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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Designing and Specifying PC Systems and Components | Designing PCs: Structure and Subsystems ]

PC Subsystem Design

The PC is a system, which means that it contains many different parts that work together to accomplish its various tasks. However, not all of the various components in the machine are connected together in the same way, or you could say, at the same level. There are some that are more centrally located and connected to more of the other pieces; there are others that are more "added on" to the central core of the machine. There are subsystems within the system that each do different jobs. The subsystems each contain components that work together, and with the other subsystems of the PC.

The pages in this section define the various subsystems of a typical PC, describing each subsystem's components and key attributes. Looking at the PC overall in this way is very important to design, because design is usually done in subsystem terms. At least in the key subsystems, components are normally specified as an integral whole, not one at a time. The design of a system usually begins with the system processing core, which contains the components that most centrally define the nature of the PC. The video and storage subsystems are then added to that core, each one designed so that its constituent components match each other. Then other "satellite" components are added to round out the system.

Of course, dividing components into subsystems isn't a neat and tidy affair. These groups are intended to help you think about how a system is designed, not to make you believe that the subsystems are all independent of one another. In fact, some components fit into more than one subsystem. Where each particular part of the PC falls into a subsystem doesn't matter as much as comprehending the roles played by the subsystems themselves.

Next: System Processing Core


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