The Basics of Computer Hardware

Computer hardware refers to all the physical components that comprise a computer. This includes components like its central processing unit (CPU), memory devices and data storage devices, and graphic cards.

A motherboard serves as the main system board that unites all computer hardware together. This large circuit board features ports and slots for expansion.


A motherboard serves as the foundation of computer hardware, like a Lego baseplate. It allows components to communicate with each other and delivers power from an AC Power Supply Unit directly.

Motherboards feature circuit technology that ensures electric current is distributed efficiently among various components for efficient operation, and provides expansion ports and USB ports for compatible devices to connect directly with the motherboard.

A motherboard provides access to different pieces of computer hardware it supports, such as CPU (Central Processing Unit) and RAM sticks, along with power connections and CMOS batteries.


CPU (Central Processing Unit), also referred to as “the brain”, is the electronic machinery responsible for handling all of the complex math and programming that makes your computer function correctly, including calling friends, browsing the internet, running software applications and running applications on other modern devices like tablets, smartphones and smart washing machines.

In the past, a central processing unit (CPU) consisted of a massive cabinet filled with hardwired circuitry that processed machine language program instructions and completed all data processing operations on peripheral devices connected via hardwiring. Now however, most CPUs reside on motherboards as microprocessors and operate using a fetch-decode-execute method to process instructions.


Computer operating systems store information in RAM (random access memory) temporarily for processing purposes. Once complete, programs copy this information back into its long-term storage location.

RAMs consist of transistors and capacitors that store an electric charge that corresponds with data bits, making information quickly accessible compared to rotating media such as hard drives.

RAM comes in various forms, from SRAM and DRAM, to SDRAM. SDRAM first became commercially available during the late 90s, offering faster refresh rates than SRAM and refreshing simultaneously; making it suitable for system and video graphics memory use.

Video Card

A video card (sometimes referred to as a graphics card or display adapter) is an expansion card connected to a motherboard which transmits visual data directly from it onto a monitor screen. It performs tasks normally handled by CPU such as image processing and 3D rendering.

Starting by translating binary data into straight lines, then “rasterizing” (filling pixels with various colors and adding lighting effects and textures), the process must be repeated approximately 60 times per second to achieve an enjoyable user experience.

Hard Drive

Hard drives serve as the main storage medium in computers. This device holds your operating system files, software titles and any other required files to keep your machine operational.

“Platers” are disc-like objects found within a hard drive that contain magnetic heads for reading and writing information. Each platter is equipped with an actuator arm equipped with magnetic heads to move magnetic read/write heads that work alongside software from CPU and motherboard that direct them where to move on each platter. Each platter is divided into hundreds of sections that accept electrical charges that correspond with binary 1s and 0s that give instructions to computer.

Solid State Drive

Since decades, most computer data storage has relied heavily on traditional hard disk drives. They utilize rotating platters with read/write heads that move magnetically across them in order to record information – this design means mechanical parts may fail and cause programs and files to load more slowly than before.

Solid state drives (SSDs) don’t use moving parts and are much faster than HDDs, while also using less energy and keeping computers cooler. Your choice of SSD depends on your specific needs and device; basic SSDs connect via SATA/SAS cables while higher performance ones plug directly into PCIe slots on the motherboard.

Optical Drive

Optical Drive is the part of your computer that enables you to read CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays. This drive uses laser light to send electromagnetic waves into a circular disc which are then read and written data onto it’s surface.

Optic disks differ from USB flash drives in that they feature microscopic data pits and lands that can be read by laser light, instead of being embedded within flash memory chips. These pits and lands are etched onto reflective layers on the disc – the lands represent zero and one while pits represent one.

While laptop computers don’t feature built-in optical drives, external optical drives generally work the same and can be installed into front accessible bays on desktop tower-type computers.

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