Chapter 6: Understanding and Assessing Hardware: Evaluating Your System
Is it the Computer or Me?
Moore’s Law describes the pace at which CPU’s (central processing units) – the
small chips that can be thought of as the “brains” of the computer – improve
- Predicts that the number of transistors inside a CPU will increase so fast that
the CPU capacity will double every 18 months
- The capacity of DRAM (dynamic random access memory) memory chips
increase about 60% each year
- Hard drives increase storage capacity by 50% each year
What is Your Idea Computer?
How do I know what my ideal system is?
If you plan to edit digital video files, or play games that require high video frame
rates and have amazing soundtracks you will want a computer with more memory,
upgrade video card, and a good set of speakers
Where do I get the training I need?
Colleges offer full semester classes, online modules, weekend courses
Step by step demonstrations offered by MrExcel, Photoshop Quicktips
Choosing Either a Desktop or Notebook System
Netbook: notebook with small keyboard and screen, and limited processing power
Notebook is best choice if you want a portable computer
How does a notebook compare to a desktop for value?
Desktops are a better value than notebooks in terms of computing power gained for
Light notebooks typically have a 17” screen or smaller
Desktops come in inexpensive 23” screens
Desktops are more reliable
How long will a notebook be useful to me?
External SATA (eSATA) and USB 3.0 are fast transfer port
Notebooks are often equipped with an ExpressCard slot
- Can add a solid state drive (SSD), eSATA, and FireWire ports
- Can add an ExpressCard that allows you to read flash memory cards
(CompactFlash, Memory Sticks, Secure Digital cards)
Assessing Your Hardware: Evaluating Your System
System evaluation: looking at your computer’s subsystems, see what they do, and
check how they perform. Subsystems include;
- CPU memory
- Memory subsystem (RAM)
- Storage subsystem (hard drive and other drives)
- Audio subsystem (sound card and speakers)
- Video subsystem (video card and monitor)
Evaluating the CPU Subsystem
Should consider the type of processor in your system
CPU is extremely important – it processes instructions, performs calculations,
manages the flow of information through a computer system, and is responsible for
turning raw data into valuable information through processing operations
- Is located in the motherboard (primary circuit board of the computer)
- Intel processors (Core family with the i7, i5, i3, and the Centrino Line), AMD
processors (Athlon and Phenom)
How does the CPU work?
Is comprised of two units
1. The control unit: coordinates the activities of all the other computer
2. The arithmetic logic unit (ALU): responsible for performing all the arithmetic
calculations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division), also makes logic
and comparison decisions
Every function the CPU performs it goes through same steps
1. Fetches the required piece of data or instructions from RAM
2. Decodes the instruction into something the computer can understand
3. Once the CPU had decoded the instruction, it executes the instruction and
stores the result to RAM before fetching the next instruction *machine cycle
What makes one CPU different from another?
Primary distinction is processing power
- Determined by number of factors
o Design of the CPU in terms of number of cores
Core is a complete processing section from a CPU embedded
into one physical chip
o Clock speed is how quickly the processor can work
o Cache memory is the amount of immediate access memory on CPU
How will a multiple-core CPU help me?
Hyperthreading provides quicker processing of information by enabling a new set
of instructions to start executing before the previous set has finished
Use of multiple cores on one CPU chip allowing the execution of two sets of
instructions at the same time
It is possible to design a CPU with multiple cores and hyperthreading
How do I pick the fasters processor?
CPU performace relies on clock speed, amount of cache memory and the speed of
the front side bus )FSB)
Cache memory is a form of random access memory that is more accessible to the
CPU than regular RAM
Levels of cache
- Level 1 is a block of memory that is built onto the CPU chip for the storage of
data or commands that have just been used
- Level 2 is located on the CPU chip but is slightly farther away from the CPU or
it is a separate chip next to the CPU and therefore takes longer to access, also
contains more storage than level 1
- Level 3 is slower for the CPU to reach but is larger in size
Front Side Bus (FSB) impacts overall performance, connects the CPU in your
computer to the system memory
- Measured in megahertz (MHz)
Benchmarks are measurements used to compare CPU performance between
- Generated by running software programs specifically designed to push the
limits of CPU performance
Why are there different CPU choices for notebooks and desktops?
Processors used in notebooks work to combine low power consumption, to support
long battery life, and more flexible wireless connectivity options
What CPU does my current computer have?
Can identify CPU type by accessing the System Properties
Can identify how much FSB speed and amount of cache memory by checking the
How can I tell whether my CPU is meeting my needs?
The workload your CPU experiences will vary dramatically depending on what you
are doing at the time
CPU usage the percentage of time that your CPU is working
Task Manager allows you access to data (CPU usage, RAM usage)
*If your CPU usage levels are greater than 90% during most work sessions a faster
CPU will contribute a great deal to your systems performance
Will improving the performance of the CPU be enough to improve my
Upgrading your CPU will only affect the processing portion of system performance
Evaluating RAM: The Memory Subsystem