Computer Architecture

Whether you want to build a gaming PC or a custom PC solution for industrial control system, building PC is great fun and you might end up building a PC that is far more powerful, aesthetically pleasant and cheaper than commercial off the shelf desktop PCs. Here, I have put down a very brief list of few of the tasks that you might end up doing to complete your build.

Computer in nutshell

Computer essentially have two parts – RAM and the CPU and that’s all. Computer only job is to execute instructions, modify bytes with Arithmetic Logic Unit ALU (part of CPU) and jump or not jump based on calculation and then jump from one program to another. These jumps that happen from program to program are scheduled by Operating System. But because computer operates so quickly, it can do huge number of these operations. What makes computer understandable to us is inputs/outputs ‘Peripherals’ that we connect to computer. We might add keyboard and run word processor to type. We might want to add printer or fax, display screen, mouse and so on. We hook up what we want on I/O bus and there we have a machine that would exist probably in every house on planet!

Building a PC

Lets put together a list of common hardware that makes up our desktop PC. To build a desktop PC we need:

  • Motherboard
  • Processor
  • Memory
  • Power Supply Unit
  • Hard Disk Drive
  • Sound Card
  • Video Card
  • Optical Card
  • Case
  • Monitor
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse


Motherboard is where all parts plugs in.

motherboardProcessors, Drives, expansions cards, memory, mouse, keyboard everything goes on as motherboards are designed for these components and available at a small price. If you are building industrial PC then requirements might be stringent so you might have to ensure that motherboard manufacturers have carried out tests that are applicable in the industry your client operates in. Most industrial motherboard are required to have passed high temperature and electromagnetic radiation tests. As well as this, some are required to be operational under higher or lower ambient temperatures and varied humidity levels. For industrial motherboard, there are numerous intel motherboards that are designed for industrial custom PC manufacturing. If you are based in UK, my advise is to speak with industrial PC distributer Bressner. I have personally used their motherboards and have apps running in continuous operation for months. Here is the link for Bressner:

Do also note that you might have to set the jumpers in the right places to ensure all peripheral ports get powered up. I would always recommend having a good read of documentation enclosed with the motherboard. Some of these talk through the process of setting up a PC. Also note that you might need to ensure that processor family and memory that you wish to choose is supported by your motherboard. All these documentation will be available on manufacturer website.

It is also worth deciding at this stage whether you build a small PC or a full size desktop PC. Motherboard, power supply, case has to be defined in terms ATX often termed ‘Form Factor’. Usually, ATX is the largest size motherboard while here are also other sizes MiniATX, MicroATX, FlexATX available. As the size is shrinked, number of expansion slots that we can hook up to motherboard also reduces. Here are some figures of sizes:

FlexATX 229mm by 191mm

MicroATX 244mm by 244mm

MiniATX 284mm by 208mm

ATX 305mm by 244mm

Most recent development introduced Balance Technology Extended BTX form factor. These are leaner and flatter form factor compared to ATX. BTX motherboard comes in three sizes:

PicoBTX 276mm by 203mm

MicroBTX 267mm by 263mm

BTX 267mm by 325mm

To build even small PC, at time of writing you can buy 7.2cm by 10cm picoitx form factor by manufacture via ( It is probably smaller than mobile phone in your pocket and is capable of running Windows® 10, Windows® 8.1, Windows® 8, Windows® 7, WES7, and Windows® XP, as well as most popular Linux distributions. Imagine the possibilities. You might as well stick your labview app and revolutionise industrial automation and measurement via pocket-sized pc!.


Processors processes data at a phenomenal work rate and governs the overall performance of PC. Most motherboards are compatible with two large families of processors – intel and AMD. Once you have established type of processors essentially ‘socket size’ then processors are available off the shelf from intel website as well as AMD even on Amazon. Their are some technical terms that often come up when we look up for processor such as L2 Cache, FSB, hyper-threading etc but most important is Socket size as it determines if it is compatible with your choice of motherboard.

Processor do get fairly hot so make sure it gets adequately cooled. Usually a heatsink unit with a built in fan attaches directly to processor. There are also fanless  cases available that I personally prefer. Fanless case result in less power consumption and you could also build a slimer and flatter PC. You can even push PSU out of the cases using newer Nano PSU that are compatible with all form factor motherboards.

I hope this article gives some insight into Computer Architecture. If you require assistance with building a custom PC-based industrial solution or a high performance machine, then please contact using the details on this website.