RAM? GHz? Understanding PC Specs for Beginners

If you’re shopping for a new desktop or laptop computer, you’ll benefit from having a basic understanding of computer architecture even if you don’t have a degree in computer science or electronics engineering:

What are the essential components of a computer?

What features are most important to you in your decision?

You will face even more challenges if you intend to build your own system: Can you build a system with the basics, and then add features later?

Which computer should you buy first?

What will you use the computer for – basic computing, internet, video editing, high-powered gaming?

For an understanding of PC specs and their significance, let’s start with the basics.

PC Specs for Beginners

You can expect to be bombarded by computer terms that salespeople will throw your way as “must-have” features when you walk into a computer store without a basic understanding of computer basics.

While it is true that the majority of people are honest, reputable, and eager to assist you in getting the best system for your budget, if you have a little knowledge, you can decode their information.

You need to consider the same factors for both desktop and laptop computers when purchasing a computer.

Processors: Your processor is the engine for your computer. Your system will manage anything you ask it to do through your motherboard’s processor (we’ll talk about the motherboard later).

Intel i7 Processor:


GHz (gigahertz) is the unit of measurement of computer processor speed. In today’s computers, processors are typically rated in GHz speeds (2.4 GHz, 3.5 GHz, etc.).

1 GHz is equivalent to one billion cycles per second. As a result, the higher the GHz rating, the greater the performance (power) of the processor.

GHz speed is not the only factor to consider when choosing your processor.

In addition to the number of “cores” in the architecture and the number of “threads” for processing cycles, processors differ considerably in their performance.

A quad-core processor with eight threads (4 cores, 8 threads) will outperform a dual-core processor with four threads (2 cores, 4 threads).


Random Access Memory (RAM) is the volatile, temporary memory your computer uses to store your applications and documents or web pages that you’re working on.

RAM is typically installed directly on the motherboard and is measured in gigabytes (GB). One GB is roughly equal to 1 billion bytes or characters.

Simple computers and devices such as Chromebooks can function fine with 2GB of RAM for basic computing needs such as browsing the web or working with simple documents.

Most users who expect to open several web pages and multiple documents at once will benefit greatly from 4GB, with 8GB being even better for heavy computer applications like gaming, editing, and 3D software.

In heavy graphics and modeling applications, 16GB makes life even better, boosting performance considerably.


DDR3 Laptop RAM


Historically, this was an easily-understood component of your system. Storage is measured in gigabytes, just like RAM.

Now, storage is available in two major formats:

Typical HDD

HDDs (hard disk drives) contain spinning platters and moving heads that read and write data to storage media. Storage on hard drives has become increasingly affordable, with 1TB (1,000 GB) drives now included in many computers with very acceptable performance.

SSD Storage

Solid-state drives (SSDs) are now used in many lightweight, high-performance laptop computers because of their many benefits:

With no moving parts, SSD drives are faster than HDD drives. * Size: SSDs are extremely thin and lightweight.

The drawback of SSD use is that they are more expensive, although prices are becoming comparable to HDDs in recent months.

Graphics cards

Searching the internet for graphics cards may leave you even more confused than with other computer components.

With many manufacturers offering add-on graphics cards, you can perform activities such as video editing, 3D graphics, and powerful gaming programs more quickly and efficiently.

If you are a more basic use of computers, the built-in graphics that come with your system are quite adequate to use for web browsing, non-3D games, videos, and a wide range of other activities.

When using your computer for intensive gaming or complex 3D applications, installing a graphics card from a leading manufacturer such as NVIDIA can significantly impact your computer’s performance and gaming experience.

Gaming-quality graphics card:


If you’re going to assemble your own desktop computer, you must buy a motherboard for your electronic components.

There are a number of components in this, including RAM, the processor, and others.

You should consult your online retailer or local computer store to determine what motherboard is right for the mix of items you intend to install, so you don’t run into any surprises:

A processor that is compatible with the socket configuration on the motherboard RAM slots that can accommodate the amount of memory you intend to install a motherboard ready for mounting CPU, RAM, and other components:

Especially when building a gaming computer, keeping your system and the components installed on your motherboard cool is essential.

Make sure you have either cooling fans or another system (some high-powered computers incorporate liquid cooling systems) that can prevent your electronics from overheating.

Other System Components

A complete system requires additional hardware components:

Case: To house the system, you need a tower or desktop case.

Power Supply: Your system needs a power supply to run the processor, cooling fans, and storage. Choose a case that’s easy to open for easy access to its internals.

You’ll need a computer tower case with components installed along with a mouse, keyboard, monitor, and gaming controllers.

Peripherals: You’ll need a mouse, keyboard, monitor, and gaming controllers.

Which to buy first, and what to buy?

In order to get going, a few components are necessary – a case, power supply, cooling fan(s), processor, some RAM, and storage. You can always add graphics cards later, as well as RAM and storage. Your budget may allow you to invest in the best processor you can afford, such as an Intel Core i5. You can even use this processor to run most gaming systems. It’s easy to add RAM and storage, so if you’re on a tight budget, you can save a little money on the initial expenditure (within reason – don’t shortchange RAM under 4GB).

Laptop system PC specs – What’s right for you?

A variety of options are available for laptop computers, including processors, memory, storage, screen size, battery life, and portability (weight). How can you determine what is right for you? There are multiple factors to consider:

Use of the laptop: Is it for basic computing and browsing the internet, streaming videos, or gaming?

Cost plays an important role in the features you select. If you plan to travel regularly with your laptop, weight and battery life are key considerations. Here are a few guidelines for choosing the right combination of features.

Processors in the Intel Core series, such as the i5, have respectable performance. Upgrades to an i7 processor will provide a better performance, but at a higher cost.

SSD drives offer better performance and reduce weight.
Make sure your laptop has at least a 12.5 to 14″ screen, particularly if you intend to stream video regularly.

Although larger screens are even better, they are less portable due to their size and weight.
If you have less than 4GB of RAM, you will also have limited performance and usability when you are running multiple applications and browsing the web simultaneously. We recommend 8GB.

These are only guidelines and apply to both PCs and Macs.

What about the specifications of gaming systems?

The specs of a gaming PC are different from those of a non-gaming PC. Those who play serious games should have more power:

A quality gaming system relies on good graphics cards, which are equipped with processors and video memory.

Make sure your RAM is fast enough to keep up with your processor. In order to play effectively, you’ll need at least 8GB of RAM, but 12 or 16GB would be ideal. If you have specific games in mind, be sure to check their RAM requirements to avoid surprises.

SSD storage is faster and lighter, but HDD storage offers more storage for the same dollar. While games and add-on features can consume a considerable amount of storage space, if you have a desktop gaming system, you can always install additional drives later if needed. Your goal is to have a gleaming, powerful computer that can handle your workload or entertainment needs.

Are you done with your new computer?

Make sure to make one more check for the latest drivers after making your selection or having your freshly-built computer running.

It could have a dramatic impact on overall system performance.

As soon as you choose or build a laptop or gaming computer that’s right for you, you want its performance to be at its best. Using Driver Support, you can automate the process of making sure that your computer has the correct and most current drivers that will keep your system running efficiently, without the guesswork and manual effort.

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