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    Computer Upgrade Essay

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    With increasing popularity of computer games, and multimedia home PC users oftenneed an unexpensive computer system upgrade. By building a custom computer oneis able to combine componenets, and operating system to provide maximal gamingperformance.

    Computers are often called number manipulators, because of theirability to run millions of mathematical operations per second (White 43). Computers use binary system of numbers, which allows them to operate system ofmicroscopic switches called transistors found inside of computer chips. Binarysystem is defined as counting system that uses two digits one and zero (Gookin49). A transistor is a basic building block of microchips; transistors arecombined in formations called logic gates (White 39). “Transistor can onlycreate binary information: one if current passes through or zero if current doesnot, to work with transistors”(White 39).

    Computer software uses Booleanlogic, which is based on selecting true or false values used in computerprogramming (White 39). All personal computers have BIOS, which is an acronymfor Basic Input Output System. The BIOS runs every time the computer is started,and it basically tells the computer how to act (White 19). The BIOS is a part ofthe boot up process, or a complex set of operations checking hardware thatcomponents are working properly. Besides BIOS and several other operations thereis poweron self-test – POST being ran.

    POST test runs at the start up, and ifit finds an error, it sends a warning message (White 5). Central processing unitCPU is the most important part of the personal computer, all othercomponents work as a bridge to CPU (White 59). The speed of the processor isusually defined by using units called megahertz (MHz, also million frequencywaves per second). CPUs are generally divided into two categories- CISC andRISC.

    CISC complex instruction set computing, uses many small instructionsto carry out a single operations. CISC is a standard in todays processors. RISC reduced instruction set computing, uses less complicated instructionswith simpler design. RISC microprocessors are cheaper, they produce less heat,and they are generally smaller in size compared to CISC. With less heat andsmaller size RISC processors have great advantage in reaching higher frequencieswith less danger of overheating. The major disadvantage and also reason why RISCmicroprocessors are not widely used, is less compatibility with availablesoftware.

    The earlier programs were written for CISC chips. In order to reachmaximal speed, and compatibility the major manufacturers of microprocessors suchas Intel, use some advantages of RISC technology, to improve the performance oftheir CISC compatible microprocessors (White 55). Computer microprocessor is themost important part of the PC, but it can not work by it self. One of the fewprimary components is BUS, also called a highway of the computer. BUS transportsdata among the processor, random access memory, and hard disk.

    Speed of the BUSdepends on the type of motherboard where it is installed (White 119). Randomaccess memory- RAM is also attached to the motherboard- base of all thecomponents, but unlike BUS, RAM can be easily removed and changed. Random accessmemory works as a staging area for the central processing unit (White 43). Capacity of random access memory is very important for the performance of acomputer. In case there is not enough RAM the software can create space on thehard drive to be used as temporary operating memory (White 31). Random meansthat any part of the memory can be accessed at any time, it is not necessary toread all of the memory to find one location.

    RAM is usually fast, temporarymemory where data is saved until removed or power is turned off on the computer(White 43). “A hard drive is the workaholic of a PC system. “(White 87)) Itis based on using magnetic plates; spinning at extreme speeds up to 7,200rotations a minute, which are 120 spins every second. Even with extreme speedand microscopic accuracy modern hard drives are unlikely to fail. The hard diskis a combination of electronic and mechanical portions, which makes it the oneof the slowest parts of the computer (White 87).

    A graphic card is usuallyplugged into one of the expansion slots, which are metallic contacts on themotherboard (White 119). One of the most common expansion slots is PCI peripheral components interconnect. PCI are most commenly white slots used toattach a graphic or sound card, also modem or network card (White 120). Latestexpansion slot used for graphic cards only is AGP accelerated graphic port,which is faster than PCI (White 121).

    Both PCI and AGP based adapters use SVGAsuper video graphics array as a modern standard, which added newcapabilities, such as higher resolution and color depth to the previous VGAinterface. Super VGA allows as many as 16 million colors also called 32-bitcolor, or true color(Stephen 1253). There are three major factors defining thespeed of a graphic adapter, overall performance depends on the chipset speed,performance and capacity of graphic random access memory and the expansion slotarchitecture (Stephen 1258). One of the other factors defining speed of a videoadapter is the software driver.

    “Even the finest accelerator board hardwarecan bog-down when run with careless, loosely written code”(Stephen 1259). Graphic cards have their own BIOS software which is firmware, or permanentlyrecorded in a memory device such as ROM read only memory, and usually cannot be modified. Graphic card is actually a device what enables visualizing ofdata on the monitors screen. Graphic adapter sends signals to the monitor. The monitor uses glowing dots of red, green, and blue rays, which then blendinto millions of colors. The display dots are called pixels picture element,also the smallest area of the monitors screen.

    Pixels are on/off to createand image, the graphic adapter sends the information about position and color ofpixels in form of a bitmap. Bitmaps are also the most common form of computergraphics (White 143). The CD-ROM compact disk read only memory becamestandard equipment in personal computer systems in late 1980s. Data isretrieved from a compact disk by using a laser beam without any physical contactbetween the disk and the drive. No physical contact makes compact disks longlasting data storage media (White 205). Since early 1990s the CD-R – compactdisk recorder became more reliable for home users.

    CD-R allows one to recordCDs on a home personal computer. The newer technology is CD-RW compact diskrewriteable, which enables rewriting CDs after it is recorded (White 139). The latest way to store very large amount of data are DVD-digital versatiledisk, which allows to store up to thirteen times more data than a CD. DVDs areusually used for movies because of their large capacity, and digital qualitysound and picture(White 205).

    Another common component of the personal computeris a modem. A modem works as a connection between digital and analog signals. The modem itself is an analog device. It uses analog telephone lines which wereinvented before any digital device.

    Modern 56K modems combine both analog, anddigital transfer, making it perform better than analog only devices. Newertechnology in data transfer are DSL – digital subscriber line, satellite, andcable. All of those are generally faster, but a more expensive way to connect tothe Internet (White 171). A sound card is one the devices that has beenoverlooked in early systems, besides a simple speaker the early PCs were mute.

    Due to the of increasing popularity of computer games, designers developed asoundboard, which was able to read and reproduce sound data recorded in separatefiles. Modern soundboards allow users to enjoy realistic three-dimensional soundsurrounding a person while playing computer games (Stephen 1187). To build a PCproviding maximal gaming performance, one of the most important things toconsider is choosing a CPU. There are several choices meeting individual needs,and purposes.

    Traditionally the speed of the processor is defined by it clockspeed, but that is often not very certain because different developers can packmore performance into fewer clock cycles (Stephen 289). However to reach goodgaming performance, todays CPU needs a clock speed of 400 MHz or more, whicheliminates selection below that point. The two major manufacturers making highperforming processors are Intel and AMD. Both producers have selection of lowand high price range CPUs between one hundred dollars up to one thousanddollars.

    Intel Celeron is one of the good performing and low priced CPUs, butcompared to higher priced Intel Pentium II/III Celeron does not perform quite aswell . The reason why Celeron is not as fast as Pentium II/III, is no presence,or low amount of cache memory. Cache memory is a very fast type of memory wheredata is temporary stored to avoid accessing slower RAM or hard drive. Older CPUssuch as Pentium were using cache memory implemented on the motherboard; newerprocessors have cache memory installed on them, which makes the data transferfaster. AMD- advanced micro devices, as Intels largest competitor is knownfor providing well- designed and highly compatible processors. Currently tocompete with Intel, AMD sells two good performing types of processors.

    Thehighly priced, and great performing AMD K7-Anthlon, and the “Celeroncompetition” AMD K6. The Anthlon CPU in most benchmarks performs better thanits clock speed equivalent from Intel (Hwang 1). After selecting CPU next thingto consider is motherboard. There is a wide selection of motherboards, but onlyfew well performing and high compatible.

    Abit is one of the well-known mainboardmanufacturers, their policy has always been to provide greatest flexibility andfeature set available. Their fair priced Abit BX6 rev. 2. 0 features five PCIslots, two ISA and one AGP. BX6 supports up to one gigabyte of RAM, and iscompatible with all Intels Slot – one processor, making it an excellentchoice for Intels CPUs (Hwang 1). If AMD K7- Anthlon is the choice for CPU,outstanding MSI MS-61-67 is a high quality mainboard supporting all AnthlonCPUs, and providing same as Abit BX6, five PCI, and two ISA slots.

    AGP slot isimplemented as well. MS 61-67 supports up to 768 megabytes of random accessmemory, which provides plenty of upgrading options. The mainboard also provides”Plug and Play” BIOS which detects the peripheral devices and expansioncards of the board automatically(Hwang 3). A good graphic card is one the mostimportant things to consider while building a gaming computer. 3Dfx Voodoo3 isone of the best performing graphic cards available on the market (Vederman 204). Its impressive test results in Glide interface based games are unbeatable by anyother graphic card, just because 3Dfx is the only manufacturer using Glideinterfacing.

    Using other interfaces such as Open GL or Direct 3D the Voodoo 33500 looses speed compare to TNT 2 Ultra based accelerators. One of the featuresof the high priced Voodoo3 3500 is a TV tuner that allows user to watchtelevision on computers monitor (Case 49) . Voodoo 3 supports all threeinterfaces- Open GL, Glide, and Direct 3D which makes it one of the fastest, andmost compatible graphic cards available. Only sixteen megabytes of graphicmemory does not allow Voodoo3 to run true color, three dimensional scenes inhigh resolutions, and that is what Nvidia TNT 2 Ultra does (Case 204). Severalgraphic card manufacturers use TNT 2 Ultra chipset.

    Well known, and one of thelargest is Diamond Multimedia producing Viper 770 Ultra, using previouslymentioned TNT 2 Ultra chipset. Viper 770 is a very fast graphic accelerator withimplemented thirty-two megabytes of graphic memory, allowing true coloring inhigh resolutions. Retail version of the Viper includes a large software bundlewith several valuable games. Another feature is an excellent toolbar that allowsthe user to tweak up a lot of details improving performance, such as anoverclocking utility (Case 99). After all the hardware parts are assembled it istime to install the most important software, the operating system. The computeris unable to do anything unless it is running an operating system, which is abasic type of software that acts as a supervisor for all the applications (White9).

    Although the operating system is the most important software it is notincluded in computers, because of the need to upgrades. Operating system isloaded from hard drive to the random access memory before the CPU can performany operations. Operating systems were originally created to handlecommunication with other drives, because without an operating system programmerswould have to invent software with instructions to run the hardware (White 19). Currently the most popular operating system is Microsoft Windows 98 SecondEdition. One of the new features of the Windows OS is an upgraded version of USB-universal serial bus support, which allows to use USB compatible modems.

    Thefeature improvement since Windows 95 includes for example Disk DefragmentationOptimization Wizard, using the process of disk defragmentation to increase thespeed of the most frequently used applications (Stephen 53) The newest Microsoftoperating system Windows 2000 is still available only in beta test version. Impressive new features such as very complex plug and play detection devices, orperformance improvements due using the newest drivers are only few of the newimplementations (Cleveland 75). Todays reality – like games require high-endPCs, sold for thousands of dollars. By building a custom computer a user isreally able to tweak up the best performance for the best price.

    Cheaper, custombuilt PC allows user to play any of the hundreds of games available, and reachthe best frame rates.

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