Incorporating Digital Portfolios into your Classroom
January 17, 2019
Announcing the NICERC Cyber Range
February 1, 2019

This week we’re bringing a suggested classroom activity – though it could make a great summer or even weekend project to do at home too – disassemble and reassemble a PC.

Cracking open the hood of a PC can be an intimidating task. All those wires and fans and circuit boards look super complicated but can be approachable with a little time and research. Since computers are guaranteed to be a staple of households, education and society as a whole, learning how they work can give your students and children an edge.

Similar to an older car, older PCs are generally a little easier to work with, and the hardware and technology should still be relevant, assuming you don’t get too old a PC. Another plus is it should be fairly easy to get your hands on one. Thrift stores are a good option if you don’t know someone looking to offload their classic computer that just isn’t performing well in its old age.

There is a plethora of tutorials on how to take a PC apart, in both written and video forms, so we won’t get into all of that here. Instead we’ll list some basic parts that all computers have that you should be on the lookout for.


The Central Processing Unit (CPU) – this baby is the brain of the computer. It does all of the thinking and as the name implies, processing, directing the other pieces of hardware what to do to support it. These are small, square devices, usually silver or black, located on the motherboard. Speaking of…


Motherboard – this is the big, green circuit board covered in chips and wires and capacitors and other various plugs. This connects the CPU to the rest of the hardware and relays its commands to the rest of the machine.


Random Access Memory (RAM) – this is what allows your computer to run the operating system and other software. It’s similar in appearance to the motherboard, except on a smaller scale. Most computer have 2 sticks of RAM, but some can have as many as 4.


Hard Drive (HDD or SSD) – this is the storage library of your computer. It stores the computers operating system, programs and files. Older HDDs have a spinning disk component for storing data, while newer SSDs have no moving parts, making them faster and more reliable. Either way, it’s usually towards the front and bottom portion of the PC.


Power Supply Unit – this device converts the power from your outlet to the type of power needed by the computer. This is usually a silver box with a lot of stickers on it where the power cord plugs into the machine.


Extra Credit – some computers have additional cards called peripheral component interconnect (PCI) cards. Typically computers designed to process more intensive applications like computer games and photo, video, or sound editing will have these cards to enhance their performance. Most motherboards already have the functionality these cards provide, but these specialized cards are designed to increase performance in specific areas. These can be…


Graphics Card – this renders and outputs system images or graphics, offering better performance on those graphic-intensive applications.


Sound Card – this is responsible for sound output on a PC. Computers responsible for outputting higher-quality audio may have one of these.


Port Cards – these cards will create additional port options for the PC to attach to external devices. Typically these ports


There are plenty of opportunities to get more in-depth than this, and take apart a PC even further. You can dig into the different parts of the mother board, or crack open the case of the hard drive and really get into how it works. And all information gained will help with a greater understanding of how computer work. While the technology has advanced greatly, allowing much more portable computer than ever before, the basics remain the same. The phone in your pocket works on the same parts and computing concepts, just in a much, much smaller package.

A more in-depth version of this activity will be available soon through our A+ Certification Prep Curriculum! Visit our curriculum page for a full list of our current curricula offerings.