Just Make it Work: Defining CPU, HDD, & RAM

by Meg on October 25, 2010

Just make it work is a series of articles aimed at helping women embrace technology to make their life easier!  Tech for non-tech girls by girls.

Just Make It Work!

Inside Your Computer: CPU (The Processor), HDD (Hard Drive), and RAM (Memory).

A lot of people have heard terms like CPU, RAM, and Hard Drive – but sometimes mix them up or don’t know what they mean.
What are they?

CPU: Central Processing Unit (The Processor) – These are the things that Intel are known for making (cue Intel chime).

What you should understand: The CPU is like the brain of your computer. It tells everything else in the computer what to to do. The higher the processor speed, the faster your computer can run, just like the higher your IQ, the easier it is for you to carry out certain higher brain functions.

The geek explanation: All processors operate off of doing these basic four steps: fetch, decode, execute, and write back. Read more at Wikipedia.

$$Buying Tip$$ If you are buying a new computer, make sure you at least get a 2GHz processor.

HDD (Hard Drive): Hard Disk Drive – Where Your Files Are Stored Long Term

What you should understand: Your hard drive is where all of your files live. You can sort of think of your hard drive like a big walk in closet. The files that make your computer’s operating system live there, your documents, photos, programs, etc. The bigger the hard drive you have, the more you can store.

Pro-Tip: Buy an external hard drive at least the size of your computer’s hard drive to do regular backups of your data! This is VERY important and something everyone should do.

$$Buying Tip$$ If you’re buying a new computer, make sure you at least get 80GBs if you plan on doing things like writing documents, emails, and using the Internet mostly. If you plan to get into photos or video, get the biggest hard drive you can afford – at least 160GB.

RAM (Memory): Random-Access Memory – Temporary Fast Storage

What you should understand: Memory is a temporary holding place for your computer to place files for fast access when you are working on them. For example, if you open up a document you are working on, your CPU will tell the word processing program to copy the document and place it in memory for you to work. The more memory you have, the faster your computer can be at performing certain tasks while operating intensive programs.

The geek explanation: The “random” means that the computer can call back any piece of data from the memory in any order as opposed to “SAM” – Serial-Access Memory, which had to go in order.

$$Buying Tip$$ If you are buying a new computer, make sure you at least get a 2GB of RAM. If you think you might do a lot of video editing, get 4GHz.

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