What is...

There are much more comprehensive explanations out there. We just want to provide a simplistic explanation for Granny!

Useful and Interesting Links

What is a processor?

A computer's processor is a special chip in the computer that "processes" the actual work of the computer. It juggles the 1's and 0's really fast. The faster it juggles the faster and snappier your computer will seem.
When we speak of processors, we have a few other words that are important.

  • Core: A processor might have multiple cores so you might hear of dual-core or quad-core. A core is a physical unit of the processor that allows the processor to receive multiple instructions. The more cores you have, the more the processor can think about at once.
  • Thread: A thread is the "line of thought" used by the core. It is the string of information being processed. If you have more than one thread then you can process more than one string of information at a time within your core.
  • GHz: This stands for GigaHertz, and refers to the number of cycles per second the chip can process. Basically, the speed the electricity can flow through it - think of it like the RPM of a car engine. This doesn't necessarily make your computer faster, however - it also depends on the make of the processor (Athlon vs Pentium, for example), whether you have a 32bit or 64bit machine, and another thing called "clock speed" which, in some cases is adjustable. More GHz means the processor works faster, but it doesn't mean the computer is faster - you have to consider the Cores and Threads, and how well your computer can cool itself, too. For example you can get a computer with an Intel i3 running at 3.30 GHz, but it will never be as fast as an Intel i5 running at 2.67 GHz. For more information about GHz, read this page, and this one too, concerning the comparison of processors.

To put it short, the more cores in your processor, the faster your computer will be. The more threads per core, the faster your computer will be.
For more information, check out this nice forum thread, and this page has some very good explanations about processors..

This page has a nice list of processors and their rank as which is best. You can see from the table on that page that the fastest processor does *not* have the highest GHz speed!

What is are i3, i5 and i7?

These are Intel Processor chips that are distributed in many modern computers (especially Dell).

  • Intel i3 has 2 cores with 4 threads
  • Intel i5 has 4 cores with 4 threads
  • Intel i7 has 4 cores with 8 threads

A simple Intel i3 is the economical approach, and is good enough for most people's usage. You can use your word processor, browse the internet and send email. If you want to beef things up, get a Core i5. You won't need an i7 unless you plan to do video editing, CAD or process humongous graphic files. You will definitely be able to tell the difference between one processor and the next. For a really detailed explanation, check out this link.

What is RAM?

RAM stands for "Random Access Memory" and is the compter's "thinkin' memory". Think of it like our own short term memory. When you consider an idea you have to store little parts of it in your RAM whilst you think about other parts. It's the same for the computer. RAM is where the computer keeps track of what it is doing at the moment - open windows are stored in RAM, RAM is used by programs when they "do stuff". This is different than your hard drive - your hard drive is long-term storage for data that is not flowing or in current use by the computer. When your computer loses power, then RAM loses power and so the computer "forgets" what it was doing - but it doesn't forget what files are on the computer.
In short, the more RAM you have, the more your computer can do at once. If you only ever used one program, you wouldn't need much RAM, but modern computers and modern users (yes, that refers to YOU) use lots of programs simultaneously, so you need lots of RAM. This is the best upgrade you can possibly give your computer. Never be afraid to buy more RAM for your computer - you will be pleased you did so.

Need to Know About Computer Cables?

Maybe you've heard of words like HDMI, USB, RJ45, Cat5, SATA, IDE, etc. On this page, there is a very nice list of commonly used computer cables along with their general usages.

Where are Some Good Places to Get Computer Hardware?

Oh! You need some memory chips for your computer? No, you say you need a special USB cable?

  • Nextag - A nice price-comparison site. Search for anything! Especially nice for software.
  • Amazon.com - No, really - you can get very good deals on computers and electronics there.
  • Cable Ties and More - Cable Organization, Trays, Server Racks, Wiring Ducts, Home Theatre Supplies, Those little rubber things you put over cords to protect them when folks walk on them... etc.
  • Cable Organizers - Exactly that! This is an excellent resource.
  • Monoprice - Need to buy lots of cables, cheap?

Just Looking for Nifty Computer Stuff?

Okay, if you are reading this, then you obviously like computers? So, just how nerdy are you? Check out these nifty links:

Oh - You're Just a Techie, Huh?

Wow, it is surprising that anybody got this far in the page! Here are some excellent techie links: