The Most Important Pieces of PC Hardware

Computers are made up of durable and tough components. But, like anything else they require a little care to maintain optimal performance and longevity.

The most important component in any pc is its motherboard. This is the main circuit board that connects to everything inside the computer, including memory, disk drives and ethernet.


The central processing unit (CPU) is the main electronic circuitry that processes instructions to execute programs. It is the most important component in a computer.

The CPU communicates with other hardware devices using data buses that carry information between the CPU, memory and IO devices. It also uses small amounts of built-in fast memory, called cache, to reduce the need for retrieving data from RAM.

Most modern CPUs have several cores to process multiple instructions at once. This allows multiple programs to run at the same time without the performance bottleneck caused by waiting for a single set of operations to complete.

The arithmetic-logic unit performs basic arithmetic (multiplication, division, addition and subtraction) and logic operations (data comparison, problem solving or determining a viable alternative based on preset decision criteria). It may also include a floating point unit – a specialized coprocessor that manipulates numbers faster than the microprocessor circuitry can.

Graphics Card

A graphics card (or video card) is one of the most sophisticated components in your computer. It handles enormous amounts of parallel processing to turn data into visuals like images and animations.

It does this by interacting with the computer’s main processor via data bus lines that run through the motherboard. The data is sent to the GPU’s processor core where it is broken down into smaller chunks that can be digested by specialized cores more quickly than general-purpose cores could handle them alone.

The GPU then assembles these pixels into an image that gets displayed on your monitor or television. The quality of the resulting image depends on how many render outputs, or ROPs, are in use and their clock speed. In addition, most modern graphics cards support dual graphics technology like Nvidia’s SLI and AMD’s Crossfire.


A motherboard is the backbone of a computer and houses many of its modular parts. It has a central area in which the CPU and RAM are installed and has slots for expansion cards (e.g., video and sound). It is responsible for coordinating the different devices in your computer and maintaining an interface among them. It also provides a path through which data travels by using a set of circuits known as buses and interfaces.

The processor is attached to the motherboard and it connects directly or via cables to other parts of your computer such as a hard disk drive and a sound or video card. All of these components generate heat as they operate and the motherboard typically has a cooling fan to help remove that extra energy.


Your computer’s RAM is a kind of short-term memory that can hold the data your CPU needs for immediate processing. It can process information much faster than the data stored on a hard drive — up to a hundred times faster.

RAM is usually made of small transistors and capacitors that store an electrical charge and can convert it to the data bits your processor requires. It is considered volatile because it loses its stored data when the computer shuts off or resets.

If the computing tasks your computer is working on exceed the amount of available RAM, the operating system will have to move the excess data to the hard drive. This is called paging or swapping and can cause significant performance drops.

Hard Drive

The hard drive (also called a fixed disk drive or a fixed disk) is where all of your files and folders are stored. It’s also where your operating system lives, making it a very important piece of hardware.

Hard drives store data magnetically on platters that spin quickly. These platters are divided into thousands of segments known as sectors. Each sector has a fixed number of bytes — usually 256 or 512, and are grouped together into clusters.

To retrieve a file, the actuator arm moves the read/write head over the platters using a motor that reacts to electrical signals from the PCB. This is done using a voice coil actuator, similar to the component that moves the cone of your stereo speaker. Newer hard drives use shingled magnetic recording, which increases storage density and speed.