Several years ago, I used to build custom computers as a hobby. I would order separate computer parts and connect them together on a PC motherboard inside a computer case to assemble a custom PC.
From that hobby I learned so much about computer parts, and it was so exciting to plan, design, find the best parts (that should be compatible between them) and finally assemble a custom-built computer machine.
As you will see below, Desktop computers are made up of a lot of different parts that work together to perform for you.
What I will try to do in this article is to teach you some basic functions of the main computer parts so when you open a computer up, you can identify these different parts and know what they do.
Let’s take a look at the main components of a desktop computer below:
Table of Contents
- GPU (Video Card)
- Storage (Mechanical Hard Disk or SSD)
- Power Supply
- Computer Monitor
- Optical Drive (DVD/CD ROM)
- Network Interface Card or WiFi Card
- Desktop Case
- What Parts of a Computer Have Gold?
- Which of the Parts of a Computer Actually Execute the Program Instructions?
- Which Parts of a Computer Can Store Program Code?
- Final Words
The motherboard is the main circuit board inside your computer. It is the “common ground” that allows all of the other components to communicate with one another.
A number of other parts are attached to the motherboard, such as the memory RAM chips, the ROM, the CPU, PCI slots, USB ports etc, and it has controllers for your hard drive, DVD drive, keyboard, mouse etc.
The motherboard is the part that connects everything so that your computer can run. It has empty slots on which you can connect additional components if needed (e.g extra RAM, separate Graphics Card, additional disk storage etc).
The CPU is the central processing unit of the computer. It is considered the “brain” of the computer and is the part that processes all of the instructions.
It runs the operating system, and it receives input and instructions from software and the other hardware.
Then it processes the input data and creates output which is either displayed on the screen or send to other components such as the Storage devices, printers etc.
The CPU has a chip inside that is where this activity takes place. The CPU’s main performance metric is the Frequency (GHz) that is “clocked”, which means how fast the CPU runs.
Some people tend to “overclock” their CPU, which means that they force the CPU to work at higher speeds from its designated value. In such cases, you must use a CPU Temperature Monitor software to make sure you don’t burn the CPU.
RAM stands for random access memory. It is hardware that is found in many different electronic devices, including a computer.
The amount of RAM in the computer determines how much memory applications that are open can use.
If a computer has more RAM, the user can open more programs without the speed slowing down.
Each program runs inside RAM which is a very high-speed memory area, so the program runs faster inside RAM. When you switch off the computer, all data in RAM is erased.
RAM is in the form of “chip modules” as shown on the picture above. Usually we have 2-4 RAM chip modules which are inserted in slots on the motherboard.
For example, if you have 2x4GB RAM modules, your computer will have a total of 8 GB RAM.
GPU (Video Card)
GPU stands for graphics processing unit. It is a processor that handles graphics operations, including 2D and 3D calculations, and it excels at 3D graphics.
This is an important component for gaming because the GPU can render graphics more efficiently than the CPU can.
For lower-end computers, the GPU is embedded on the motherboard. For high-end computers or for gaming desktop PCs, the GPU comes as a separate “Video Card” which is inserted in a motherboard slot (as shown on the picture above).
Storage (Mechanical Hard Disk or SSD)
The storage device, or hard disk, is the hardware that stores data which is not erased when you power-off the computer.
Mechanical Hard Disk
It stores the operating system, applications, files, and folders for the user. People often are referring to the storage when they talk about how much memory a computer has. This is the capacity of the hard disk to store files.
In previous years, the most common type of storage was the mechanical Hard Disk (see picture above).
Nowadays, almost all computers come with SSD disk (Solid State Drive) which is a much faster disk compared to a mechanical hard disk.
The power supply is the component that supplies power to the whole Desktop computer system. It plugs in and receives power from an electrical outlet. It then converts the current from an alternating current (AC) to a direct current (DC).
It regulates current and smooths-out any spikes in voltage which enters the computer at any given time and prevents damage to the sensitive electronic components.
The computer monitor is also called the screen or display. It shows the user the output and allows the user to see the information being processed on the computer.
Most monitors today use LED technology, and they are flat screens that take up less space than the old CRT displays.
The keyboard is the main “input” device (together with the mouse) of any computer.
It is one of the main devices used for communicating with the rest of the world (e.g typing emails, searching the Internet etc) and its design mimics the old typewriter keyboards.
It is called the QWERTY layout. It gets its name from the first six letters on the top left corner of the keyboard. There are additional function keys and shortcut keys that vary on different keyboards.
Like almost every computer component, there are various types of computer keyboards such as mechanical, ergonomic, membrane, with backlight etc.
The mouse is another important input device. It is named because the shape of the mouse resembles the shape of the animal, and the cord represents the tail.
However, most mouses are wireless today. You can refer to the plural as mouses or mice, although mouses is the technically correct term.
They usually have two buttons and can have more. You can scroll up and down on a scroll wheel if the mouse has one. The mouse moves an arrow that allows you to open applications.
Optical Drive (DVD/CD ROM)
The optical drive uses a laser that writes and reads data on optical discs, such as a DVD or CD.
They are made up of millions of small dips and bumps, and the optical drive reads them as zeros and ones.
The optical drive can read and write data on these discs. When the laser writes data onto the disc, it burns it in. For this reason, people “burn” CDs.
Network Interface Card or WiFi Card
The network interface card is also called the NIC (pronounced Nick). This part is what gives a computer its networking capabilities.
It can allow a wired Ethernet connection or a wireless WiFi connection to a LAN (local area network). Today, most computers have wireless NICs that are designed for WiFi connection. Also, you can insert a wired Ethernet NIC card in a motherboard slot to get additional network connectivity ports if needed.
The desktop case is the mount that houses all of the components of the computer, including the motherboard, the hard drive, the optical drive, and more.
Many of them are made of metal, and they are important because they protect the computer components from damage due to dust, accidents, liquids, and more.
It also helps to keep the components cool enough and usually has airflow through vents to make sure that the computer doesn’t overheat. Finally, it helps to cut down on the noise made by computer parts.
What Parts of a Computer Have Gold?
Many people don’t realize that certain components of the computer can be made using gold. You can find gold in printed circuit boards, computer chips in the CPU, and connectors.
The average computer is estimated to contain around one-fifth of a gram of gold, which is worth around $12. Laptops have about half as much.
Gold is used because it is a metal that is highly conductive and pliable, and it has chemical properties that make it work well for computers.
The motherboard has edges with gold contacts and connectors, and there are often thin layers of gold applied to its surface.
The CPU has gold on the pins around its edges, and memory chips are small circuit boards that increase RAM. They have small amounts of gold on the surface.
Additionally, some desktop computers have internal modems, ethernet port boards, and graphics boards, all of which have some gold in their pins and on their surface layers.
Which of the Parts of a Computer Actually Execute the Program Instructions?
The part of the computer that executes the program instructions is the CPU (central processing unit).
It is the control center of the computer, and it takes the data from the input devices or operating system and converts it to information output. It is a complex device that is made up of two parts: the control unit and the arithmetic/logic unit.
The CPU refers to the storage device (hard disk) or from programs in RAM for getting instructions and data.
The storage will store the operating system (which is used by the CPU), as well as other applications and files.
The control unit of the CPU uses electrical signals to tell the computer system to carry out stored program instructions.
The arithmetic/logic unit has the electronic circuitry that executes the arithmetic and logical operations. The CPU uses this unit to test for conditions before it sends out orders to other parts of the computer.
The process of executing instructions is done in a specific way. First, program instructions and data need to be placed into memory from an input drive.
This information can be stored on the hard disk, or it can be input from a device. This data gets placed into memory, and then the CPU performs four steps.
The control unit gets the instructions from the memory. Then it decodes the instructions and sends the data that is needed to the arithmetic/logic unit. This set of steps is called Instruction Time.
Next, the arithmetic/logic unit executes the arithmetic or logical instructions. Then it stores the results in memory or in a register. This set of steps is called Execution Time.
Next, the control unit tells the memory to release the results to an output device. This set of operations is called the machine cycle.
Which Parts of a Computer Can Store Program Code?
Program code is usually stored on the hard disk. However, it can also be stored on an external drive, a CD-ROM, a DVD, or another drive. If the computer is connected to a network, there may be a local network drives (e.g NAS) where program code is stored.
When a computer is running a program, the program code is stored in the memory, or RAM. It will stay there as long as the program is open and running. If you close the program, it will only be on the hard disk.
A computer is a complex machine that has a lot of different parts that can process data and allow users to utilize applications.
The components all work together to read, translate, and execute a complex series of instructions. When you play a video game, the CPU has to read the program and then instruct the other components of the computer as to how to process, interpret, and display the information.
Computers can process this information very quickly so that you hardly notice a lag between asking and seeing the output on the screen. It is important to understand how the parts of a computer work together, especially if you plan to build your own computer from scratch.