CD / DVDs (‘discs’) in. Recent systems usually don’t have these drives because most applications are now available through internet downloads or USB thumb drives. Don’t be surprised though if you find one in your system – a lot of people still use CDs and DVDs even today.

It’s usually found on the front of your desktop or at the side of your laptop. For older models, you need to press a small rectangular button for the drive to pop-out so that you can put a disc in. (And no – it is not a cup holder!!!) For newer computers, it’s a small slot where you slide the disc in.

The most common issues with optical drives are read errors – it’s when no matter what disc you put in, the drive just won’t read it. Another issue is a mechanical failure where the drive itself won’t open or the disc or itself gets stuck usually accompanied with a grinding noise.



What's Inside My Computer?
A common setup for desktop internal components



What's Inside My Computer?
Laptops usually have this type of setup for internal components


Final Words from Our Experts

Any computer should have most, if not, all of these components. And we hope that this list was able to help you figure out which is which and what each part does. So that, if ever you get on that phone with your friendly technical support people, you’d know exactly what they are referring to. More importantly though, we hope that this post can help you do some basic troubleshooting and pinpoint what part of your computer is failing – making it easier for both yourself and the technician; just in case you encounter some of these common issues in the future.


If you have any questions you may contact us right away at 888-586-6260.