Skip to main content
  • Place orders quickly and easily
  • View orders and track your shipping status
  • Enjoy members-only rewards and discounts
  • Create and access a list of your products
  • Manage your Dell EMC sites, products, and product-level contacts using Company Administration.

A Basic Guide to Identifying the Major Components in a Desktop System

Summary: This article is a basic reference guide to the types of hardware that goes into making a Dell Desktop PC.

This article may have been automatically translated. If you have any feedback regarding its quality, please let us know using the form at the bottom of this page.

Article Content


The following guides will provide a visual guide to each of the major components you will find on any desktop computer currently shipping or having shipped in the last 10 years. They will also give some basic info on each component as well. If this guide doesn't answer your question then please contact your Local Support.

Visual Guides to the Various Desktop Components

What it Looks like and What it does?


(Figure.1.1 Hard Disk Drive 3.5" (HDD))


(Figure.1.2 Solid State Drive 2.5" (SSD))

The HDD/SSD is the part of your Computer which holds your Software and Data.


(Figure.1.3 HDD Rear View)

The HDD is most often Silver and Black and is either 2.5" or 3.5" wide. It will usually have a raised circle on top with a circuit card on the bottom. The rear of the drive will have various female connectors.

The SSD is most often Silver and Black and is 2.5" wide. It has the same connectors as the HDD.

The HDD/SSD both have the same 2 cables which connect to it.

The Data SATA cable and the Power cable. These cables connect simply by pushing them in place or pulling them out. There are no catches locking them in place.

The HDD/SSD will be secured in place either in a Cage or on Runners depending on your System Type.

HDD's are older technology with spinning platters that can store a lot of data. SSD's are newer technology which ups the drives access speeds by using flash memory instead of platters. SSD's are a common upgrade part to improve the speed of most systems, but the storage sizes are still short of what an HDD can handle. Combinations of both are used for fast boot and seek speeds, while still holding space for saved data.

What it looks Like and What it does?


(Figure.2.1 Dual Inline Memory Module (DIMM))

The Memory is the part of your Computer which lets it transfer Data between your Software programs and the more you have the more it speeds up your experience of using the programs.


(Figure.2.2 Memory Motherboard rails/connectors)

The Memory in a Desktop is usually 2.5" to 3" long and about 1" tall. There is a Golden fringe along the bottom of the circuit card and the fringe will have a notch cut into it.

To Release the Memory you pull apart the clips at either side of the Memory and it rises far enough in the slot that you can pull it completely out of the slot.

To Reseat the Memory you push the Memory into the slot, making sure it's the correct way round and the clips either side of the slot will come up and catch the memory in place. This secures the Memory in place and if the clips do not catch the memory then it isn't seated properly.

The Memory card notch matches a bar in the Memory slot. It will only allow the memory to be fitted in the Memory slot when it is the correct way round. The notch also changes position depending on what type of memory it is, for example, this stops you from fitting DDR3 memory in a DDR4 slot.

What it Looks Like and What it does?


(Figure.3.1 Optical Disc Drive (ODD / DVD / CD ROM))

The CD/DVD drive is the part of the Computer which reads CD/DVD media. Depending on the type of drive you have, it may allow you to create your own media as well.


(Figure.3.2 Optical Disc Drive Rear View)

The CD/DVD drive is usually a rectangular box with a Black or White face where the media is inserted. If you have a slimline CD/DVD drive, it will still follow this basic shape.

The CD/DVD Drive has 3 cables that connect to it.

The Data SATA cable and the Power cable. These cables connect simply by pushing them in place or pulling them out. There are no catches locking them in place. Depending on your model of drive it may also have an Audio cable plugged. This will have a catch with a small lever that needs to be depressed to remove the cable from the Drive.

The CD/DVD Drive will be secured in place with Phillips head screws.

What it Looks Like and What it does?


(Figure.4.1 Video / Graphics Card)

The Video Card is an optional add-in card that you add to your Computer to improve the graphics above the level supplied by the Graphics Chip built into your Motherboard.


(Figure. Video / Graphics Motherboard rails / connectors)

The Video Card follows the normal configuration for an Option Card. There will be a blanking plate that contains the female connectors and points out the back of the Computer and there will be a Golden fringe along the bottom of the circuit board that makes up the card itself. The configuration of the fringe will match the appropriate slot it uses. You will not be able to fit the card to the wrong slot.

To Remove the Card you will need to release it from the option slots on the back of your system. On PCIe Cards you will also need to release a locking clip at the back of the card slot.

To Reseat the Card you will need to locate the front of the card into the correct option slot and push down into the slot until it firmly seats in place.

The Video Card is usually secured by a Clip/Lock or Phillips head screw, depending on your System Type.

What it Looks Like and What it does?


(Figure.5.1 System Fan)

The System Fan is used to pull air into your Computer to cool the System down. This stops it from overheating and makes it work more efficiently.


(Figure.5.2 System Fan Cable)

The System Fan is black and is usually fitted within a Black or Blue Shroud.

The System Fan connects to the Motherboard by a Control/Power cable. The cable usually has a lever clip securing the connector in place.

The System Fan secures to the chassis using Rubber clips or a Cage.

What it Looks like and What it does?


(Figure.6.1 Power Supply Unit (PSU))

The Power Supply is the part of your Computer which powers the machine and all of its components.


(Figure.6.2 Power Supply Unit Cables)

The Power Supply is usually a square or rectangular metal box, that will have a Power Cord connector on the rear and have multiple multi-coloured power cables projecting out the front.

The SATA Power Supply has 4 main types of cable connector which connect from it to the various parts in the Computer.

The 24 pin and 4 pin connectors plug to your Motherboard. The cables plugging to the Motherboard will have catches that lock them in place. The other 2 connectors plug to any of the Drives in your Computer. These cables connect simply by pushing them in place or pulling them out, without a catch/clip.

The Power Supply will be secured in place to an internal catch and with external Phillips head screws.

What it Looks like and What it does?


(Figure.7 Heatsink Unit)

The Heatsink is the part of your Computer which directs heat away from your Processor which is the brain of your computer. It will sometimes have a fan.

The Heatsink usually takes the form of multiple metal fins that are contained within a Black shroud, sometimes with a fan on top.

To Remove it you will take out the screws and disconnect the fan cable and Remove the Assembly from the system.

To Reseat the heatsink you will reconnect the fan cable and having put the heatsink back in place, put the screws back in.

The Heatsink and fan will secure to the Motherboard with Phillips Head screws.

What it Looks like and What it does?


(Figure.8.1 Motherboard)

The Motherboard is the part of your Computer which every other part connects to and it controls how those parts are used.


(Figure.8.2 Motherboard to Chassis)

You will not be asked to remove this part.

The Motherboard is the biggest circuit card in your Computer and will be secured to the base of the system.

It will have multiple connectors soldered to it and all the other parts in your Computer will plug to this one component by one of these connectors.

The Motherboard has your Processor fitted to it and is secured to your chassis with Philips head screws.

Article Properties

Affected Product

Fixed Workstations

Last Published Date

02 Jan 2024



Article Type

How To