Components of the computer

In previous posts, I have given a small introduction about the computer and its evolution, as a general purpose machine, and some basic brushstrokes about its architecture. The next posts will deal in detail with the different components of the computer, but before that, I think it will help to make a small list with these components, so that the student can get an idea of what is to come.

Generally speaking, any computer has the following components:

– The case: design for housing all the internal components. It has the function of protecting these.

– The motherboard: It is the main component that connect all the internal components and it used to build the computer. It contains the CPU and the necessary connections, called expansion slots or expansion buses, to connect the rest of the components.

– The power supply: Provides the necessary electricity to all the components of the computer for its correct operation. It does not generate any power, just transforms the alternating current (AC) from the electrical grid, into the direct current (DC) that the different components need.

– The CPU (Central Process Unit): We usually refer to it as the brain of the computer. It is the main microprocessor, which controls the operation of the computer.

– RAM (Random Access Memory): Memory where the programs and data are stored. It is a volatile memory that loses all stored information when the power is interrupted.

– The hard disk (HD): Component in which we store the information that we want to keep when the computer is turned off. It is a permanent storage system.

– Floppy disk drives and CDs: These are components that allow us to use removable storage media, as a complement to HD. The appearance of flash drives (the famous pen drives) and the improvement and reduction of size of external hard drives, is causing these components to be used less and less.

– The keyboard: Basic input component of the computer that is used for the entry of characters.

– The mouse: The other basic input component that is used as a graphical pointer.

– The monitor: Output graphic component.

– The printer: Output component uses for printing the information on paper.

The previous list could be extended considerably. I have simply listed the most common components, but there are many others such as the microphone, the camera, speakers, graphic tablet and a long etcetera. In next posts, I will explain how all the components, in the list above, work.


This post is part of the collection “Computer Architecture” that reproduces the class notes that I use to teach the subject at ESIC. You can see the index of this collection here.

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