What Is PC Hardware?

pc hardware

Computer hardware (also known as computer hw) is the physical components that make up your computer. It includes everything from your motherboard to the mouse, keyboard and monitor you use when playing PC games.

A gaming rig that runs the latest tech like RTX 2060 graphics cards, RAM and a fast SSD will provide a big performance boost. The rest of the hardware specs depend on your budget and intended use.


The motherboard is the central hub of a computer system that connects other modular components, including the CPU, RAM and hard drive. It also distributes power to them.

The BIOS and CMOS chips on a motherboard control the functions of these components. They ensure that they perform correctly and maintain a stable interface among them.

Motherboards feature ports that connect the system to monitors, printers and other peripherals. They also include slots for expansion cards like a video card or sound card.

Graphics Card

The graphics card—also known as a video card—contains a graphical processing unit and other components to send a signal to the monitor that represents data. It may also support multiple displays.

The CPU (central processing unit) sends instructions about what should appear on the screen to the GPU. It processes the information, rapidly updating its onboard memory to determine how each pixel should light up. Modern graphics cards have many processors, or cores. The core count, along with the GPU’s clock speed, determine performance.

Optical Drive

An optical drive is a computer hardware that reads and interacts with nonmagnetic external media such as CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray disks. Typically these drives reside in the on-device drive bay and have an Open/Close button that ejects and retracts the tray.

They are the main source of installation media for most PC games and software and also serve as a medium for data storage / backups. However they are becoming less and less common as people increasingly stream content and download software/games digitally.

Hard Drive

A hard disk drive is a secondary storage device that holds your computer programs and files. It stores data permanently and retains it when your computer is turned off.

It has disc-like objects called platters where the information is stored by magnetic heads moving with an actuator arm. Each platter has thousands of sectors that can accept an electric charge and are divided into a number of smaller sections called bits.

The oldest type of hard disk drives are PATA (Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment). Today, most desktop computers use SATA hard drives that transfer data using serial signals.


RAM is like a work desk — it puts information right in front of the processor. Without it, a computer would have to access files deep inside the folders of a hard disk drive and take significantly longer to accomplish tasks.

RAM is non-volatile, meaning it retains data as long as the computer has power. However, as soon as the computer is turned off, that data is lost. This is why it’s important to save all data to the hard drive before switching off the computer.


The mouse is a hand-operated input device for pointing at and selecting objects on the screen. It requires a hard-flat surface for operation and connects to the motherboard via a wired USB connection.

The motherboard contains electronic components that process signals and enable computer system communication with the mouse. Most mice have one button, a left click, that selects items or executes commands.

Other buttons may provide additional functionality such as accessing context menus. The mouse can also be used for drawing in CAD programs.


Keyboards can be wired or wireless and connect to the computer via a signal. Most 21st century keyboards use USB, while older ones may use PS/2 or serial connectors.

A traditional computer keyboard includes keys for alphabet letters, symbols and arrows. It also features modifier keys that serve different functions when pressed together.

Some keyboards have extra control keys such as two Windows keys or a Linux key. Special function keys are found above the main row of alpha-numeric keys (F1 – F12). These are commonly used for keystroke combinations that perform system-specific actions.


PC cases come in all shapes and sizes. You can find budget models under $150 that look great, while pricier cases feature swankier materials and features like tempered glass panels.

Many cases now include front IO, including USB 3.1 ports. You can also get cases with built in channels and cable tie-off fasteners to help you keep your cables neat.

Some nicer cases have vertical GPU mounts that give your build a sleek look. And some have cut-outs behind the motherboard tray that let you replace the CPU cooler without ripping out the motherboard.