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Building desktop and server computers

The motherboard is the main hardware component in the computer through which the CPU, and other components are all connected together. It allows communication between components and provides connectors for other peripherals. The motherboard also has connectors for monitors, keyboards and mice. The motherboard contains BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) which initializes and tests the system hardware components, loads a boot loader which then initializes an operating system. Motherboards are designed to work with specific types of processors. A CPU (or processor) performs operations specified by the instructions of a computer program. If a system has more than one processor, the system is called multiprocessor. If a single chip contains two or more processors called "cores", then it is called multi-core. There are primarily two types of processors used on desktop and server computers: x86 and x86_64. On an x86 system, the system processes data 32 bits at a time; on a x86_64 the system processes data 64 bits at a time. One of the main advantages of a 64 bit system is that the system is able to work with more memory. Most of the modern processors built today are x86_64. 32 bit architecture systems can use up to 4 GB of RAM, while 64 bit architectures are capable of addressing and using far more RAM. Power supplies are the devices that converts mains AC to low-voltage. It is wise to choose a power supplies based on quality rather than price, since their proper function has a major impact on the computer system. Optical drives are removable storage media. Some are read-only, others are capable of burning (writing to) disks. There are various standards for disks, such as CD-R, DVD-R, and BD.

Disk devices, aka hard drives and solid state disks, may be attached to the system in a number of ways to store data. The two most common form factors for modern hard drives are 3.5-inch, for desktop computers, and 2.5-inch, primarily for laptops. Hard drives are connected to systems by standard interface cables such as SATA or USB cables. The primary characteristics of hard drives are its capacity and performance. Solid state disks can use traditional hard drive interfaces and form factors, or newer. Traditional interfaces and standard hard drives form factors allow such solid state disks to be used as drop-in replacements for hard drives in computers. Disk devices are divided into partitions. A partition is a logical division of a disk devices. The desired number and sizes of partitions can be easily created during the installation of an operating system. New partitions can also be created after the operating system has been installed. Disk drives are associated with file names that are stored in the /dev directory. Different types of hard drives are given slightly different names, for example, hd for hard drives and sd for solid state disks. Each solid state disk is assigned a letter, for example, the first solid state disk would have a /dev/sda file name and the second solid state disk would have /dev/sdb file name. Partitions are given unique numbers for each device. For example, if solid state disk has two partitions, they could be associated with the /dev/sda1 and /dev/sda2 file names.

In order for a device to be used in Linux, there may be driver required. Drivers are software programs that allow the operating system to communicate with the device. Drivers must be written for the specific operating system, something that is commonly done for Microsoft Windows, but not always for Linux. Most devices have the driver either built-in to the kernel or have it loaded into the kernel. It is best to check the Linux distribution to see if the device is certified to work with that distribution. Some distributions have web pages dedicated to listing hardware that is certified or approved to work with their software. Avoid brand new or highly specialized devices and check with the vendor of the device to see if they support Linux before making a purchase.