Computer hardware is the collection of physical parts of a computer system. This includes the computer case, monitor, keyboard, and mouse. It also includes all the parts inside the computer case, such as the hard disk drive, motherboard, video card, and many others. Computer hardware is what you can physically touch.
A computer system consists of two major elements: hardware and software. Computer hardware is the collection of all the parts you can physically touch. Computer software, on the other hand, is not something you can touch. Software is a set of instructions for a computer to perform specific operations. You need both hardware and software for a computer system to work.
Some hardware components are easy to recognize, such as the computer case, keyboard, and monitor. However, there are many different types of hardware components. In this lesson, you will learn how to recognize the different components and what they do.
Types of Computers
Before looking at the various components, it is useful to distinguish between two different types of computers: desktop computers and laptop computers. A desktop computer consists of a computer case and a separate monitor, keyboard, and mouse. As the name suggests, this type of computer is typically placed on a desk and is not very portable.
Typical desktop computer with a separate computer case, monitor, keyboard, and mouse
A laptop computer has the same components but integrated into a single, portable unit.
Typical laptop computer with integrated hardware components
While these two types of computers look quite different, they have the same general hardware components.
Let’s start with the computer case. This is the metal enclosure that contains many of the other hardware components. It comes in various shapes and sizes, but a typical tower model is between 15-25 inches high. Want to know what’s inside? Okay, go get a screwdriver and let’s open it up. Seriously, if you are really into computers, the best way to learn is to actually get hands-on. To save us some time, however, have a look at this desktop computer case. A computer enthusiast replaced the metal side panel with a transparent one, so we can have a look inside.
Computer tower with translucent side panel
Although that photo looks pretty cool, it is a bit hard to recognize the individual components, especially with all the connecting wires running through it. This figure shows a more schematic version of a desktop computer, which makes it easier to point out the essential hardware components.
The various components of a computer case
computer tower schematic
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