The Basics of Computer Hardware

Hardware refers to mechanical and electronic elements of a computer system. It consists of various devices including monitor, keyboard, mouse and printer.

A hard disk drive provides persistent storage of bytes as files and folders. It can use magnetic patterns on a spinning metal disk or flash chips to store the bytes.


The CPU is the heart of a computer hardware system. It interprets and executes most of the commands from other hardware components like monitor, keyboard, printer and sound system. It is a single chip with billions of transistors installed inside it and acts as a central command unit.

A computer’s instructions are stored as a stream of ones and zeros, which it reads and processes. These instructions are stored in the main, primary memory known as RAM (Random Access Memory). This type of memory is volatile and all data is lost when the power is shut off.

The CPU uses a system clock to synchronize its internal operations. The system clock sends out electric pulses at regular intervals, and the faster its clock rate is, the quicker the CPU can perform work.


Motherboards are the heart of a computer. The CPU socket (also known as the processor slot) enables the computer’s mechanical brain to communicate with other critical components like RAM, storage and expansion slots. Modern CPUs communicate with RAM through a fast, low-latency point-to-point link to the northbridge/memory controller, rather than via a slow and power-hungry system bus.

Also referred to as the main board, mb or mobo, a motherboard contains the central processing unit (CPU), chipset, and interface connectors. Modern motherboards are typically configured with UEFI firmware, which offers a more flexible environment and user-friendly features. For example, they may include a color-coded bank of six 3.5mm audio ports that work with speakers and home theater receivers, as well as HDMI ports that work with HDTVs.


The RAM (random access memory) is where your computer stores data it might need in the future. It can’t hold all the information forever, so it has to move it from the short-term storage of RAM into long-term storage on a hard drive when you shut down your computer.

Most desktops use a type of dynamic RAM called synchronous DRAM. It’s built on a module that plugs into the motherboard. Mobile platforms like laptops and tablets often use Low-Power Double Data Rate (LPDDR) RAM, which operates at lower speeds than standard DRAM but uses less power.

The speed of RAM is measured in megatransfers per second. It also has a set of timings that impact performance, although it’s less important than it once was.

Graphics Card

Often called GPUs or video cards, they’re the heart of your computer’s display. They render images to the screen, freeing up CPUs to do other things.

Modern graphics cards can process thousands of instructions per second, drawing and redrawing a wire frame image tens or even hundreds of times each second to create a smooth, fluid experience. They are used in games, ray-tracing, and 3-D design work.

Depending on your budget and timeframe, you may want to consider purchasing a high-end graphics card. This will ensure that you can play the latest games and make your PC feel more responsive. However, a mid-range card should be sufficient for most people. You should also check whether your motherboard supports SLI or Crossfire, technologies that allow you to link two graphics cards together for improved performance.


A keyboard is a device that uses finger-sized buttons called keys to input data into a computer. A keyboard can be built into a device, as in laptops, or it can be connected externally through a USB cable or wirelessly via Bluetooth.

Some keys have special functions, such as the Prt Scn button that takes a snapshot of the current monitor screen and copies it to the clipboard, where you can paste it into Microsoft Paint or another program. Another key is SYS RQ, which does the same thing but also opens a system command prompt.

Many keyboards are designed with ergonomic benefits that help reduce wrist strain and promote good posture. Some have programmable keys for gaming and other functions, and others are made of stainless steel or plastic for durability and resistance to liquid spills and dust.