The Basics of PC Hardware

pc hardware

A computer’s hardware components work alongside software to perform various tasks. These include displaying screen outputs, operating system updates, word-processing documents, and more.

These pieces of hardware include a CPU, motherboard, graphics card, and hard drive. These are all vital to the operation of a computer and without them, it would be almost impossible to run the essential software that makes computers so useful.


The CPU is the brain of your computer, laptop, tablet, or smart device. It interprets the instructions you type on the keyboard, allowing your device to function efficiently.

The primary components of a CPU are the control unit and an arithmetic logic unit (ALU). They combine to make the CPU capable of processing instructions that run your computer software.

When your CPU is processing, it uses billions of transistors to complete calculations. These computations run the software that lets your device do all kinds of stuff.

All of this input and output happens millions of times per second. Then, the processor stores the processed data in its memory for later use. This is known as the fetch-execute cycle.


A motherboard is the main circuit board that connects to a computer’s CPU, memory, storage and expansion cards. It also routes power and signals throughout the system.

The motherboard is a complex device with a lot of important parts. It has a series of circuits, sockets, connectors, heat sinks, switches and more that combine to provide signals and power throughout the computer.

Motherboards vary in size and appearance, but most of them are designed to accept a CPU and other components such as RAM and a hard drive. They usually have internal and external ports for USB, audio, graphics and other devices.

Hard Drive

The hard drive is the most critical piece of hardware inside your computer. Whether you have a small laptop or a massive server, it’s what allows you to store all that data and get things done.

The Hard Drive consists of a set of spinning platters and read-write heads that move back and forth across the platters to read or write data. It also includes a spindle motor that moves the platters when you plug it in and a head stack that holds the read-write heads.

Over the years there have been many advances in how the hard drive works. One of these is perpendicular recording which increases the storage density by aligning sectors on the platters in different orientations to prevent thermal effects from affecting the magnetic information stored in the tiny grains.

Video Card

The video card is a part of a computer that allows it to receive images and display them. The card also helps the system run faster by accelerating graphics-intensive tasks.

A video card is usually a circuit board that fits inside a motherboard. It contains electronic circuits including a GPU (Graphical Processing Unit) from Nvidia or AMD, a heat sink, and other components.

In addition, the card may have multiple sockets to connect additional display screens and other devices. This is a feature that can be very useful to a busy user who wants to share content on different displays at the same time.

As with all powerful hardware, the GPU can cause a lot of heat to build up, which is why it needs sufficient cooling. You should check your power supply to make sure it has enough wattage for the GPU, and the rest of your computer.


RAM, or random access memory, is a temporary storage component that holds the data your computer needs to operate quickly. This isn’t to be confused with long-term data on your hard drive (SSD or HDD), which stays there even when you turn off the system.

The memory can be accessed as needed by the processor in order to process the information it needs to do its job. This is what makes your RAM much faster than your hard drive, because it puts the information right in front of your processor.

There are two main types of RAM, static RAM (SRAM) and dynamic RAM (DRAM). SRAM uses a six-transistor memory cell that must be set to store a logic 1 and reset to store a logic 0. DRAM is more efficient than SRAM because it only needs one transistor per bit, which reduces manufacturing costs.