What Is Computer Hardware?

Computer hardware refers to any tangible components inside a computer that are not software-related. These include:

The system clock is an electric pulse generator that sends bits of data to the CPU at regular intervals. Other components are the random-access memory, which stores code and data that is being actively accessed; the bus lines, which transmit information between the CPU and internal and expansion cards for graphics and sound.


The motherboard provides connections and interfaces for different PC components, including the CPU (central processor unit), RAM (random access memory), storage devices like hard drives and SSDs, and graphics cards. It also includes a BIOS or UEFI chip that controls hardware during startup and allows users to change system settings.

Motherboards come in a variety of forms called “form factors,” such as ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX. Each type is designed with a specific type of computer in mind.

For example, a desktop motherboard will have more expansion slots than a mobile version.


All computing devices rely on a central processor, a brain-like chip that interprets instructions when you surf the web, work on documents or play games. It’s a crucial component that is responsible for carrying out operations at lightning speeds.

It has a number of registers that store data and interim findings, including operands and addresses. It also has a control unit that regulates program flow and branching decisions.

Other key features include buses that transfer information between the CPU and other components, L1 and L2 cache memory to reduce wait times by storing frequently-used data in the processor itself, and a clock that coordinates all parts of the computer to function simultaneously.


RAM is a form of temporary storage that gets wiped when the computer shuts off. It offers lightning-fast data access, which is ideal for the applications and programs your computer uses most frequently. It also helps your computer surf the Internet more quickly by storing the information it needs to translate links into web pages in memory, rather than in slow-access storage like a hard drive.

RAM is made of small transistors and capacitors that store an electric charge to represent data bits. It is soldered directly to the motherboard or installed in modules that fit into sockets on the logic board. Modern motherboards support four DIMM slots per channel, and they perform best when identical sets of RAM are installed in matching pairs.


Buses are communication pathways between the CPU and other hardware components like memory and input/output devices. They facilitate efficient data transfer, enable system expansion and contribute to the overall speed and performance of a computer.

The internal system bus connects the CPU to the motherboard and is split into address and data buses. The address bus contains multiple wires that signal a memory location, and the data bus transfers data to that location. The width of the bus determines how much memory a system can address. Modern systems also use faster bus architectures such as HyperTransport and InfiniBand.

Flash chips

Flash chips are the core of all memory cards and USB drives that store data in digital devices. They are non-volatile and can retain data even when power is turned off. They also have a long lifespan and are shockproof.

Flash memory is based on older EPROM and EEPROM technology, which had limited capacity and were slow for reading and writing. It allows for reprogramming in blocks rather than at the byte level and uses faster semiconductor device technology to achieve lower cost and higher performance.

Flash memory has many different configurations and can be made using logic families such as TTL, FAST, Fairchild advanced Schottky TTL, and complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS). It is important to select the right type of memory for your application.

Cache memory

Cache memory acts as a buffer between RAM and CPU to improve performance. It stores data and instructions that are frequently used by the processor, so they can be accessed quickly without having to be retrieved from primary memory. This accelerates the processing of data and reduces overall system latency.

The cache’s storage capacity is minuscule compared to RAM and hard drives, but it can provide high-speed access to data that is often accessed. Its efficiency depends on how the CPU writes to it, which can result in different cache hit rates.

Expansion slots

An expansion slot (pronounced “expansion slat”) is a socket on the motherboard into which you can insert a card that adds functionality to the computer. These cards can improve performance in a number of ways, including adding more memory, improving graphics capabilities, and providing more network connectivity options.

Each expansion slot has a row of contacts that mate with matching ones on the expansion card. Typically, these contacts are gold, and they establish an electrical connection between the motherboard and the electronics on the card. There are several different types of expansion slots, but modern PCs generally use PCI or PCI Express slots.