What they do and how they affect performance

If I ask you what a PC is, I’m sure you’ll answer that it’s a personal computer, and that PC is simply an acronym for Personal Computer. You are absolutely right, but if we approach that question in more depthwould you be able to answer it? It would not be particularly complicated, we could define it as a set of hardware components working together, and thanks to the concurrence of a set of elements that we know as software, firmware and drivers.

We could go further and add that, to be able to interact with a PC, we need to a number of peripherals of various kinds. They are generally grouped into two broad types, input and output. In the first group fit keyboards and mice, for example, while in the second group the most popular are the monitor and speakers. Their importance is beyond doubt, because although it is true that a PC would work without a monitor, you would not see any image, and therefore you would not be able to interact in a real way with the computer.

Hardware components are the foundation of any computer, that is beyond dispute, but do you know what each of them does, what role they play in performance, and how they can interfere with each other? If you answered no, don�t worry, in this article we are going to explain it to you, in a simple but substantial way, what each of the key components of a PC doeshow they affect performance and how they can interfere with each other.

I hope you find this guide useful, and that it will help you expand your hardware knowledge. I didn’t want to take a very advanced approach so that it won’t be complex, and so that it can reach almost all of our readers. However, if you have any doubts, you can leave them in the comments and we will help you to solve it.

PC Components

PC components: The processor

This is the brain of any PC. The processor is a general-purpose, multi-purpose, multi-tasking, semiconductor-type electronic component that handles the following tasks interpreting and working with different instructions and processes that it receives and converts them, by performing mathematical operations (integer and floating point) into instructions and data that allow the operating system, and its different operations, to function correctly.

To avoid having to repeat different operations that are frequently performed, the processor can save those operations that have already been solvedin addition to important instructions, in its own cache and in RAM. This is why the size of the L3 cache and RAM, and their speed and latency are so important. The larger they are, the more instructions and data they can store, and the faster and lower the latency, the faster the processor can access them.

So, when you open up a game, for example, the processor will processor takes care of the most important operations necessary for the game to loadand supplies the graphics card with the instructions and data it needs to work. This is, unlike the processor, a specific component that lacks the general, multi-purpose approach we mentioned.

PC Components

How does it affect performance and how does it interact with other components?

The processor is the central pillar of any PC, as in the end the overall performance of the computer depends heavily on it. The simple execution of the operating system, and any interaction that we perform, is completed thanks to its role as a interpreter of signals and requests that it receives at the software level, and resolves by performing various operations that can be interpreted by other components and elements of the system.

Can work with a given number of processes simultaneouslydepending on the number of cores it integrates, and other technologies such as HT (Intel) or SMT (AMD), which allows each core to work with two threads. Its performance will also depend on its IPC (instructions per clock cycle) and the working frequency it reaches, usually expressed in MHz.

As we have said, the processor is the central pillar of the computer, and the performance of the whole PC will depend directly on it. So, for example, if we have an underpowered processor, the overall performance of the computer will be seriously affected, and because it will not be able to deliver data fast enough to other components, it will weigh them down and prevent them from reaching their full potential. This is known as a bottleneck, and is very common when using high performance graphics cards.

Processors at PcComponents.

PC Components

PC Components: The motherboard

It plays a very important role because all the basic components of a PC are installed on iteither directly, i.e. via direct connection to the individual components, or via cabling. So, for example, the processor, graphics card, RAM and M.2 SSDs are connected directly to the motherboard via the slots provided, while 2.5-inch SATA SSDs are connected via a SATA cable.

The motherboard determines such important aspects as compatibility with certain processorsThe power supply possibilities of these, the support of certain standards, the application possibilities and the different connectivity options that we will enjoy. To understand this better, let�s take a look at some concrete examples:

  • The motherboard uses a specific socketand this limits its compatibility to certain processors. For example, LGA1200 motherboards only support Intel Core 10 and Intel Core 11 processors.
  • They also feature a specific chipset. This determines such important aspects as the available connectors and the advanced features it integrates, including such relevant ones as overclocking and the PCIE lanes available for other components, such as PCIE SSDs.
  • The motherboard also determines the number of graphics cards that we can install, the maximum power it can provide to a processor through its VRM system, support for different types of RAM (DDR4 is the current standard, but we will soon jump to the DDR5 standard) and the maximum amount of RAM and storage drives we can install.
  • Finally, you can also integrate other important elementssuch as various network solutions, and a complete sound system.

PC components

How does it affect performance and how does it interact with other components?

Through the motherboard the communication and coordination takes place of all the elements that make up a PC, including everything from the processor we mount in the socket to the keyboard we connect to a USB port on the motherboard, so its role as a nexus is so important that we should give it the credit it deserves.

On the other hand, the motherboard is also will limit the possibilities of our PC, both in a qualitative and quantitative sense. Thus, if we use a motherboard with a low-power VRM, we will not be able to mount high-performance processors, as these could give problems due to the inability of the board to feed them properly. We will also not be able to mount more memory than our motherboard supports, or use SSD drives or high performance graphics cards compatible with latest generation standards if our motherboard does not support them.

The motherboard can severely limit the performance of certain components, and can also prevent us from enjoying advanced features such as overclocking, because not all models support that feature, so you should be aware of that. On the other hand, if it does not support advanced standards, it can limit the performance of other components. For example, a motherboard with a PCIE Gen3 x16 slot will limit the bandwidth of a graphics card that uses PCIE Gen4 x8, such as the Radeon RX 6600 XT and RX 6600.

Motherboards at PcComponents.

PC Components

PC components: The graphics card

This is a component that has also become very popular over the years, although its concept has evolved considerably. With the introduction of T&L technology, which stands for Transformation and Lighting, its importance took off, as it came to deal with workloads associated with the geometryand geometry transformation, which were previously relegated to the CPU.

A graphics card is a component whose heart is formed by the GPU, a graphics processing unit that is responsible for performing all the tasks associated with that specialty. The GPU is, therefore, a component specialized in both 2D and 3D graphics workloads, which is capable of performing an enormous amount of floating point operations per second, and which has a high parallelization capability, thanks to its huge number of tiny kernels.

To better understand this, it suffices to recall that a current general-purpose, high-performance processor can have up to 16 cores and 32 threadswhile an RTX 3090 has 10.496 shaders or CUDA cores.

The GPU handles everything related to the system’s graphics tasks, can convert information and data into user-visible elements (the signal coming to the monitor)It is also capable of performing advanced computational operations that require the execution of a large number of concurrent operations in parallel, which makes it much more than a simple gaming component. This component is highly dependent on the processor of any PC, as it receives data and instructions from the processor that it needs to carry out its various workloads.

The graphics card also integrates other important elements, such as its own power supply system and memory subsystem. Continuing with the example above, the RTX 3090 has a 384-bit bus, and has 24 GB of GDDR6X graphics memory at 19.5 GHz, which allows it to offer a bandwidth of 936 GB/s. This means that it has its own memory to store certain elements (geometry, textures, shaders and others), in the same way that the processor does with RAM, and can access those elements when it needs to, without having to repeat work cycles.

PC Components

How does it affect performance and how does it interact with other components?

The graphics performance of our PC will depend directly on the graphics card, and in a broad sense Don’t fall for the TFLOPs hoaxbecause the performance of this component depends, today more than ever, on many other factors that determine its real performance in games and in different professional applications, including from the memory system to the particularities of each architecture, and of course, the presence of cores specialized in different tasks (cores for ray tracing and artificial intelligence).

We have already said that the graphics card has a huge dependency on the PC processor, and this is because, as we have said, it needs the processor to supply it with the data and instructions it needs in order to work at full power We can make a simple analogy to better understand this relationship, imagine that you are drying the dishes that a colleague who is washing them is passing to you. You are the graphics card, and your coworker is the processor, if your coworker does not mop fast enough, you will have to wait idle for long periods of time.

But that’s not all, as we said when talking about the motherboard, the graphics card can also be affected by the interface we use, and by the power supply. If you plug a graphics card into a PCIe slot that limits its bandwidth, such as a Radeon RX 6600 XT using PCIe Gen4 x8 on a PCIe Gen3 x16 connector, its performance will be reduced and you will have a bottleneck generated by the PCIe Gen3 x16 connector. On the other hand, if we use a power supply that does not have enough power, or amperage, to power it optimally, we could also have problems.

The graphics card interacts with many components, such as the motherboard, the processor, and the power supply, as well as important peripherals such as the monitor.

Graphic cards at PcComponents.

PC Components

PC components: RAM

This component works in a very similar way to the graphical memorybut instead of being linked to the GPU, or graphics card, it is linked to the CPU, or processor. It plays a basic role, as it can limit us to such an extent that, if we do not have a certain amount, we will not be able to run various applications and games, and in extreme situations we will not be able to use specific operating systems either.

When we talk about RAM memory, we are referring to the random access memory which is installed directly on the motherboard, using modules that use a specific standard, operate at a specific speed with specific latencies, and have a fixed storage capacity.

We have already told you, when we talked about the processor, how RAM memory works. This component is used to store data and instructions that have been generated by processor operations They are stored there so that the processor can call them up directly, which saves you from having to perform certain operations again.

Since the RAM and processor are deeply linkedand that it needs to use it both to store new data and instructions and to access those that are already stored, its performance impact can be considerable, and in some scenarios it carries more weight than we might imagine.

PC Components

How does it affect performance and how does it interact with other components?

RAM revolves around three major keys capacity, speed and latency. Capacity is the amount of total memory we have available, and this determines the amount of instructions and data we can store. Each application, game and operating system needs a minimum capacity to work, and has a recommended value that it is recommended to comply with.

For example, DOOM Eternal requires 8 GB of RAM to function, but it recommends 16 GB of memory. Meeting the minimum guarantees that the game will work, and the same will be true if we extrapolate the example to other applications and operating systems, but if we don’t reach the recommended level we may encounter microbursts or interruptions due to download and upload processing that will be produced in the RAM memory, as a consequence of the fact that we do not have enough capacity to keep stored, simultaneously, all the necessary instructions and elements.

The speed determines, along with the data bus, the bandwidththat is, the speed at which the communications between the RAM memory and the processor of our PC will be made. To this we must add the integrated GPU, if we have one, since it uses the RAM as graphic memory. The higher the speed, and the higher the data bus, the faster the communications and data transfers, and the higher the performance. However, we must add to the equation latency, which determines the access times (in nanoseconds) to the different memory cells. If latencies are too high, delays will be generated that will negatively affect performance.

Currently, the ideal is to configure the RAM in dual channel, using a minimum of two modules placed in the corresponding slots. This will give us a 128-bit bus, while in single channel we would have 64 bits. As we have already mentioned, RAM memory can significantly affect the performance of the processor, as it constantly accesses the stored data. If the RAM memory is slow, or has high latencies, the processor will be weighed down by it, and the same applies to the integrated GPU that uses it as graphics memory.

On the other hand, we must keep in mind that, no matter how much we have a last generation processor or a very powerful graphics card, if we do not have enough RAM memory to run certain applications, they simply won’t work.

RAM memory at PcComponents.

PC Components

PC components: The storage unit

We can no longer speak only of hard drives, and is that, with the democratization of SSDs, storage units used by a PC have diversified considerably. Thus many users are increasingly choosing to stick to SSDs, but others are also turning to HDDs for use primarily as secondary storage drives.

The storage drive has a very important role to play, since it is where the installation of the operating system, programs, games and applications takes place on it and also all the files that we want to keep, and in a broad sense, that is to say, from documents and photos to videos and other multimedia content.

Both the SSD and HDD drives are connected to the motherboard, and this acts as a “bridge” so that it can interact with other components, such as the processor, for example, which not only will be responsible for performing the operations necessary to run programs or applications installed on the storage unit, but also plays an important role when it comes to taking forward the duty cycles associated with compressing and decompressing stored data. This is a considerable load, which, however, could soon be shifted to the CPU, thanks to the advent of DirectStorage.

The storage unit has a bigger impact on performance than we think, and as we discussed in the previous paragraph it interacts deeply with the CPU. It can also be used as a virtual memory system, so that if we are low on RAM, a portion of the storage unit can be used to store the CPU can be used as “fake RAM”.

PC components

How does it affect performance and how does it interact with other components?

Well, it depends, since SSDs and hard drives have important differences between them. They both start from the same base, as they are both hard drives non-volatile memory, which means that they can keep the data and all of its contents after the computer is turned off, but they are very different. The storage unit interacts primarily with the processor, as mentioned above, and also with the motherboard, as it connects to the motherboard.

SSDs are the best choice for a PC in terms of performance, even in their SATA variants, as they use memory chips distributed over a PC and lack mechanical parts. This means they have shorter access times (the delay between opening a file or program and the storage unit finding it), much faster read (reading files and programs) and write (writing data, such as installing a program or copying a movie) speeds, and are generally more resistant to shock and vibration.

The performance of SSDs can vary depending on many factors, such as the type of memory they use, the standard and protocol they use, and also the cache they mount, but even the most modest SATA III models are far superior to hard drivesThey can reach 550 MB/s sequential read and write, and have minimal access times because they don�t have to seek data across multiple platters. The most powerful drives, based on the PCIE Gen4 x4 standard, can easily reach 7,000 MB/s sequential read and write.

Hard drives, on the other hand, use mechanical parts They combine a certain number of platters with a head that takes care of writing and reading the data contained in those platters. In this case, when access to a file is required, the access time is longer and a delay is usually generated, which can be very marked if that file has been fragmented (split) into different pieces located in different areas of the same platter. Their performance is also significantly lower, as they usually do not exceed 200 MB/s in sequential read and write.

The speed and access times determine such important aspects as the power-on and power-off times of the operating system, the timeouts that occur when opening a program, game, or file, and also affects the load times of numerous applications, both for leisure and professional use. We must not forget that, in addition, the capacity of the storage unit, expressed in gigabytes or terabytes, will determine the number of programs we can have installed. So, if a game takes up 100 GB and we only have 50 GB free, we will not be able to install it.

Hard disks at PcComponents.

PC Components

PC Components: The Power Supply

We are going for the last of those key components that make up a PC. The power supply is, as its name suggests, the one in charge of the power supply supplying power to all the components of a PC, and when I say all, I mean all, including the motherboard. To perform that task, it has an interface of specific wires that are used for specific purposes, each of which uses a specific power and amperage.

For example, the 24-pin connector that goes to the motherboard serves a specific function and different from the 8-pin CPU connectors, or the 6+2 pin PCIE connectors, or the SATA power connectors. Each cable has a specific function, and is used to power different components.

So, to power the motherboard’s VRM, which is responsible for supplying power to the processor, we have the 8-pin CPU connectors, while the 8-pin PCIE connectors are used to power the VRM the 6+2 pin PCIE connectors are used to power the graphics card. SATA storage drives, and many peripherals and accessories, such as AIO liquid cooling kits with RGB LED lighting that come with management and control devices, typically use a SATA connector for power, as do 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch hard drives and SSDs.

The motherboard acts, in many cases, as a connecting link between the power supply and some components, such as the processor, for example, although there are some components that connect directly to the power supply, such as the graphics card which uses additional power connectors, and also SATA storage drives.

PC components

How does it affect performance and how does it interact with other components?

The power supply plays a very important role because it is responsible for supplying the power that each component needs to function, in real time and with the necessary intensity. A GPU does not require the same power supply all the time, and neither does a processor.

When both are working at a medium load, their consumption is moderatebut when they are working at full load, their power consumption can skyrocket. Well, the power supply must be able to cover the needs of these components in any situation.

This part interacts with all the components of a PC because, as we have said, it powers them. If the power supply fails, the PC will not workor it may err for a considerable time before it fails catastrophically, so we must be very careful.

On the other hand, we should also keep in mind that if a power supply is not capable of supplying the power, or the current, that a given PC needs, it might function relatively normally, but the performance of the components may be limited severely because they are not getting the power they need. We could also experience stability problems, unexplained crashes and reboots.

Power supplies at PcComponents.

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