Computer Lover: Dedicated to all things computers

Computer Hardware

A computer's hardware refers to the electrical parts and components inside a computer which power the system. The operating system and other software are then installed upon - and make use of - the hardware.

For example, a hard-drive is a piece of computer hardware which stores data such as the operating system, software, files, pictures, music etc. The CPU (central processing unit, also called processor) is the 'brains' of the computer - it is responsible for carrying out the various instructions and computations of the system.

And the RAM - which stands for Random Access Memory - temporarily stores data generated by the system (for example, if you are typing a letter but haven't saved it yet, the letter data is stored in the RAM).

Once the system is turned off, all the data held in the RAM is erased (unlike the hard-drive which stores the data even after the computer is switched off).

These are just three such computer hardware parts. Other common hardware components include the following:

  • Motherboard - This is the large square or rectangle component which all the other hardware parts connect to (hence its name, i.e. the mother-board)
  • Power Supply Unit (PSU) - This is where the power cable (from the wall socket) goes into, and it then converts that electricity and disperses it to the various components in the system
  • Optical Disk Drive - This is where you insert CDs or DVDs to play/burn them
  • Graphics Card - The graphics card is a powerful component which generates and outputs images to the computer monitor. Not all systems have these, although all gaming computers tend to have one
  • Sound Card - A sound card processes, generates and outputs audio. Like graphics cards, not all computers have these, although systems which are built to create and edit audio (for example music) tend to have one
  • Case - The case houses all of the above computer components

The picture below shows a custom built computer system which has a motherboard, CPU, RAM, hard-drive, PSU, optical (CD/DVD) drive, graphics card and a case. Some of the components are hard to see or are obscured (such as the CPU which always has a large heatsink/cooler over it due to large heat output), although you can see most of the components in it:

System with all components mentioned above apart from sound card

(Sorry about all the cables!) A picture of this same system from another perspective (showing the buttons at the front of a computer) with the case off the front can be seen below:

System with all components mentioned above apart from sound card

As can be seen in the sections below, this category has various articles relating to different computer hardware. It also covers computer cases, which house the various hardware components. If you are planning on building or customizing your computer, this is the section to read!

Cheap Computer Cases

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A computer case houses all the hardware components (i.e. the electrical parts which power a computer) and they come with reset and power buttons and usually USB ports.

A range of cases are available to purchase, with prices ranging from as low as $35 to $100 and beyond. And whilst it is easy to think that desktop computer cases are all the same and so it's best to buy the cheapest available, this isn't actually true. Instead, it's worth buying the best computer case within your budget.

This is because some cheap computer cases can be a bad purchase due to them having a poor build quality and a lack of features. For example, a case with a poor build quality might make it harder for you to build or customize your computer.

And some PC cases come with a good number of USB ports, along with LEDs (i.e. lights displaying information about parts of your system), microphone/headphone inputs and other features, whilst some budget cases don't have these features.

Hence whether you are looking for a gaming computer case (for a gaming computer) or whether you are simply on a budget and thus are looking for a compromise between low price and quality, check out the articles in the list below.

Computer Motherboards

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A computer motherboard is the piece of hardware which all the other hardware components connect to. It also handles the computer's initial boot-up sequence (known as the BIOS).

Motherboards are also commonly referred to as the main board (and on Apple systems, the logic board). They're also sometimes referred to as the mobo. There are different sizes of motherboards, the most common of which is the ATX motherboard which is 305 x 244 millimeters.

ATX was first introduced in 1995 and whilst there have been pushes to move away from ATX motherboards, it is still the most popular size.

A smaller standard also exists, known as micro ATX motherboards. These are 244 x 244 mm in size and they are intended to be used in smaller systems. A motherboard usually can house just one CPU (the 'brains' of a computer; its computational centre).

However it is possible to get dual processor motherboards, which are used mainly in higher end systems (such as servers) where a greater amount of processing power is required.

For further information on various types of motherboards (such as how to make your computer reliable for long with quality motherboards and processors), check the list below for various articles in this section.

Graphics Cards

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A graphics card (also known as a video card) is a component which generates and outputs images to be displayed via a monitor. Their support of accelerated rendering of 2D and 3D graphics make them perfect for gaming. In many ways a graphics card is like a mini computer since they have a processing unit (known as a GPU) and its own RAM/memory.

Whilst graphics cards aren't necessary in a computer system, they are usually a necessity for users who want to play computer games via their PC. This is because many games (even some non-3D ones) require a relatively large amount of graphical processing power, which is where graphics cards tend to excel.

Older graphics cards (sometimes referred to as PCI graphics cards) tend to use what's known as a PCI slot on a computer's motherboard to interact with a system. However the amount of data that can be transferred via a PCI slot started to become restricted due to graphics cards becoming more powerful, hence PCIe graphics cards are now available.

These are ones which use a PCI-express slot (a quicker/better version of PCI) to interact with the motherboard.

ATI and Nvidia are the main producers of graphics cards. There are some other manufacturers, although these two companies account for the vast majority of the market. It is worth pointing out, though, that ATI and Nvidia design and produce the actual graphics cards, however other companies tend to actually sell them.

For example, the ATI Radeon HD 5850 card (a popular high end card) is created by ATI, but you might find it sold as Sapphire Radeon HD 5850 (meaning it is repackaged/sold by Sapphire, despite being created by ATI).

The articles in the list below have various information about different types and aspects of graphics cards.