What Is Computer Hardware?

Computer hardware is everything that physically makes up a computer system. It includes the central processing unit, random access memory, motherboard, computer data storage and graphics card. It also includes external devices like a monitor, mouse and keyboard.

The CPU, RAM and hard drive store and process digital instructions and data. A graphics card processes graphical information, and an optical drive allows a computer to read nonmagnetic data from non-computer media.


The CPU orchestrates the system’s hardware to execute stored program instructions. It sends the right electrical signals to turn components on and off. It mediates data going to and from memory and registers, which act as a form of short-term memory.

It also performs arithmetic and logical operations on data, such as adding or subtracting two numbers. It does all this millions of times a second.

The circuitry inside the CPU is made of billions of microscopic transistors. They function like tiny switches, conveying the binary ones and zeroes that make up all computer information. It’s this ultra-fast circuitry that allows you to watch videos, type documents and play games on your computer.


The motherboard connects all of the other components that make up your computer. It distributes electrical power to different parts of your system through ATX connectors, and it allows expansion cards to be installed.

It contains a socket for the CPU and slots for RAM. The CPU communicates with other parts of your system via data buses, which allow high-speed movement of information.

The motherboard also includes ports for connecting peripherals, like USB and audio jacks. It can also support a variety of video output options. All of this creates heat, and so the motherboard incorporates a cooling fan to remove excess heat from the system.


Any time you click a link and open a new window or play a video game, the computer moves the data that you need to the RAM for its processor to work with. If the computer had to rely on its hard drive for access to that data, it would take much longer to get it done.

The information in the RAM is stored on transistors that require electricity to function. That’s why it is volatile, meaning the memory clears when you shut down or restart your PC. It also comes in different shapes, sizes and speeds. Laptops and tablets typically use Low-Power Double Data Rate (LPDDR) memory that is more compact and consumes less power than desktop DRAM.

Hard Drive

A hard drive is a fixed storage device that can store digital data. It consists of one or more rotating disks coated with magnetic material and an actuator arm with a read/write head that scans the surface of the media.

Modern drives employ sophisticated error correction to minimize uncorrectable read and write errors, allowing them to be used at higher storage densities than previously possible. This results in a discrepancy between manufacturers’ reported storage capacities and usable capacity in consumer products.

HDD manufacturing began in Silicon Valley in the early 1960s and consolidated into standard form factors using nominally 8-inch media (e.g., Shugart’s ST-506) and then 3.5-inch media by the mid-1980s. Eventually, most production moved to Southeast Asia.

Graphics Card

When it comes to visuals, a GPU(Graphics Processing Unit) is the hardware that does all the heavy lifting. It processes specialized workloads that would otherwise bog down your CPU, producing images pixel-by-pixel dozens and sometimes hundreds of times per second.

Graphics cards use a specialized form of memory known as Video RAM (VRAM) to meet the high-speed, high-bandwidth demands of processing and rendering visuals. VRAM capacity and speed directly affects gaming performance.

The brains of a graphics card are the GPU core, which contains hundreds or thousands of stream processors designed to perform parallel processing. They handle computations for graphics rendering, encoding/decoding videos and post-processing effects.


Keyboards provide a way for users to interact with the computer. They’re the most common type of input device.

Each keyboard key contains a plunger that sits on a spring and is connected to metallic electrical contacts. When pressed, the plunger closes the circuit and transmits a signal to the keyboard electronics.

The circuits in the keyboard form an X-Y matrix, and the keys send scan codes that are translated into characters by the operating system. This is a standard protocol.

It’s important to keep your keyboard clean to avoid crumbs and dust. This can also help to prevent any hardware problems. If your keyboard has stopped working, try restarting your computer or trying a different USB port.