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Computer Hardware Basics
Computer hardware consists of a wide range of different components that make up the physical structure of a computer. The hardware is used to run software, which can perform many different functions.
Most people will only be aware of computer hardware as something that is sealed within a finished device. They will see their computer monitor, their keyboard or their mouse, without ever knowing much about the internal hardware components that make up these hardware devices. However, it can be useful to have a basic understanding of what computer hardware is and the types of roles which it performs within the computer system. It is particularly useful to have some understanding of the names of these hardware components and their functions in order to enjoy a better understanding of how the computer can be used, and what it means when there is a problem with a particular element of the hardware. Many articles on computer use and a lot of the error messages that may pop up on screen refer to various types of computer hardware.
The basic computer hardware consists of the components that make up the computer itself, you don't need to be a computer engineer to understand. These include the CPU or Central Processing Unit, various related microcircuits and microchips, the keyboard, the monitor, various drives such as the hard drive or the CD drive, and the case. Other items of hardware may be attached to the basic computer hardware. These are usually known as peripheral devices, and they may include a mouse, a printer, a modem or a digital camera.
At the most basic level, a computer can be considered to have three different types of hardware. There is the processor unit, which is the part of the computer hardware that does the actual computation. It is comparable to the brain of the computer and it is usually referred to as the CPU. Generally, it is made up of a number of different sub-components, including an ALU or arithmetic/logic unit, a control unit, internal buses and possibly some special function units. Computers can also have multiple processors.
Next, there is the memory, which stores information. RAM or Random Access Memory is the basic form of internal memory in a computer. Computer hardware can also include external memory, which stores data outside of the main computer memory. Typically, external memory includes external hard drives and removable media such as USB flash drives and CDs.
Finally, there are the input/output devices. These are the components through which the user interacts with the computer. For example, inputs into the computer may be mediated by a mouse, a keyboard or a webcam. Outputs are typically visual, and they appear on the monitor screen, but they can also be in other forms and they can be generated through a number of different hardware components, such as the speakers or the printer. Some types of hardware can act as both input and output devices, for example a CD drive can read information from CDs, working as an input device, but it may also act as an input device by writing new information onto a blank CD.
More information about the different types of hardware which are available can be found on the Boomeranghardware.com website.