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CH6 Understanding and Assessing Hardware.docx

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Wilfrid Laurier University
Computer Science
Mark Petrick

CH6 Understanding and Assessing Hardware: Evaluating Your System  Moore’s Law: describes the pace at which CPUs improve (CPU: central processing unit, “brains” of computer)  Dynamic random access memory (DRAM): most common form of memory found in computers, increases about 60% each year and hard drives grow in storage capacity by 50% each year  Portability is the main distinction between desktops and notebooks. o Desktops have more processing power, memory, storage capacity for lower price  ExpressCard: can add a solid-state drive (SSD), eSATA and FireWire ports and other capabilities to your system. Notebooks are equipped with them  System evaluation: determines whether your computer system has the right hardware components to do what you want it to do Evaluating the CPU subsystem  CPU: processes instructions, performs, calculations, and manages the flow of information through a computer system o Responsible for turning raw data into valuable information through processing operations o Located on the motherboard o 2 units: control and arithmetic logic unit (ALU)  control: coordinates the activities of all the other computer components  ALU: responsible for performing all the arithmetic calculations o Each time it performs an instruction: fetches the required piece of data or instruction from RAM, decodes the instruction into something the computer can understand, executes the instruction, and stores the result to RAM before fetching the next instruction  process is called a machine cycle o Primary distinctions between CPUs: number of cores, clock speed, amount of cache memory, front side bus performance  Core: complete processing section from a CPU embedded into one physical chip  Clock speed: dictates how many instructions the CPU can finish in one second, currently b/t 2.1 GHz and 4  Cache memory: form of RAM that can be reached much more quickly than regular RAM  Front side bus (FSB): main path for data movement within the system, carrying data from the CPU to memory, the video card, and other components on the motherboard Core o Hyperthreading: provides quicker processing of information by enabling a new set of instructions to start executing before the previous set has finished o Multiple cores on CPU chip: two or more processors reside on same chip, enabling the execution of two sets of instructions at the same time CPU with a faster processor speed o Overclocking: run the CPU at a faster speed than the manufacturer recommends, produces more heat, meaning a shorter lifetime for the CPU Cache memory o Several levels of cache memory – defined by chip’s proximity to the CPU  Level 1: block of memory built onto CPU chip for storage of data or commands  Level 2: located on the CPU chip but slightly further away from CPu, contains more storage area than level 1  Level 3: cache is slower for the CPU to reach but larger in size FSB o Connects processor (CPU) in your computer to the system memory o Travels between CPU and RAM o CPU benchmarks are measurements used to compare performance between processors which are generated by running software programs specifically designed to push the limits of CPU performance  Laptop processors need to perform quickly and efficiently and also need better power savings to improve battery life, wireless connectivity options, lower power consumption  CPU usage: % of time that your CPU is working  Utility that measures information such as CPU usage and RAM usage is incredibly useful, on Windows system it’s the program Task Manager and for Mac it’s called the Activity Monitor  If you upgrade your CPU, it will only affect the processing portion of the system performance, not how quickly data can move to or from the CPU Evaluating the Memory Subsystem: RAM  Volatile storage- when the power is off, the data stored in RAM is cleared out  Nonvolatile storage devices are used for permanent storage of instructions and data when the computer is powered off  Time it takes the CPU to grab data from RAM is measured in nanoseconds (billionths of seconds), whereas pulling data from a hard drive takes an average of 10 milliseconds  RAM appears in system on memory modules (or memory cards), small circuit boards that hold a series of RAM chips and fit into special slots on the motherboard  Dynamic RAM (DRAM), static RAM (SRAM), synchronous DRAM (SDRAM)  Most memory modules in today’s systems are packaged as dual inline memory modules (DIMMs)  Physical RAM: amount of RAM sitting o memory modules in computer  SuperFetch: memory-management technique for Windows 7. Monitors which applications are used most and preloads them into system memory so they’ll be ready to go  Kernel memory: memory that OS uses Evaluating the Storage Subsystem  Hard drive: largest capacity of any storage device o Composed of several coated round, thin plates o metal stacked on a spin
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