Understanding The Basics of Your Computer Hardware

computer-software-repairThey say knowledge is power, and in the case of computer hardware, it is especially true. For not knowing even the basics of your computer hardware can affect the type of service you get from your personal computer (PC). Having a basic understanding of how things work on and on your computer, allows you to make informed decisions when it comes time to upgrade, or if there is a need to troubleshoot. It also prevents you from downloading unnecessary files and possibly malware.

Here then are some basic hardware components that you should know:


The Central Processing Unit (CPU), also called the “processor,” is the electronic circuitry that carries out the instructions of a computer program. It does this by doing basic input/output (I/O), arithmetic (ALU), and logical operations, which is why it is often called the brain of the computer.

The level of CPU you need depends on your needs. If you are into gaming, then you would need something like a quad-core. However, if all you need your computer for is to check your emails or write a recipe, then a standard dual-core will suffice.

The Motherboard

The name pretty much explains itself. The motherboard of the computer is the mainframe. The “mother,” without which nothing else works.  When the motherboard dies, your computer is more or less dead. The motherboard provides the electronic connections to enable the other computer components to communicate with each other.  It is on the motherboard where you find the CPU, the RAM (Random Access Memory), among other things.


You’ve heard the term ports, and probably images of ships come to mind. But in a computer system, the port is an interface between the computer and other peripheral devices. The port usually refers to the “female” part of the connection. If you ever had to connect a camera or a speaker to your computer, no doubt you had to connect to port.


Same thing for slots. The difference being, the slots, also called expansion slots, are a part of the motherboard. As the name suggests, they are used to expand or add features to a computer, such as Ethernet, video, memory, advanced graphics, and sound.

Cache size

And yes, it’s pronounced like the Benjamins, but probably doesn’t have that much value. Cache on your hard drive refers to temporary memory, the standard being 64MB. The cache is used sort of like a buffer. Reason being, data is
sent to it before it gets written to the disk. The last thing written or read is usually in the cache, should you need to retrieve it.



Speaking of memory, aka RAM.  This is the “temporary” memory used when programs are running. RAM is a set of integrated circuits that allows data to be retrieved—you guessed it, randomly! There are many different types of RAM: Read-only, static, volatile, writable, etc.

RAM also comes in various sizes. Naturally, the bigger the RAM, the more programs you can run on your computer simultaneously. If you’re on a budget, you can consider purchasing 4GB. However, 8GB is where most people tend to stop.

Power Supply Unit (PSU)

This is a very low-key underestimated part of the computer system. Many a problem has been caused by but have been overlooked by lay persons and even some technicians, as the source of the problem. But as the name suggests, the power supply provides power to the unit so, without it, nothing works. The PSU comes with a transformer, a cooling fan, and a voltage control. Most PSUs conform to the ATX form factor. This allows different PSUs to be interchangeable with the various components of the computer. They are also designed to turn on and off using a signal from the motherboard. PSUs converts to about 100 – 120V.

Hard Disk Drive (HDD)

The HDD is a non-volatile internal device that stores data on rapidly rotating platters that has magnetic surfaces. The averahard_drivege PC comes with a 120GB hard drive. However, they can scale to 400GB. They are accessed over one of the following bus types: IDE; Serial ATA also called SATA, SCSI, Serial Attached SCSI, and Fibre Channel.


Removable Media Devices

These are the most shared and traditional components of a computer hardware. Most people will not know what a
RAM looks like, but they can tell you about the removable media devices, more specifically, a CD, as an example. Other removable media devices include DVDs, Blu-Ray, and the floppy disk.


There are much more internal parts of a computer hardware that were not covered in this article. But if you memorize and get to know the ones mentioned, you will have a good foundation for learning how to troubleshoot your computer, or what to buy when the time comes. Are you familiar with these parts of the computer or did you learn something new today? Let us know in the comments box below.