Computer Hardware Basics
The term computer hardware refers to the physical computer components – basically, the parts and pieces that can be touched or moved, whether inside or outside of the computer. Below is an example of a computer with several common computer components:
Here are the common computer components in a little more detail.
Monitor: The monitor looks like a television screen, except instead of watching television programs on it, the monitor allows for viewing of computer programs. It is connected to the main computer box.
There are several types of monitors, but they all function in the same way. The power button is usually located on the front of the monitor, beneath the screen. Often, there will be a small light to indicate if the power is on.
Keyboard: The keyboard is similar to a typewriter – it has all of the same keys, along with additional keys for different uses. However, instead of typing onto paper, the text and characters appear on the monitor and operate the computer.
There are many types of keyboards, some with many keys and others with fewer keys, but all of them function in the same way. There is no separate power button – once the main computer box is on, the keyboard will also be on.
Mouse: The mouse is an input device that functions as a pointing device. It is a small plastic case that fits under your hand. It is a relatively new addition to the computer, earlier keyboards served the purpose of mouse as well. The mouse has made it easy to feed instructions in the computer.
Hard Drive: It is also referred to as a secondary storage device. In simple terms, it is the place where all of your documents, spreadsheets, pictures, music files, videos, etc. are stored. Hard drives can be internal as well as external. Internal hard drives are housed within the computer cabinet whereas external ones are detachable and are connected through a USB port using an external power source. Today, hard drives are available in capacities of up to 2 TB i.e. a whopping 2,048,000 megabytes of storage space!
Motherboard: A computer motherboard is a square-shaped board that houses all major components such as the RAM chips, PCI slots, processor, batteries, sound cards, video cards, USB ports and all other internal circuitry. Motherboards are available in different hardware configurations and designs.
RAM: What is computer RAM? Well, RAM, which is an acronym for Random Access Memory, is the primary storage device of your computer. Although all your software applications are installed and stored in your hard drive, each one of them needs to make use of the RAM when it is being used. More the number or the size of the applications being run, greater is the RAM requirement of your computer.
Processor: This is the actual brain of your computer. Today, processors are available in many brands and multiple processing capacities. Intel’s Pentium series of processors along with the AMD line of processors happen to be some of the most popular processors in today’s market.
Cards: These mainly include video cards, sound cards, graphics cards, etc. all of which are installed on the motherboard in their respective slots. They are mainly required for running multimedia applications involving video, audio and graphical images. LAN (Local Area Network) cards and network cards are necessary for computer networking, i.e. connecting your computer to a local network or to the Internet.
Fans: Most computer cabinets make use of at least two fans – a processor fan and a cabinet fan. Their main purpose is to lower the internal temperature and keep the processing components as cool as possible.
USB Ports: USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports in simple terms, are the ports which we use for connecting our MP3 players, digital cameras, flash drives, etc. to our computer. Today, most computers come with a minimum of 4 USB ports although certain high end machines can have up to 8 or even 10 USB ports.
CD/DVD Drives: If you wish to run any type of CD or DVD on your computer, installing a CD drive or a DVD drive is a must. There are different types of CD/DVD drives available, each offering the user a variety of features and options.
Floppy Drives: Once a common part of each and every desktop computer, very rarely does one find floppy drives in today’s computers. However, there are a few situations where using a floppy drive becomes inevitable (and I vouch for that) hence mentioning them in this list becomes necessary.
Cables: Last but not the least, the connecting cables. Internal cables which are used to connect the hard drive, CD/DVD drive, floppy drive, etc. are of two types – a data cable and a power cable. Each one has a different physical structure and a different function. If you are a newcomer to computers, you should always refer to the computer manual while going about connecting the different cables.
These were some computer hardware basics which were aimed at introducing you to the basic hardware components of a computer. Though most of these components are constantly being upgraded thanks to rapid technological advances, their fundamental concept nevertheless, continues to remain the same.