What You Need to Know About Computer Hardware

Computer hardware are the physical parts that make up a computer. It is also important to remember that software is another essential part of the system.

When purchasing a pre-made PC the manufacturer will decide which components to include in the system. This can limit customization and it may cause issues with compatibility.


The CPU, or central processing unit, is the brain of your computer. Constructed from billions of transistors, the CPU executes commands from programs so you can call your friends or surf the web. It’s found in a traditional desktop computer, laptop or tablet, as well as many smart devices like cameras and even your smart thermostat.

A basic CPU has five key components: general purpose registers, special purpose registers, buses, the arithmetic/logic unit (ALU), and the control unit. The registers are memory storage in the CPU that can be accessed very quickly, while the buses are bundles of tiny wires that act as an information highway between the different parts of the CPU.

The ALU is the CPU’s number cruncher, performing arithmetic and logic operations. The ALU’s inputs are data words to operate on, status information from previous operations, and a code sent from the control unit indicating what operation to perform. Each instruction is a series of bits called an op-code.


The GPU (graphics processing unit) is the brain behind every visual element that you see on your computer, from the graphs in your stock analysis software to the blockbuster movie streaming on your 4K monitor. Unlike the CPU, which is best-suited for tasks with high latency or per-core performance requirements, the GPU was designed to handle many tasks simultaneously.

Modern GPUs feature between two and 18 powerful cores and can execute multiple instructions in parallel, also known as simultaneous multithreading. These features enable the GPU to work with more data at once, which can help speed up computations and reduce overall power consumption.

In addition to enhancing video and gaming experiences, GPUs are being used in applications that require advanced graphics rendering, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms, scientific computing simulations, 3D visualization and augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR). GPUs are also increasingly being utilized as the basis for cryptocurrency mining operations because of their ability to process large amounts of data quickly.


Memory is the place where a computer stores instructions and data before and after it processes them. It also makes the information immediately accessible to programs, but it’s volatile and erased when the computer shuts down. Secondary storage devices like hard disk drives can store data long-term.

Input from external devices is sent to the CPU, which then sends it to memory for processing. The result is then passed to the output devices for display.

Computer hardware can also be overclocked, which means running the RAM modules at higher operating frequencies and tighter timings to achieve faster performance. This technique, however, carries the risk of instability and data corruption and may void warranties.

Although computer hardware has evolved over time, its basic makeup remains the same. The motherboard acts as the central hub that connects everything together, the processor follows digital instructions from the programs, and the memory provides a fast way to access data.


Storage is where files are saved for long term access. These can be stored on devices like a hard drive, USB flash drives and network-attached storage (NAS) devices. There are two types of storage: primary and secondary. Primary storage is a section of the CPU that holds program instructions and input data, while secondary storage is non-volatile memory that retains digital information even when the computer is powered off.

A Blu-ray disk is a great example of secondary storage, which uses a laser to read from and write to a physical disc that the computer can then play with its optical drive. The disks are durable and relatively inexpensive per gigabyte, but they’re vulnerable to abrupt power loss and electro-magnetic fields. In contrast, solid state disks use silicon chips to store the bytes that make up files, but they’re expensive and much slower to access. They’re better for Tier-1 storage or your most critical programs and workloads.