The Basics of PC Hardware

PC hardware includes components like a processor, memory, and a video card that work together to perform a task. It also includes peripherals like a monitor, keyboard and mouse that help a user interact with the system.

A computer can be upgraded by adding new hardware or replacing existing hardware to improve performance or add capacity. A common example is increasing the amount of storage space available for programs and files.


Motherboards connect and power the majority of a computer’s internal components. They contain ports for input and output devices, like a mouse or keyboard, as well as hard disk drives, which store permanent and temporary data.

Motherboards also have expansion slots and connectors that allow users to add additional functionality. For example, PCI slots enable the installation of graphics or sound cards that boost computer capabilities.

The motherboard hosts the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) or Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), firmware that initializes hardware during startup before handing control to the operating system. Additionally, the motherboard includes a CPU socket and RAM slots, which hold the microprocessor and memory.


The core of every computer, processors are the brains behind everything from loading web pages to 3D graphics. There are many different types of processors, each designed for a specific task. For example, Intel i7 processors are great for everyday computing but professional video editors and gamers often opt for the higher-end i9 models with more cores and faster speeds.

Processors, or central processing units (CPU) are tiny, powerful chips that interpret the operating system’s instructions and execute them in trillions of calculations. They perform arithmetical, logical and input/output (I/O) functions that most other hardware components depend on. A CPU has four primary functions: fetch, decode, execute and write back.


RAM is your computer’s short-term memory, holding information that other components need to work, like your video card for drawing graphics in games or your hard disk drive for storing files. It prevents these other components from constantly accessing slower storage, like a hard drive or solid state drive, which takes longer to read data.

Modern PCs use a type of RAM called SDRAM (synchronous dynamic random-access memory). It synchronizes the CPU clock rate with the RAM clock, which increases performance by up to 25%. To perform optimally, DIMMs must be installed in matching sets, known as banks. These are usually color-coded or marked on the motherboard.

Graphics Card

The graphics card is responsible for turning the calculations of a program into images that are displayed on a monitor. This is an essential component for PC gaming, as it allows for a smooth and immersive experience.

The best GPUs from top brands like Nvidia and AMD can handle immense 3D-graphics loads, maintaining a high frame rate for smooth games without lag. They also provide features like anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering, and ray tracing to boost the texture image quality of objects.

Graphics cards require a lot of power and generate heat, so they need to be cooled. To avoid overheating, check the recommended power supply wattage on the graphics card’s specifications.

Sound Card

Sound cards allow you to hear sounds on headphones or speakers and connect a microphone to record audio. They also convert digital audio signals to analog ones. This means they are very important for music production because the software sequencer application (Cubase, Logic etc) needs to get the right information at the correct time.

Integrated sound cards are built into the motherboard of all laptops and desktop PCs. These are sufficient for most applications, but if you want better sound quality, consider buying an expansion card. These are typically PCI or PCIe-based and have different output ports, such as line-out, speaker and microphone.

Network Card

A network card (also known as a NIC, network interface card or network adapter) connects your computer to the Internet or local area network. It provides a physical connection between the computer and cable, converts data into a form the network can use and translates information back to bytes so the CPU can read it.

Most new computers come with internal NICs, which are bus-mounted directly to the motherboard. You can also buy external NICs that plug into a USB port.

Wired NICs are more reliable than wireless models and don’t suffer from interference caused by nearby wireless devices. They are also faster than most modems and offer better bandwidth for high-speed applications like streaming HD video.