Computer Upgrade

     With increasing popularity of computer games, and multimedia home PC users often
need an unexpensive computer system upgrade. By building a custom computer one
is able to combine componenets, and operating system to provide maximal gaming
performance. Computers are often called number manipulators, because of their
ability to run millions of mathematical operations per second (White 43).

Computers use binary system of numbers, which allows them to operate system of
microscopic switches called transistors found inside of computer chips. Binary
system is defined as counting system that uses two digits one and zero (Gookin

49). A transistor is a basic building block of microchips; transistors are
combined in formations called logic gates (White 39). "Transistor can only
create binary information: one if current passes through or zero if current does
not, to work with transistors"(White 39). Computer software uses Boolean
logic, which is based on selecting true or false values used in computer
programming (White 39). All personal computers have BIOS, which is an acronym
for 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 of
the boot up process, or a complex set of operations checking hardware that
components are working properly. Besides BIOS and several other operations there
is power–on self-test - POST being ran. POST test runs at the start up, and if
it finds an error, it sends a warning message (White 5). Central processing unit
– CPU is the most important part of the personal computer, all other
components work as a bridge to CPU (White 59). The speed of the processor is
usually defined by using units called megahertz (MHz, also million frequency
waves per second). CPUs are generally divided into two categories- CISC and

RISC. CISC – complex instruction set computing, uses many small instructions
to carry out a single operations. CISC is a standard in today’s processors.

RISC – reduced instruction set computing, uses less complicated instructions
with simpler design. RISC microprocessors are cheaper, they produce less heat,
and they are generally smaller in size compared to CISC. With less heat and
smaller size RISC processors have great advantage in reaching higher frequencies
with less danger of overheating. The major disadvantage and also reason why RISC
microprocessors are not widely used, is less compatibility with available
software. The earlier programs were written for CISC chips. In order to reach
maximal speed, and compatibility the major manufacturers of microprocessors such
as Intel, use some advantages of RISC technology, to improve the performance of
their CISC compatible microprocessors (White 55). Computer microprocessor is the
most important part of the PC, but it can not work by it self. One of the few
primary components is BUS, also called a highway of the computer. BUS transports
data among the processor, random access memory, and hard disk. Speed of the BUS
depends on the type of motherboard where it is installed (White 119). Random
access memory- RAM is also attached to the motherboard- base of all the
components, but unlike BUS, RAM can be easily removed and changed. Random access
memory works as a staging area for the central processing unit (White 43).

Capacity of random access memory is very important for the performance of a
computer. In case there is not enough RAM the software can create space on the
hard drive to be used as temporary operating memory (White 31). Random means
that any part of the memory can be accessed at any time, it is not necessary to
read all of the memory to find one location. RAM is usually fast, temporary
memory 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)) It
is based on using magnetic plates; spinning at extreme speeds up to 7,200
rotations a minute, which are 120 spins every second. Even with extreme speed
and microscopic accuracy modern hard drives are unlikely to fail. The hard disk
is a combination of electronic and mechanical portions, which makes it the one
of the slowest parts of the computer (White 87). A graphic card is usually
plugged into one of the expansion slots, which are metallic contacts on the
motherboard (White 119). One of the most common expansion slots is PCI –
peripheral components interconnect. PCI are most commenly white slots used to
attach a graphic or sound card, also modem or network card (White 120). Latest
expansion 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 SVGA
– super video graphics array as a modern standard, which added new
capabilities, such as higher resolution and color depth to the previous VGA
interface. Super VGA allows as many as 16 million colors also called 32-bit
color, or true color(Stephen 1253). There are three major factors defining the
speed of a graphic adapter, overall performance depends on the chipset speed,
performance and capacity of graphic random access memory and the expansion slot
architecture (Stephen 1258). One of the other factors defining speed of a video
adapter is the software driver. "Even the finest accelerator board hardware
can bog-down when run with careless, loosely written code"(Stephen 1259).

Graphic cards have their own BIOS software which is firmware, or permanently
recorded in a memory device such as ROM – read only memory, and usually can
not be modified. Graphic card is actually a device what enables visualizing of
data on the monitor’s screen. Graphic adapter sends signals to the monitor.

The monitor uses glowing dots of red, green, and blue rays, which then blend
into millions of colors. The display dots are called pixels –picture element,
also the smallest area of the monitor’s screen. Pixels are on/off to create
and image, the graphic adapter sends the information about position and color of
pixels in form of a bitmap. Bitmaps are also the most common form of computer
graphics (White 143). The CD-ROM –compact disk read only memory became
standard equipment in personal computer systems in late 1980’s. Data is
retrieved from a compact disk by using a laser beam without any physical contact
between the disk and the drive. No physical contact makes compact disks long
lasting data storage media (White 205). Since early 1990s the CD-R - compact
disk recorder became more reliable for home users. CD-R allows one to record

CD’s on a home personal computer. The newer technology is CD-RW compact disk
rewriteable, which enables rewriting CD’s after it is recorded (White 139).

The latest way to store very large amount of data are DVD-digital versatile
disk, which allows to store up to thirteen times more data than a CD. DVDs are
usually used for movies because of their large capacity, and digital quality
sound and picture(White 205). Another common component of the personal computer
is 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 were
invented before any digital device. Modern 56K modems combine both analog, and
digital transfer, making it perform better than analog – only devices. Newer
technology in data transfer are DSL - digital subscriber line, satellite, and
cable. All of those are generally faster, but a more expensive way to connect to
the Internet (White 171). A sound card is one the devices that has been
overlooked in early systems, besides a simple speaker the early PCs were mute.

Due to the of increasing popularity of computer games, designers developed a
soundboard, which was able to read and reproduce sound data recorded in separate
files. Modern soundboards allow users to enjoy realistic three-dimensional sound
surrounding a person while playing computer games (Stephen 1187). To build a PC
providing maximal gaming performance, one of the most important things to
consider is choosing a CPU. There are several choices meeting individual needs,
and purposes. Traditionally the speed of the processor is defined by it clock
speed, but that is often not very certain because different developers can pack
more performance into fewer clock cycles (Stephen 289). However to reach good
gaming performance, today’s CPU needs a clock speed of 400 MHz or more, which
eliminates selection below that point. The two major manufacturers making high
performing processors are Intel and AMD. Both producers have selection of low
and high price range CPUs between one hundred dollars up to one thousand
dollars. Intel Celeron is one of the good performing and low priced CPUs, but
compared to higher priced Intel Pentium II/III Celeron does not perform quite as
well . 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 where
data is temporary stored to avoid accessing slower RAM or hard drive. Older CPUs
such as Pentium were using cache memory implemented on the motherboard; newer
processors have cache memory installed on them, which makes the data transfer
faster. AMD- advanced micro devices, as Intel’s largest competitor is known
for providing well- designed and highly compatible processors. Currently to
compete with Intel, AMD sells two good performing types of processors. The
highly priced, and great performing AMD K7-Anthlon, and the "Celeron
competition" AMD K6. The Anthlon CPU in most benchmarks performs better than
its clock speed equivalent from Intel (Hwang 1). After selecting CPU next thing
to consider is motherboard. There is a wide selection of motherboards, but only
few well performing and high compatible. Abit is one of the well-known mainboard
manufacturers, their policy has always been to provide greatest flexibility and
feature set available. Their fair priced Abit BX6 rev. 2.0 features five PCI
slots, two ISA and one AGP. BX6 supports up to one gigabyte of RAM, and is
compatible with all Intel’s Slot - one processor, making it an excellent
choice for Intel’s CPUs (Hwang 1). If AMD K7- Anthlon is the choice for CPU,
outstanding MSI MS-61-67 is a high quality mainboard supporting all Anthlon

CPUs, and providing same as Abit BX6, five PCI, and two ISA slots. AGP slot is
implemented as well. MS 61-67 supports up to 768 megabytes of random access
memory, which provides plenty of upgrading options. The mainboard also provides

"Plug and Play" BIOS which detects the peripheral devices and expansion
cards of the board automatically(Hwang 3). A good graphic card is one the most
important things to consider while building a gaming computer. 3Dfx Voodoo3 is
one of the best performing graphic cards available on the market (Vederman 204).

Its impressive test results in Glide interface based games are unbeatable by any
other graphic card, just because 3Dfx is the only manufacturer using Glide
interfacing. Using other interfaces such as Open GL or Direct 3D the Voodoo 3

3500 looses speed compare to TNT 2 Ultra based accelerators. One of the features
of the high priced Voodoo3 3500 is a TV tuner that allows user to watch
television on computers monitor (Case 49) . Voodoo 3 supports all three
interfaces- Open GL, Glide, and Direct 3D which makes it one of the fastest, and
most compatible graphic cards available. Only sixteen megabytes of graphic
memory does not allow Voodoo3 to run true color, three dimensional scenes in
high resolutions, and that is what Nvidia TNT 2 Ultra does (Case 204). Several
graphic card manufacturers use TNT 2 Ultra chipset. Well known, and one of the
largest is Diamond Multimedia producing Viper 770 Ultra, using previously
mentioned TNT 2 Ultra chipset. Viper 770 is a very fast graphic accelerator with
implemented thirty-two megabytes of graphic memory, allowing true coloring in
high resolutions. Retail version of the Viper includes a large software bundle
with several valuable games. Another feature is an excellent toolbar that allows
the user to tweak up a lot of details improving performance, such as an
overclocking utility (Case 99). After all the hardware parts are assembled it is
time to install the most important software, the operating system. The computer
is unable to do anything unless it is running an operating system, which is a
basic type of software that acts as a supervisor for all the applications (White

9). Although the operating system is the most important software it is not
included in computers, because of the need to upgrades. Operating system is
loaded from hard drive to the random access memory before the CPU can perform
any operations. Operating systems were originally created to handle
communication with other drives, because without an operating system programmers
would have to invent software with instructions to run the hardware (White 19).

Currently the most popular operating system is Microsoft Windows 98 Second

Edition. 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. The
feature improvement since Windows 95 includes for example Disk Defragmentation

Optimization Wizard, using the process of disk defragmentation to increase the
speed of the most frequently used applications (Stephen 53) The newest Microsoft
operating system Windows 2000 is still available only in beta test version.

Impressive new features such as very complex plug and play detection devices, or
performance improvements due using the newest drivers are only few of the new
implementations (Cleveland 75). Todays reality - like games require high-end

PCs, sold for thousands of dollars. By building a custom computer a user is
really able to tweak up the best performance for the best price. Cheaper, custom
built PC allows user to play any of the hundreds of games ava