Computers seem confusing, but they don’t have to be. PHOTO COURTESY PIXABAY

In the modern world, technology is an essential component to all of our lives. Almost everyone has a computer of some sort, and many people are even building their own desktops. In times like this, it is incredibly important that everyone at least learn the basics of how computers work.

The parts in a standard computer that most people need to know about are the processor, motherboard, memory sticks and storage drives.

The processor, or CPU, is essentially the brain of a computer. It determines the ability of the computer to run multiple programs at once and the speed at which it runs them. Usually, computers are bottlenecked due to a mediocre CPU. Bottlenecking is what happens when a computer that has very good parts is held back from its full potential by one specific piece. In order to avoid this situation, many people decide to set their CPU to run at higher speeds than is usually intended. This is called overclocking, and, by doing this, you are basically upgrading the processor for no extra cost. However, the CPU will get extremely hot, since it was not designed to run that fast, so make sure that the PC has a very good cooling system that is able to handle the extra heat.

Motherboards are also an integral component in the PC because they are the mediator between all the various parts of the computer. If you think of each part of the computer as partners in a group project, the motherboard is the person who makes sure everyone is working together and doing their job.

Memory, or RAM, is the most misunderstood piece of the computer. Most people think that the more RAM you have, the faster your computer will be. In a certain sense, this is true; memory sticks act as the secretaries of the computer, helping the PC access files faster and run multiple programs without lag. However, RAM is usually not what bottlenecks a computer. Eight GB of RAM is the most any average person will need, and even the best, most electronically taxing video games don’t require more than 16 GB of RAM. A computer with 32GB of RAM and a terrible CPU will run much slower than a PC with a decent CPU and only 8GB of RAM.

Storage drives, overly simplified, are boxes that hold your files in them. Think of them like giant flash drives that are inside of your computer. They determine how many cat pictures and music albums you can save on your computer at once, and most computers have anywhere between 100 GB to 1 TB (1000 GB) of storage space. There are two types of storage drives: hard disk drives (HDD) and solid-state drives (SSD). Older computers, and low-priced, newer computers will have HDD storage, which means the files are stored on disks using magnets. The advantage to HDD storage is the shear capacity of them. Even cheap HDDs can easily have hundreds of GB of storage, and, today, most reach up to the TBs. Solid-state storage has much less capacity than hard disk drives. This is because, instead of using magnetic disks, they use microchips to store information. Though they are more expensive and store less than HDDs, SSDs are the kings of speed. Any program on an SSD will boot faster, run better and will avoid fragmentation, making your overall computer speed much quicker.

The CPU, motherboard, RAM and storage drives are still the beginning. There are many more parts of the computer that are important for different people. For example, gamers will want to get a graphics card, a part specifically designed to run graphics and physics engines separately from the CPU to decrease lag in games. Music composers or sound designers will want sound cards in their PCs, and streamers, whether they be on Twitch, YouTube or elsewhere, will want capture cards that can project their screens onto others without delay. However, with this basic information, you can make an educated decision when you buy a laptop or desktop, so that you can get the most value out of your purchase.