The Basics of PC Hardware

The components inside a computer that make it perform are called pc hardware. These pieces are still doing the same basic functions they always did: motherboards serve as the central hub for everything; processors follow instructions; RAM stores data quickly for quick access; and hard drives store data long-term.

The best PC hardware can handle multiple tasks at once, and last for years with minimal issues. The latest models offer faster processors, more integrated memory, and better cooling systems.


The motherboard is the primary circuit board that connects all of the other components inside a computer. It has various ports and slots that allow expansion cards to be attached like a video card for enhanced graphics capabilities or a sound card for improved audio functions.

The CPU socket on the motherboard holds a specific type of processor and provides a precise electrical connection to it. The CPU then executes the instructions of desktop programs that you run on your computer.

The motherboard also has a power connector with sockets or plugs that have six prongs and a cooling fan for managing heat generated by all the hardware connected to it.


The brain of your computer, the CPU interprets and executes instructions as you surf the web, create documents or play games. It is built from billions of transistors and crammed onto a single chip.

A control unit uses electrical signals to direct other parts of the CPU to carry out stored program instructions. The arithmetic logic unit has circuitry that performs integer arithmetic and bitwise operations.

The memory unit saves instructions, data and intermediate processing results. The CPU also has cache memory called L1 and L2 that speed up operation by reducing the time it takes to retrieve data from a system’s RAM.


RAM (Random Access Memory) is used to store the data that’s being accessed by other components in your computer, like office tools, browser tabs and games. It holds onto the instructions built into these programs that tell the CPU how to run them.

It prevents these other hardware components from relying on slower storage, such as hard drives or solid-state drives, for quick data access. It also helps keep your computer running fast when multiple apps or a demanding game push it to its limits. RAM works by syncing with the system clock, transmitting data at each pulse of the wave. Newer forms of RAM, such as DDR and DDR2, increase the number of data transfers per clock cycle.

Optical Drive

An optical drive, also called a DVD drive or a Blu-ray drive, reads data from an optical disk. It uses a laser to scan the underside of the disk, reading a pattern of bumps and pits that encode digital information. Optical discs are inexpensive to manufacture and have higher capacities on a per-square-centimeter basis than magnetic storage media like floppy disks.

They are used to install software, games and other computer hardware, and to record video and audio. Optical drives are also less susceptible to degradation over time than magnetic storage devices like magnetic tape and HDDs. The drive can be internal or external.

Video Card

A video card is a circuit board that connects to the motherboard of a computer and allows it to display images at higher resolution. It controls colors displayed, speed of rendering images and other aspects of the image quality. It is also known as a graphics card, display adapter or video controller.

The way it works is that software generates data that needs to be displayed visually, like a web page update or a moving character in a video game. It then sends this data to the GPU where it’s broken down into individual pixels and sent to a monitor.