Computers and server hardware

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Modern computers are electronic devices used to compute, analyze, and display data to the user. Over the last decade, computers have increasingly grown smaller and more complex as transistor size has shrunk and roughly doubling in number for a given chip size in a phenomenon is known as Moore's law.

The basic computer has various components designed to provide power to the unit, control the flow of electricity to various components, process commands, and to display and store data. Both consumer oriented computer hardware and server hardware utilized in enterprise environments have the same basic components.

Personal computer (PC) components need to work together in order to form a stable computer system. Consumer computer systems can either be prebuilt from Big Box stores such as Bestbuy or OEM manufacturers such as Lenovo, Dell, HP, or Asus

Consumer Computer Hardware

Power Supply

PC power supplies convert AC power (typically 110 V in the US) to DC current to be distributed to the various powered computer components. Power supplies typically include the following connectors.

  • 24 pin connector - this connector connects directly to the mainboard and provides power to the board itself.
  • 4 pin connector - this connector connects to the CPU, sometimes seen as a 4+4 connector.
  • 8 pin connector - this connector connects to a GPU. Sometimes seen as an 8+6 pin connector.
  • Sata power - this connector connects to SATA devices such as optical media, floppy drives, hard disk drives and ssd’s.
  • Molex connector - this larger 4 pin connector is used to connect accessory devices such as liquid cooling pumps and LED’s.


The mainboard, often called the “motherboard” is a PCB board that houses the computer’s primary components.

  • CPU socket - where the CPU connects to the mainboard
  • DIMM Slots - slots that hold RAM chips for system memory. Often configured in pairs known as “channels”.
  • Chipset - this chip resides on the mainboard and communicates instructions between the CPU, memory, and other components.
  • SATA Connector - connects SATA devices to the mainboard to allow data transfer for read and write operations.
  • PCIe Slots - PCI express slots allow for “daughter” expansion boards such as graphics processing cards, network interface cards, and RAID cards
  • I/O Panel - this panel, typically configured to be at the rear of the machine, allows peripheral connections to graphics, input, USB, networking, and audio devices.

Central Processing Unit

The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is a computer chip that handles complex computations and calculations handed to it by the operating system. Due to the massive amount of heat created to process these calculations, CPUs generally require coolers to dissipate the heat. Modern consumer PC computers are manufactured by three main companies:

  • Intel - Intel produces desktop and enterprise chips including the Intel Core I-Series (i9, i7, i5, and i3 processors). Current common socket size is Socket 1200.
  • AMD - AMD produces the Ryzen series of processors using the AM4 socket
  • Apple - produces the proprietary M1 chip for their MacOS products.

Graphics Processing Unit

The graphics processing unit (GPU) takes instructions from the CPU and operating system to display a graphical interface to the user on a display.


Data to be processed by the CPU and stored for faster access without writing to disk is stored in Random Access Memory (RAM), commonly called simply "memory". RAM is composed of series of DIMM chips often organized into lanes, often in pairs. There are different types of DIMM chips for laptop and desktop motherboards.

  • DIMM - The standard RAM chip in most desktop computers. Standard length of 133.35mm (5.25 in.)
    • 288 Pin - The newest generations of RAM, DDR5 and DDR4, have 288 pins.
    • 240 Pin - Older generations of RAM, DDR3 and DDR2, have 240 pins.
  • SO-DIM - The standard RAM chip in most laptop computers. Standard length of 67.60mm (2.25 in.)
    • 262 Pin - DDR5 SO-DIMM RAM. This newest generation has a different number of pins than either of the previous generations.
    • 260 Pin - DDR4 SO-DIMM RAM.
    • 204 Pin - DDR3 SO-DIMM RAM.

Physical Storage

  • Hard Drive - Pseudonymous term for most internal storage. consists of several spinning platters upon which data is stored.
    • 3.50 in. HDD - The most common form factor for spinning platter hard drives, especially for desktop systems
    • 2.50 in. HDD - The most common form factor for spinning platter hard drives in laptop systems due to being thinner and lighter than 3.50 inch drives.
  • SSD - Solid State Drives (SSD) are becoming the predominant internal storage due to their efficiency, shock resistance, and longevity.
    • 2.5 SSD - One of the most common form factors for SSD's. This form factor fits most bays for laptop hard drives.
    • nVME M.2 - The newest form factor of SSD's that is becoming increasingly common due to physical size and efficiency. 2 TB nVME drives or larger are becoming increasingly affordable.
    • mSATA - One of the first internal SSD form factors for tablet computers. This form factor is mostly outdated, having been superseded by the M.2 standard.