Definition of a Computer Component

By Joanne Mendes

Computer components are all the parts that make up a computer. Components include software and hardware: The software tells the hardware what to do and the hardware executes the commands. Working together, these components make up a system that can relay commands to a central processing unit, identify the actions needed to carry out the commands, and send the instructions to the component that carries out the command. Computer components work in close conjunction with each other and when one component fails, many others are affected and sometime the entire system can crash.


There are two basic types of computer components: software and hardware. Software is the principal component because it contains the information needed by the hardware to perform its tasks; without the software, a computer would simply be a box full of parts. The main software component needed to run a computer is the operating system, and program applications are necessary for specific tasks. The operating system contains the information that runs all the system's basic tasks, from starting up and shutting down to surfing the Internet. Program applications contain the information needed to run specific tasks such as word processing, games, graphic editing, communications and accounting.


Hardware consists of the components that do the actual work, everything from turning the system on to performing specific tasks. There are two types of hardware components: internal and peripheral. Internal components are the computer parts located inside the PC tower or the laptop body, and peripherals are located on the outside of the computer. The internal components are necessary to the basic running of a system and all computers have them; however, most peripherals are optional and can be modified by the user.

Internal Components

CPU or central processing unit is considered the brains of the operation and consists of several parts: the cache , prefetch unit , decode unit and arithmetic logic unit (ALU). Together they work to translate user input into action. Fan, which cools the CPU to keep it functioning properly.RAM/ROM is the computer's memory system.Chipset handles the communication between components.BIOS, or basic input output system, handles power administration and basic fundamental tasks like turning the computer on and off.Internal and external buses connect the CPU and components together. Power supply provides and regulates electrical current.Graphics and sound cards produce the video and sound output that comes out of the monitor and speakers.Drives and writers are used to read and write data onto computer discs.


Peripherals are the computer input and output components. These are the components that the user physically handles. Input devices can be used in a variety of ways to enter information and instructions into a computer. Output devices are the end result of the instructions and can be physical, visual or audio.Input devices can include mouse, keyboard, tablets, game controllers, cameras, scanners and microphones.Output devices include monitors, printers and speakers.


All computer components, internal or peripheral, take commands from the motherboard. The motherboard issues the commands based on information that has been installed in it through software. The user inputs data using a peripheral component such as a keyboard or a CD-ROM. The data is sent to the motherboard, a circuit board that contains, among other things, the CPU. The CPU is considered the actual brain of the computer; it receives the message, processes the information and converts the data into a binary code. The motherboard sends the code to the internal component that is charge of that specific action. The component performs that action and carries out the user's request