The How Laptops work.


How do laptops work?

Laptops have certainly come a very long way since the days when they were created for a ‘small niche market’ and developed primarily for professionals such as accountants, sales representatives, and those in the military. While these portable computers were quite large and weighed almost 12 pounds, the laptops of today are very light and tiny, and almost everybody has one! So what is it about these small notebook computers that has people so interested? One reason for the rise in popularity is because people are so much busier these days, commuting to work and constantly being on the go and laptops are an easy way to carry around work, and for many, their life. Another reason that laptops have become one of the highest-selling technological developments on the market is because manufacturers are constantly redesigning and building upon their former version to create the absolute best, smallest, and most powerful machines!

The first laptops were also created to be a more basic version of a desktop computer with standard software and basic processors. However, today the average laptop is just as good, if not better, than many desktop machines with just some slight deficiencies in the sound and graphics departments. However, with the new advancements constantly being made, even these differences are now being taken care of and many laptop models today are much quicker, easier, and better for watching movies and playing games than many desktop computers. So how do manufacturers fit all of that technology and all of those advancements into such a small and compact design? Laptops work in much the same way that desktop computers work but the trick with laptops is not only getting all of those parts to work but making them work in a much smaller space, without the entire system overheating and without too much power being used, as they generally run off a battery. Oh, and don’t forget that all of the parts, obviously, have to be much, much smaller. So how do they do it?

A laptop is designed flat across, instead of the vertical design of most desktop computers. Within this flat design the pieces of the laptop need to be laid beside and across each other, as though they are all pieces within a puzzle. One of the pieces is the microprocessor, or the CPU. The CPU works as the brain of the computer and when working with the operating system, is essentially what makes the laptop work. This CPU works the same way a CPU in a desktop computer would however they don’t have the room to store as many cooling agents and tools so there are a few differences. One of these differences is that laptop processors don’t run as fast and with a lower clock speed. This not only helps prevent the laptop from overheating but also helps to reduce the power that’s being used. Because this does slow the processor, and therefore the laptop, down, the lowest settings for the CPU are used when the laptop is using the battery and so the laptop will run faster when it is plugged in.

The processor then connects to the motherboard without using sockets or pins, which most desktop computers use. Pins and sockets though take up precious space and so in laptops, the processor usually attaches right to the motherboard. Sometimes something that is called a Micro-FCBGA, which is also called a Flip Chip Ball Grid Array, is also used which also helps to cut back on the space used. While these designs are real space-savers, they do also mean that sometimes the hard drive cannot be replaced or have any upgrades made to it due to the attached processor. Laptops also generally come with a sleep or slow-down mode that it will enter after periods of unused. This helps to conserve the battery’s life as well as allows the computer some time to cool down. Instead of attaching the processor directly onto the motherboard, some laptop models still have the fans, heat sinks, heat spreaders, and heat pipes that help to carry heat away from the processor but they are much smaller than those same parts that you would find in a desktop computer. In addition to this, manufacturers place the CPU just at the edge of all the other parts, so that the heat can be blown directly outside of the machine, and not have to travel across and around other important parts.

In some laptops, and definitely in higher-end models, the memory space is so significant that users don’t even realize that the processor is running at a lower speed. Some laptops also have caches near or on the CPU so that the processor can access the memory and the motherboard more quickly. The types of memory that the laptop uses are also not only smaller than desktops but also come in different forms. The types of memory that a laptop uses are: Small Outline Dual Inline Memory Module (SODIMM); Dual Data Rate Synchronous RAM (DDR SDRAM); Single Data Rate Synchronous RAM (SDRAM); and proprietary memory modules. In most laptops, the memory module is easy to access and remove for upgrading and repairing purposes.

In addition to the processor, its components, and the memory, laptops also have a hard drive which holds on it the operating system, software and applications, and data files. Laptop hard drives are not only physically smaller than other hard drives, they also spin much slower to reduce the amount of heat produced by them and they generally have less space on them than desktop computers. Laptops today are coming with many different drives already installed in them, such as CD and DVD drives. These additional drives not only provide extra storage space but certain drives can also add to the laptop’s memory and disk space. For this reason, drives within a laptop can often be changed and replaced depending on what the user needs. There are 3 different ways that drives can be taken out of, and placed into, laptops. The first type is known as a hot swappable, which means that the laptop can be turned on and can even be used during the switch of the drives. A warm swappable means that while the laptop can be turned on during the switch, the hard drive and the processor must remain inactive and a cold swappable means that the laptop needs to remain entirely off and needs to not be in use while the switch is taking place. The bays that these drives are built into is called a modular design and is built so that drives can easily be taken out and put back in.

In addition to the processor, the laptop also has another microprocessor called the graphic microprocessing unit (GPU.) This component, like the CPU, creates a lot of heat during use and so most manufacturers have designed motherboards that have graphics capability installed right into them or graphics cards that have a GPU, specifically meant to be used with laptops. Because laptops often share memory between the GPU and the memory, laptops are not often the best machines to be used for gamers or those who like to watch a lot of video on their computer screen. Most people don’t even notice this difference as both will still deliver great performance when browsing the Internet or doing other work. The biggest difference can be noticed when those interested in serious gaming try the latest 3D games and graphics. However, even this can be compensated with laptops that are designed especially for gaming. These laptops are designed with more powerful GPUs and more memory size.

The sound for a laptop works in somewhat the same way that the graphics do. Sound processing can be integrated right into the hard drive or the laptop can come with built-in speakers. Like the graphics, this will be more than sufficient for most users however, those who need a laptop equipped with a great sound system can use an external sound controller that can access the hard drive via FireWire or USB ports. Sound cards can also be purchased for use with a laptop and this can also help produce a better sound than just speakers alone.

There’s no doubt that there are certain parts that must be fitted into the inside of a laptop to make it work but it’s actually the screen size that determines how large the laptop will be. Although a 17” laptop will definitely have more space inside of it, you could most likely fit all of the basic parts into a 10” laptop as well. Standard screen sizes today range from 12” to 17” however you can definitely find models with smaller or larger screens, depending on your needs. The screen shows images with an LCD (liquid crystal display.) All laptop screens are either black-and-white or in color, although you’d be hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t have a color screen! The other two types are: active or passive matrix; and reflective or backlit. Screens with an active or passive matrix are a bit easier to read and do produce sharper images however for low-light level conditions, reflective or backlit screens may be easier to see and read.

Laptops just like desktops, need to run on electricity and they can get this electricity through an outlet or a battery. Desktop computers also have batteries to make sure that things such as the clock, keep on running. However, laptops can run on their battery alone, which desktop computers cannot. Nickel-cadmium batteries were the first type installed into laptops but because they needed to be charged approximately every 2 hours and because every charge caused some damage to the battery so that they would run down quicker, this type of battery is not generally used in laptops today. The battery would have a shorter life after each charge because with every charge, gas bubbles would form inside the cell plates and there would be less space to hold a charge every time. One way that laptop users would bypass this problem would be to allow the battery to completely drain before charging it but that wasn’t always the most convenient way to do things. Another problem that Nickel-Cadmium batteries had was that if they became overheated during their charge, there was a danger of explosion.

Lilon batteries are generally what’s found in today’s laptops because of their significantly lighter weight and because they last longer than the older types of batteries. Because they don’t suffer from the memory effect caused by gas bubbles, they can be charged whenever the user wants and won’t have a shorter lifespan afterwards. Lilon batteries can be charged anywhere from 900 to 1200 times and they are also very thin, which makes them especially ideal for manufacturers that are always trying to come up with a slimmer, sleeker design. They can also be charged longer than necessary without fear of overheating. Lilon batteries usually have a 5-hour lifespan before needing to be charged but this can vary greatly depending on how the laptop is used. Most laptops have a power management system that will conserve the life of the battery, especially when it’s running low.

So now that you know how a laptop works, how can you use this information to your benefit when buying one? The first thing to know is the space on the hard drive and the memory – the more space the laptop has, the laptop will run more quickly and more smoothly. Those who are interested in gaming or watching movies will most likely want a laptop with a larger screen size but this will also affect the weight of the machine, which most people want as light as possible. The last thing that people generally want to make sure of before investing in a laptop is the possibility of upgrades and how easy those are to make.


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