The Major Parts of Your iMac - dummies

By Mark L. Chambers

As you’d expect, just like any other computer an iMac has a “body” of sorts in which all the innards and brains are stored (the screen, in this case), a display screen, a keyboard, a mouse/pointing device, and ports for powering and exchanging data with peripherals.


That magnificent screen

An aluminum iMac is graced with either a 21.5″ or 27″ LED display, complete with backlighting for outstanding color and brightness. LED screens use far less electricity than their antique CRT ancestors, and they emit practically no radiation.

Both sizes of iMac screens offer a widescreen aspect ratio, which augurs well for those who enjoy watching movies.

The keyboard and mouse

The iMac comes standard with a truly 21st century combo of an Apple wireless keyboard and either a Magic Mouse or a Magic Trackpad! This dynamic duo lets you sit back and relax with your keyboard in your lap, without being tied down by a cord. Just stay within about 30 feet of your iMac screen, and sweet freedom is yours. You can also feel safe using these wireless peripherals because they offer secure 128-bit, over-the-air encryption, which helps keep sensitive information safe while you type and click away. One downside of the wireless keyboard, though: Unlike older wired keyboards, the wireless model doesn’t include any USB ports, and you will need a supply of batteries. (Go rechargeable!)

Yes, your computer has a foot … just one

Normal human beings would say that the iMac is supported by a sturdy aluminum stand, but Apple calls it a foot. The foot lets you tilt the iMac panel up and down for the best viewing angle. Most important, though, the foot minimizes the computer’s desk space requirements (or its footprint). And yes, that foot is perfectly balanced and quite stable, so there’s no danger of your treasured iMac taking a dive.

Food for your ears

A machine this nice had better have great sound, and the iMac doesn’t disappoint. You have a couple of options for iMac audio:

  • The iMac sports built-in stereo speakers (and a microphone to boot).

  • Built-in ports connect your iMac audio to either

    • More powerful (and more expensive) external speaker systems

    • A set of headphones (including the Apple iPhone headset)

    • A home stereo system

The power cable

Sorry, but you can’t get a wireless power system … yet. (Apple’s working hard on that one.) With the wireless keyboard and mouse/trackpad setup, though, the power cable is actually the only required cable that you need to run your computer! Now that’s sassy.

The power button

Yep, you’ve got one of these, too. It’s on the back of the case (if you’re looking at the screen, it’s at the lower-left corner).

Those holes are called ports

Our next stop on your tour of Planet iMac is Port Central — that row of holes on the back of your computer (see the following figure). Each port connects a different type of cable or device, allowing you to easily add all sorts of extra functionality to your computer.


One of the holes is an exception to the Rule of Ports: The iMac’s SDXC card slot accepts the same type of SD memory cards as most of today’s digital cameras and video cameras. (In other words, that hole is not for connecting a cable; you insert the card instead.) The SDXC slot appears as a tiny vertical slot.

Each of these stellar holes is identified by an icon. Here’s a list of what you’ll find as well as a quick rundown on what these ports do:

  • USB: Short for Universal Serial Bus, the familiar USB port is the jack-of-all-trades in today’s world of computer add-ons. Most external devices (such as portable hard drives, scanners, or digital cameras) that you want to connect to your iMac use a USB port. The current iMac sports four USB 3.0 ports on its back. USB 3.0 connections are much faster than the old USB 2.0 standard, but you can still use your USB 2.0 devices with the faster ports (at the slower speed, of course).

  • Ethernet: The iMac includes a standard 10/100/1000 Ethernet port, so it’s ready to join your existing wired Ethernet network.

    Apple doesn’t include a built-in modem on the iMac, so if you need a dialup connection to the Internet, you need an external 56K v.92 USB modem that’s compatible with OS X Mavericks (version 10.9).

  • Thunderbolt: Thunderbolt ports offer the absolute speediest connection between external devices and your iMac, including the fastest (and most expensive) external hard drives and storage systems. Thunderbolt’s appeal doesn’t end there, though: In case that splendid screen isn’t quite big enough, you can add an adapter or cable to this port and send the video signal from your iMac to an Apple Thunderbolt monitor, a standard LCD/LED monitor, or a flat-screen TV. (Apple also offers different adapters that can connect your iMac to standard VGA monitors and projectors.) All iMac models sport two Thunderbolt ports.

Connections for external audio

Your iMac comes equipped with two pretty powerful stereo speakers on the bottom of the case, but you’re certainly not limited to them. Apple provides an Audio Line Out jack, allowing you to send the high-quality audio from your rectangular beast to a set of standard headphones or to an optical digital audio device, such as a high-end home theater system. (Unlike older iMac models, note that the newest iMac has no audio Line In jack.)

You can also connect Mavericks-compatible USB speakers to your iMac.