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ThePerfectCore's PC Building Guide

Keyboards, Mice, & Speakers

- Because there's so little to say about these three things, I've consolidated this section. A keyboard is a keyboard, just make sure it has enough hotkeys to suite your tastes, and that it's not some tiny "space saver" job that has the number pad missing. Your mouse should have a scroll wheel and at least four buttons - the left, the right, the one inside the mouse wheel, and one on the side for browsing.

Speakers a little bit more complicated, but not so much that they get their own section. Some of us prefer headphones, others prefer a 5.1 Dolby surrond sound system. If you plan on playing games and listening to music, I recommend either a two-speaker set or somet headphones. If your PC is becoming a proverbial home theater, check into getting some special wires and connectors so that you can wire your new PC into your home stereo system.

 

Motherboard

- Now that all the external stuff is out of the way, let's talk about the internal components. Your motherboard is the big piece of plastic and metal that everything plugs into. Remember the term I refered to, a few paragraphs back? Something about an ATX Form Factor case? This is where you will see the significance of buying an ATX compatible case.

The motherboard is the most complex piece of electronic equipment in your PC, so it's only natural that this section be the longest *groan*. Because I ran out of colors to use in Photoshop, I had to split this explanation into two pictures. Keep in mind that the board pictured here is a board designed for AMD chips, not Intel chips. I'll explain the difference later on. Don't get offended, I don't want to favor AMD or spite Intel - this is the only picture I had handy, so ":p".

teh mobo thingy


The Red Dot - The AGP Slot - Pay attention here, this is where your video card will go. When you're out scouting for a motherboard, be absolutely sure the board supports 4X AGP or higher. Anything less, and power that can be demonstrated with modern video cards will never be witnessed on your machine. (In case you're wondering, "AGP" stands for Accelerated Graphics Port.)

The Yellow Dot(s) - The PCI Slots - This is a real tongue twister. "PCI" stands for Peripheral Component Interconnect. This term isn't important to you, just make sure you know a PCI slot when you see one. Your future motherboard should have at least 5 PCI slots, so you have plenty of room for sound card(s), modems, DVD decoder cards, and so on. If it's not a video card, it'll go in a PCI slot.

The Green Dot - The CPU Socket - This is where your processor goes. The one in the picture is a ZIF (Zero Insertion Force) socket designed specifically for AMD Duron, Athlon Thunderbird, and Athlon XP chips. You shouldn't have to worry much about the CPU socket, just make sure it matches the chip you're going to buy. Slots, sockets, and slotkets for Intel boards will look a little different, but work on the same prinicipal.

The Pink Dot - The RAM Slots - "RAM" is "Random Access Memory", and you're going to want alot of it. For AMD systems, there are two practical choices: SDRAM, or DDR RAM. The black slots in the picture are for SDRAM, and the blue slots are for DDR. SDRAM is slightly cheaper, but it is also slower. Slow RAM may not mean much to you now, but if you plan on doing rendering or playing high-end games, you'll probably want to go with DDR RAM. "DDR" stands for Double Data Rate. A stick of DDR RAM is a bit wider than a stick of SDRAM. It can also be a tad more expensive, but it is also faster than SDRAM. A third type of RAM you may want to consider if you're looking at an Intel system is RDRAM, or Rambus RAM. RDRAM is faster than DDR, but it's a bit more difficult to find, and can also be much more expensive.

This is 128MB of PC133 SDRAM. Slow, old, and pretty useless. Picture is for example only.

The cheap stuff. Don't buy this. Really.


Warning for Intel buyers: If you're looking at an older Pentium 4 chip, one that's in the 1Ghz to 1.8Ghz range, don't waste your time with SDRAM. Some older P4s have issues with SDRAM, and can turn your new system into a giant headache in a hearbeat. If you decide to ignore my warning and spend loads on SDRAM, be prepared for a major overall performance hit.

The Cyan Dot - The IDE Controllers - These are the sockets that your hard drives, CD/DVD drives, ZIP drives, and so on plug into. For a system with IDE slots, be sure you're buying a board that supports at least ATA 100 IDE components or higher. "ATA" actually stands for AT-Attached. This term, like PCI, is not important, just make sure you know the acronym. An ATA100 or ATA133 speed means hard-drives and other IDE components can move data between themselves and the system at a higher rate, than, say, Legacy ATA. Your board should have two of these, and they should support at least ATA100.

The Orange Dot - The Floppy Controller - It's good enough that a board has one, don't worry about it too much.

Here's the next picture. Pay attention and don't get confused, and don't get these descriptions mixed up.

TEH COLOR THINGIS


The Red Dot - The Integrated Sound - Most motherboards come with this sort of thing built in. The giant yellow port you see is for MIDI keyboards to plug into, and the tiny holes bellow it are for speakers, microphones, and Line-In cables. Integrated sound is okay, but I recommend you invest in a good sound card and disable onboard sound.

The Yellow Dot - The Printer Port - This can also be referred to as the "LPT" port. This thing is here for the unlucky saps who don't use USB printers. This can also be used for linking two computers via a high-speed LPT network cable. Your board should have one of these.

The Green Dot(s) - The Serial Ports - These are for external modems, joysticks, network adaptors, or anything else that don't use the USB ports. You really shouldn't ever need to use these, unless you've got some burning desire to play 1vs1 over a slow serial connection with a friend.

The Pink Dot - The PS/2 Ports - No, not Playstaion 2. These are here for keyboards and mice that don't use the USB ports. It's easy to mix up the mice and keyboard and plug them in wrong, but that's okay, you won't fry anything.

The Cyan Dot - The LAN Port - This thing is here for a Local - Area Network connection. Most of us probably don't use this thing, but if you take your machine to LAN parties often, you should have one of these.

The Blue Dot - The USB Port(s) - "USB" stands for Universal Serial Bus. Just about anything can fit in here. Speakers, network cables, keyboards, mice, printers, you name it. These are essential components to any system.

Next: Video Card, Sound Card, Modem, and Hard Drive
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