What Is PC Hardware?

A computer’s hardware is the flat “motherboard”, a bit smaller than an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper, on which all the components plug in.

Motherboards include chipsets that work with specific CPU generations to relay instructions to other parts of the computer. They also have “bus lines”, electrical data roadways that connect various devices.


Basically, the motherboard is the hub that brings together the rest of the components to create a functional computer. It supports different components like the CPU (central processor unit), RAM (random access memory) and expansion cards, as well as providing ports for external devices like the keyboard, mouse and printer.

It also provides and distributes electrical current optimally to the rest of the system. The motherboard’s power connector plugs into the computer’s power supply and converts alternating current to direct current.

It then ensures that the correct amount of power is delivered to each of the motherboard’s components, including the CPU and GPU. Motherboards are available in a variety of sizes depending on the type of PC you want to build or upgrade. These include standard ATX (Advanced Technology Extended) boards, Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX models.


The CPU (central processing unit) is the brain of the computer and is responsible for executing all instructions that make up software programs. It works alongside other hardware, like RAM and a hard drive, to collect data from input devices and send it out for output.

The main functions of the CPU are fetch, decode, and execute. The CPU fetches instructions from memory and then decodes them with binary decoder circuitry. It then executes the instructions by activating specialized coprocessors, such as the floating point unit, which performs math faster than the basic microprocessor circuitry can.

The CPU also contains a number of memory units that save data and intermediate results while an operation is in process, as well as instructions and program code. These are often referred to as the main memory or primary memory and are volatile, meaning they disappear when the computer is turned off.


RAM is the short-term memory that keeps a computer running. It’s different from storage, which holds your files and applications. When you open an app on your computer, the information is copied into RAM for quick access by the processor.

RAM works differently from older storage media, which requires the processor to follow a sequence of locations in a file before it can read it. That’s why RAM is called random access memory.

Modern computers use between 4 and 16 gigabytes of RAM, with those that do heavy gaming or video editing often using 32GB or more. RAM is volatile, meaning it loses its contents when you shut down your computer. It comes in the form of computer chips that are soldered directly onto the motherboard or installed in memory modules that go into sockets on the logic board.

Graphics Card

A video card, or graphics processing unit (GPU), is a hardware component that processes vast amounts of graphical data for your computer monitor. It works together with your central processing unit to display high-quality images, videos, and applications.

A new GPU architecture can significantly boost performance and futureproof your PC. For example, Nvidia’s Ada Lovelace and AMD’s RDNA3 are a step up from their previous Ampere and RDNA2 architectures respectively, with the former offering ray tracing and DLSS.

A dedicated graphics card is an external expansion card that connects to your motherboard via a peripheral component interconnect express (PCIe) slot. It is essential to check the power requirements of your graphics card before making a purchase, and ensure that your computer has enough wattage for it.

Video Card

A video card is a circuit that sends graphical information to the computer monitor. It installs into an expansion slot on the motherboard and is also known as a graphics accelerator or graphics processor unit (GPU).

Unlike integrated graphics built into a CPU, a dedicated video card can handle high resolutions and 3D images. The GPU consists of specialized cores that break down large amounts of ones and zeroes into pixels, the basic building blocks of an image.

The GPU requires a place to store completed pixels and their color data, which is stored in the video memory (VRAM). Video cards use fans and heat sinks to keep their temperature low. They also have ports for connecting to monitors and other output devices. Some even have inputs for video editing and other advanced tasks.