PC Hardware

Lesson Summary: The Centeral Processing Unit

The following points summarize the main elements of this lesson:

  • The microprocessor is the centerpiece of today's computers.

  • Understanding the development and progression of the processor is essential in understanding how to mix older technology with new technology.

  • The three key elements that go into measuring a CPU's performance are its speed, address bus, and external data bus.

  • The development of the 80286 processor introduced the concepts of real and protected modes and allowed the use of up to 16 MB of memory.

  • The development of the 80386 processor brought about 32-bit processing and allowed up to 4 GB of memory.

  • The 80486 processor is a souped-up version of the 80386 and introduced the use of cache memory.

  • The Pentium chip began a new line of processors and technology, incorporating RISC and true multithreading capabilities in an Intel microprocessor for the first time.

  • Pentium MMX technology was developed to meet the needs of today's multimedia world.

  • The Intel Pentium III further extended PC performance with advanced cache technology and streamlined code handling.

  • Several players are currently competing with Intel for the processor market (NextGen, AMD, Cyrix, IBM), but Intel has the largest market share.

  • Today's standard processor is the Pentium III, with processor speeds of 500 MHz and greater.

Replacing and Upgrading Chips

A computer technician is commonly expected to upgrade computers. Because the CPU is the "brain" of a computer, replacing this single component can bring new life to an aging system. Replacing the chip is easy, but understanding the possible scenarios for a successful upgrade can be more challenging.

After this lesson, you will be able to:
  • Decide whether a CPU is worth upgrading.

  • Find the type of CPU required for upgrade.

  • Install a new CPU.

Estimated lesson time: 15 minutes

Replacing a CPU can be very simple, but it is important to first carefully consider whether to do so. If you do decide to replace it, you will need to take care to avoid damaging the chip during installation. Before undertaking this process, always ask yourself, "What CPUs can be put on this motherboard?" The best source for an answer is the documentation packaged with the computer or motherboard. If the customer does not have the motherboard manual and you do not have a reference, the document should be available on the manufacturer's Web site.