Main Components of a Computer System

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The modern computer is filled with powerful hardware and software with capabilities that would have been unimaginable only a decade ago. As our understanding and mastery of digital technology continues to grow, software and hardware developers are driven to push the boundaries of computing and further revolutionize our engagement with these products. Although innovation is a hallmark of modern computing, certain cornerstones of computer hardware will likely remain in place for years to come. These primary components of a computer system allow these devices to run with the efficiency we've come to expect of them. Understanding the components of a computer system can help you understand what it takes to make these fascinating machines operate.


The Basics of a Computer System

In order for a computer system to operate, it requires a few key hardware components, the most important of these being the Central Processing Unit (CPU) and the motherboard. The motherboard acts as the central "hub" on which all of the computer's various hardware peripherals, ranging from sound and video cards to hard drives, connect. The primary power source for the computer connects to the motherboard, which then distributes power to the hardware connected to it.


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If the motherboard represents the bones of a computer, the CPU is certainly its brain. A computer CPU consists of an arithmetic logic unit (ALU) and control unit. When a user initiates a task on a computer, the ALU and CU are primarily responsible for ensuring that it's interpreted correctly and that the appropriate hardware peripherals are properly integrated to achieve the desired result.


The CPU is housed in a specially designed region of the motherboard. A motherboard will also often include fans in order to cool the CPU during use. Given the number of tasks delegated to the CPU at any given time, cooling will help ensure that the process does not overheat.

Additional Components of a Computer System

In addition to the motherboard and CPU, a variety of other important hardware can be found, including the hard drive, sound card, graphics card and memory, among others. Each of these hardware units accomplishes a specific task, whether it's creating visual representation of data with the graphics card or allowing users to save their content and applications with the hard drive. In order to achieve full functionality, a computer must include all of these varying components.


For users, some of the most obvious components of a computer are the monitor, keyboard and mouse. Although these hardware elements do not engage in the type of processing found inside the computer, they are nevertheless critical components of the modern user experience.