Parts of a PC: Hardware
The two most common types of personal computers are Desktop Computers and Laptop Computers. Computers are made up of hardware and software. Hardware is the collection of physical elements that comprise a computer.
The Desktop Computer
The desktop computer is made up of a computer case and peripheral devices.
Computer Case or "Tower"
The computer case contains all the working parts of your computer, including the Central Processing Unit (CPU), motherboard, RAM, Hard Disc Drive, Ports, and fans.
- The CPU is the brain of the computer. It is a small piece of hardware the carries out the instructions of a computer program (see Software sheet for definition).
- The motherboard is the central circuit board of a computer. It connects the computer's many peripherals. Note: A peripheral is a device connected to the computer, but not actually a part of it. It is dependent on the computer to function. Most peripheral devices serve to make a computer user-friendly and more capable.
- RAM (Random Access Memory)
- RAM is a circuit board that stores data on tasks your computer is actively performing. If the CPU is your computer's brain, the RAM is your computer's short-term memory. It stores data only as long as it is being used and is cleared when you turn your computer off. Having more RAM can make your computer run faster.
- Hard Disc Drive
- Hard Disc Drive (also called hard drive) is used for storing and retrieving data on your computer. Unlike the RAM, the information on the hard drive is saved even after your computer is turned off. This is where your computer files (like documents, songs, and images) and your software (like your operating system and applications) are stored so they can be accessed every time you turn your computer on.
While it is hard to imagine a computer without these things, the following are considered peripheral devices:
The device that looks like a TV screen is called the monitor. It can be adjusted by swiveling from side to side or by tilting up or down. The viewing angle can be changed by setting the monitor on something, such as a phone book. There are controls for adjusting the brightness and other functions on your monitor. Study the paperwork that came with it so you know where these controls are located. The monitor can be turned on or off separately from the PC. The monitor must be plugged into a power source.
The mouse is a pointing device that serves as your primary navigation tool in Windows. Think of the mouse as a combination of your car's steering wheel and gearshift. Moving the mouse is like steering, and clicking puts the PC into gear. It can be a major source of difficulty for new users. There will be a separate class for mouse.
The keyboard looks like the one on a typewriter, but has some additional keys. There will be a separate class for keyboards.
A flash drive is an extremely common portable memory device. It can be used to store files (like documents, pictures, movies, and more) that you wish to transfer to another device or simply have a second copy of, in the event something happens to the original on your computer. They are very popular because they are small, can hold a lot of files, and are erasable/rewriteable. They are plugged into a computer's USB port
A port is a special outlet on your computer where a cord or cable connects. Ports are what connect peripherals to your CPU.
Laptop Computers combine the parts of a desktop computer into a single unit for portability. In the past that has meant that they have been less powerful than desktop computers, by modern laptops often have the same capabilities as desktop computers, which is contributing to their rising popularity.
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