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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Designing and Specifying PC Systems and Components ]

Designing PCs: Structure and Subsystems

I've said that PCs are not that difficult to learn about, understand and even build, because they are usually made of standardized components. However, knowing what these parts are isn't enough to really understand PC design. After all, it's not like you can throw a CPU, hard disk, motherboard and other devices into a blender, hit "puree" and pour out a complete PC. :^)

Most PC buyer's guides talk a lot about what components you should buy, and may even explain why some are more important than others. But few talk about how they are related, how they interact with each other, and how you must view them in order to successfully design a PC system. It's probably because it is not really easy to explain this, as I now know very well. :^) However, the knowledge is essential if you want to really understand how a PC is built and how the components fit together. This will allow you to control the configuration and creation of your system, or assess the quality of a manufacturer's design, as appropriate.

In this section I describe how PCs are laid out and functionally organized. First, I discuss the basics of PC design: how the PC and its parts can be considered to be in structural groups that fit together at a high level. I then look at all of the components in a complete PC unit and describe how they are organized as subsystems that perform a particular job.

Next: PC Structural Design

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