What You Need to Know About PC Hardware

A great PC needs top-notch hardware to perform its magic. You can check for hardware specs through a tool or by physically checking them out.

The motherboard is the main circuit board that every other piece of computer hardware connects to. It includes slots for installing new components. A faulty motherboard can stop your entire computer from working.


The processor is the brain of a computer, solving the complex algorithms and programming that make it run. It also translates the instructions it receives from other parts of a computer into the actions they should take.

A typical CPU includes arithmetic and logic circuits, which handle integer numbers; a floating point unit, which manipulates decimal numbers; and L1 and L2 cache memory. The latter stores data so that the CPU can retrieve it quickly rather than having to return to random access memory each time it receives an instruction.

The specialized coprocessor called the GPU handles the more intensive tasks that require a lot of number crunching such as in video games. Responsible desktop and laptop users should learn about the internal hardware to better understand their computers’ capabilities and performance.


A computer’s memory stores instructions and data temporarily before and after processing them. It is volatile, meaning its contents are lost when power is turned off. It is usually built on a little card known as a DIMM that plugs into the motherboard.

The CPU (central processor unit) works closely with the RAM to quickly process information. Its speed is measured in megahertz (MHz), or millions of pulses per second, and gigahertz (GHz), or billions.

Storage devices save any programs, apps or filles installed on your computer. They are non-volatile, preserving their content even when the power is turned off. The most common storage devices are hard disk drives and solid-state drives. The latter are faster and less expensive. They are commonly used in laptops and tablets.

Graphics Card

Graphics cards are responsible for taking data from the CPU and turning it into pictures that can be displayed on a monitor. They contain a specialized processor called a GPU (graphics processing unit), which processes much faster than the CPU.

They also hold information and completed images in a memory space called video RAM, or VRAM. The card connects to the monitor using a cable, such as DVI or DisplayPort. It may be possible to link multiple cards together using technologies like SLI and Crossfire, which allow for even better performance.

Modern GPUs have additional capabilities, such as decoding high-definition video on the chip itself, offloading it from the central processor. These features make them useful for applications that require a lot of computational work.

Sound Card

A sound card (also called an audio output device) produces the sounds that can be heard on a computer’s speakers or headphones. Depending on the needs of the user, the card can also provide additional inputs and outputs.

Essentially, the sound card translates the audio files stored as digital code into the analog waves that our ears can hear. It does this via a digital-to-analog converter, which is usually built into the motherboard.

The number of “voices” that a sound card can produce at one time is another important factor to consider. The more voices, the higher the quality of the output. The sound cards that came with the Commodore 64, for example, had eight voices. This is not to be confused with the number of channels a sound card supports, which refers to how many separate audio outputs it has, such as two stereo pairs or surround sound.

Network Card

NIC is an expansion card that allows your PC or laptop to connect to a network, usually the Internet. This is done through an ethernet cable that plugs into the card, and then the other end of this cable connects to your router or modem.

Unlike other computer expansion cards that are installed inside the motherboard, the NIC is a small device that fits into a slot on the side or front of your machine. This makes it a common choice for laptops, and many of these also include a wireless connection option as well.

It operates at the network layer of the OSI model. Its job is to assemble data frames from a computer, then send this information to other devices on the network.