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Friday, August 26, 2016

A Complete Guide to Understanding Basic Components of your Hardware

Today, I will be walking you through to understanding some of the basic components of your computer.  There are many posts about this, but this post will be more complete and much easier to understand.  By understanding your hardware, you will be able to learn about computers much faster.  Hardware knowledge is key!

Let's begin!
Image result for computer hardware clipart
In order to start, let's first download CPU-Z here and GPU-Z here.
With these tools, we will be able to easily analyze details about your CPU, RAM, GPU, and a little bit of detail about your motherboard.  Other tools that are very useful but are not going to be covered in this post include Battery View, System Specs, Speedfan, Corsair Link (for systems with a lot of Corsair manufactured hardware), RealTemp, and HDDHealth.

Once you download CPU-Z and GPU-Z, open it up with admin privileges.  It will open up a GUI and display useful information about your hardware.  Let's start with CPU-Z first.

Name: Your processor name and version.  CPUs with a K are overclockable because its multiplier is unlocked
Code Name: That's just the name of the developmental project that made this CPU
Max TDP: That's just the maximum amount of possible heat this CPU can generate.  Cooling systems should prevent CPUs from reaching this point.
Package: This gives you the socket type for this CPU.  This socket type would only be able to work on motherboards that support this socket
Technology: This specifies how small transistors on your CPU are.  This number is decreasing rapidly as new CPU models go onto the market.  22nm is actually large nowadays... I built this computer four years ago.
Core Voltage: This tells you how much voltage is needed for the CPU to run reliably
Specification: This gives you the exact name of the CPU and its factory set speed (This can be increased via overclocking)
Instructions (I skipped a few because those just give even more details on which family the CPU belongs to, what model it is, etc.):  This is the instruction set built into the CPU... it gives the CPU built in instructions and tells you what commands and languages are implemented within the processor.
Core Speed: This just tells you how fast each core is running at
Multiplier: This is basically the ratio of the CPU speed and the Bus Speed.  By increasing this through overclocking, your CPU will run much faster
Bus Speed: This is the speed at which commands are transferred throughout the motherboard
Cores and Threads: This just tells you how many CPUs you have and if hyperthreading exists.  Many CPUs have many CPUs built into one chip.  Since my thread number is same as the cores, my CPU does not implement hyperthreading.  Hyperthreading is the creation of virtual cores; this would allow CPUs to carry out more tasks
Caches: This will be explained in the next section

Caches are like memory in your CPU.  Not all temporary memory is stored in RAM; motherboards, GPUs, CPUs, and many more hardware parts also have temporary storage areas.
Basically, in CPUs, there are 2 to 3 caches usually.  L1 cache is the smallest and fastest one for the CPU to use.  Many CPUs have two types of L1 cache as you can see in the image above.  L2 cache is the next level of CPU memory.  It is slightly larger and slower for the CPU to use.  Lastly, the L3 cache is always the largest and slowest for the CPU to use.  CPUs will usually pull memory out of lower level caches for processes that need to processed quickly.  Also, L3 cache is the only one that can be accessed; L1 and L2 cannot.  Lastly, the L1 and L2 caches are in one core; the L3 cache connects the cores.  Some processors may have an L4 cache... this takes in dumped memory from the L3 cache and can be accessed by both the CPU and GPU

This tab just shows you motherboard information.  On every motherboard, there is a Southbridge and a Northbridge.  The Northbridge is the direct communication system between the CPU and motherboard while the SouthBridge is slightly farther away.  Northbridge is meant to quickly carry out the more demanding tasks. The info with the PCI-Express part just shows the PCI info.  The PCI is used for connecting other hardware to the motherboard, such as peripheral devices.
This tab just gives you information on your RAM.  It tells you how much RAM you have.  DRAM frequency is basically RAM speed; again, this can be increased through overclocking (but increasing may produce system instability).  FSB:DRAM ratio is the ratio of the front side bus to the RAM's operating speed.  CAS is the time it takes for a certain column of the memory to be accessed and then retrieved.  RAS to CAS Delay is the amount of clock cycles it takes for the correct row to be accessed.  RAS Precharge tells you the amount of time you have to wait before accessing another row.  Cycle time tells you how long your computer needs and long the row should be active for in order to get the information out of a row.  Command Rate is very confusing; basically, most computers use 2T but 1T operates faster.  The SPD tab covers pretty similar things to the memory tab.  GPU-Z has a better analysis on the graphics section and there are better benchmarking tools out there (Intel has nice CPU benchmarking tools and Heaven Benchmark is really good for GPUs).

Now, its time for GPU-Z

This shows some pretty self-explanatory information.  Some of the stuff are already covered in CPU-Z's guide.  ROPs are the units that display the final render result on screen and the TMUs processes texture information on pixels and outputs the results onto triangles used to form 3d models. Shaders are like little cores that compute and render images for the screen.  Although these shaders are very simple compared to CPUs, their power combined can be more powerful than a CPUs, such as password cracking, when performing simple tasks.  The Pixel Filtrate tells you the amount of pixels your GPU can render to the screen every second.  Although 32 Gpixels/s may seem very large, you have to consider the scope of things here.  60 frames per second is considered optimal for gaming.  Now if you have a 1920 * 1080 pixel monitor like me, your GPU will have to render 124416000 pixels every second; this is why the pixel filtrate has to be such a large number.  Texture filtrate is the amount of texture pixels your GPU can render.  Texels, or texture pixels, are used to display 3D objects on screen.  The GPU clocks display its speed and cache (memory).  Again, the speed can be increased through overclocking.  Crossfire is a cable used to connect multiple GPUs.  The Bus widths is used to communicate with other components within the computer hardware.  Bandwidth tells you the speed of the video RAM; the faster the better.  The driver version tells you the driver version of your GPU and the Computing section tells you what extra software features your GPU supports.  Some programs need these extra features in order to run since they could be programmed in them.  Lastly, the die size is the physical size of the GPU.

This tab gives you monitoring capabilities.  You can click on the numbers to display the min, avg, current, and max numbers since this program started.  You can also change the sensor refresh rate and log the details to the file.

We finally got through most of the information displayed about your hardware!  There is a ton of info here and even more info that will appear later on if you decide to study hardware in-depth.  This is just a basic tutorial for people to understand the basics of computer hardware by looking through GPU-Z and GPU-Z.  Stay tuned for more blog posts!