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Your PC’s Graphics System

The monitor may get all the attention, but it’s only the visible half of your computer’s graphics system. A graphics system produces the visuals that allow you to interact with your computer. The graphics system has two components:

  • The monitor: The monitor is the dumb part. All it does is display information. The monitor lives outside the console, so it gets more attention than the true brains of the operation, the graphics adapter.

  • The graphics adapter: The graphics adapter (also known as a video card) tells the monitor what to display and where, plus how many colors to use and the overall resolution of the image.

    It’s the graphics adapter that determines your PC’s graphics potential.

The monitor and graphics adapter each have their own connection with the PC:

  • The graphics adapter can be a separate expansion card.

    More often than not, the graphics adapter’s circuitry is found on the motherboard.

  • A cable connects the monitor to the console (see this figure). The monitor, of course, plugs into the wall for power.

If your PC has more than one monitor (and it can, you know), it must have one graphics adapter for each monitor or a special graphics adapter that supports multiple monitors. (The dual-monitor thing is possible only with the more expensive versions of Windows Vista.)

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