Sunday, 23 January 2011

What is Hardware?

Your PC (Personal Computer) is a system, consisting of many components. Some of those components, like Windows XP, and all your other programs, are software. The stuff you can actually see and touch, and would likely break if you threw it out a fifth-story window, is hardware.
Not everybody has exactly the same hardware. But those of you who have a desktop system, like the example shown in Figure 1, probably have most of the components shown in that same figure. Those of you with notebook computers probably have most of the same components. Only in your case the components are all integrated into a single book-sized portable unit.

The system unit is the actual computer; everything else is called a peripheral device. Your computer’s system unit probably has at least one floppy disk drive, and one CD or DVD drive, into which you can insert floppy disks and CDs. There’s another disk drive, called the hard disk inside the system unit, as shown in Figure 2. You can’t remove that disk, or even see it. But it’s there. And everything that’s currently “in your computer” is actually stored on that hard disk. (We know this because there is no place else inside the computer where you can store information!).

The floppy drive and CD drive are often referred to as drives with removable media or removable drives for short, because you can remove whatever disk is currently in the drive, and replace it with another. Your computer’s hard disk can store as much information as tens of thousands of floppy disks, so don’t worry about running out of space on your hard disk any time soon. As a rule, you want to store everything you create or download on your hard disk. Use the floppy disks and CDs to send copies of files through the mail, or to make backup copies of important items.

Understanding Your Computer


1. Optical drive (CD/DVD) 6. System board
2. Memory modules 7. Lower drive cage (diskette drive and hard drive)
3. Power supply 8. Internal speaker
4. PCI Express 16 adapter connector 9. Diskette drive
5. Optional PCI adapter

1. CD drive or DVD drive
2. Diskette drive
3. Power button
4. Lower drive-bay cage
5. System board
6. Accelerated graphics port (AGP) slot
7. PCI slot
8. Heat sink
9. Fan sink
10. Power supply

1. Microprocessor fan and heat sink 4. PCI adapter connectors
2. Memory modules (2) 5. System fan
3. PCI adapter card 6. Power supply

Understanding the anatomy of a PC is no easy task, even if you've used one every day for years. You may have heard the terms "motherboard" or "central processing unit," but asking most people to define these very essential components is likely to draw blank stares. 

 The two main types of computers are portable and desktop. Portable computers come in various shapes and sizes, and include laptops and hand-held devices. Desktops are stationary, typically with a more powerful configuration. Several components are essential to both. Hands down, the most powerful component of a computer is the central processing unit (CPU). Other basic and necessary components include memory, the motherboard, the hard drive and the power supply.

Central processing unit (CPU)

 The CPU handles all of the computation work and is distinguished by its speed. The higher the speed, the faster the PC. If you're watching high-definition movies or manipulating graphics, then you'll need a computer with fast processing.

Random access memory (RAM)


 Your computer can't function without memory. RAM is the hardware inside the computer that stores information. Get a minimum of 512 megabytes -- memory is even more important than the speed of the processor. The more RAM a computer has, the more smoothly the PC will run when using several programs at once. While adding more memory later isn't time consuming, getting what you need when you purchase the computer is worthwhile and may be more cost effective.


 The motherboard provides the connections within the computer and hosts the RAM, microprocessor and drive controllers. The microprocessor is the brain of the computer and controls the operations, while the drive controllers enable the computer's hard drive to work. The motherboard should have at least two USB ports to plug in a digital audio player or additional memory drive.

Hard drive

 All data created on the computer, whether it’s homework, business files or personal data, are stored on the hard drive. It has a much larger capacity than the RAM.

Power supply


 The last of the mandatory computer components is the power supply. While it may be the simplest, it's absolutely essential for allowing the computer to work. Enough said.


 With the Internet being the center of the world for many of us, access to it could actually move to the essential list. Most PCs have a modem for dial-up Internet access and an Ethernet port for broadband access. For a wireless connection, you'll need a wireless network adapter, also standard on most computers.


CD/DVD drive

 A CD or DVD drive (also known as an optical drive) is the readable and/or writable drive that allows users to read from and write to a CD or DVD. Most PCs have an optical drive that can read CDs and DVDs, and for not much more money, you can get a drive that writes, too.

Audio/visual extras

Determine whether additional items such as sound cards, graphic cards, video cards or speakers fit your needs. If you want to run games or multimedia programs faster, then many of these options can prove beneficial. Integrated sound is already adequate on most computers, but upgrading to surround sound is a desirable option.


Keyboard, mouse and monitor


The keyboard allows users to enter commands, and the mouse is an interface with the same function. The monitor, serving as a desktop computer screen, comes in various sizes. A small monitor is typically around 17 inches, while greater than 20 inches is considered large. The higher the resolution on the monitor, the better the graphics card you'll need to run games or video-intense applications. If you're undecided, you can't go wrong with a 22-inch digital monitor.

Operating system and software

After you've made all the hardware decisions, determine what pre-installed software you'll need for your computer. Select the latest version of an operating system such as Microsoft Windows, the best-selling operating system for years. Also purchase an anti-virus program such as Norton or Trend Micro, and choose from other programs such as word processing and spreadsheets.
So much for thinking you couldn’t understand a PC from A to Z! This ultra-complex machine deserves our thanks. After all, functioning without a computer these days would be like living in the dark.




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