Computer hardware and components

Computer hardware and components

Most computers are made of many components that can be changed for better ones as time goes by. Here is a list of the common computer hardware components found on the market.

AGP slot : Accelerated Graphic Port. This was introduced to allow the display cards to access the system memory directly without going through a shared PCI bus and allow a faster processing to accommodate the 3D games and other intensive display applications. There is only one and is usually a brown slot on the main PC board.

AGP slot : AGP slot

BIOS : Basic Input Output System. The bios is what holds the computer's configuration and will launch the PC boot sequence on power on. This is stored in a ROM on the main board and is usually accessed for modification using the DEL key before the computer loads the operation system.

BUS : This is a path on the motherboard to send data from/to peripherals, ram and cpu.

Cache Memory : This is fast speed ram used by the CPU to load data faster than standard ram. Some functions and data are stored in cache. Cache is found on the main board and in the CPU itself.

CD-Rom : This was the first Compact Disk standard that was used on computers to eliminate the used of 1.4 Floppy disks. They could hold 650MB and now up to 700MB. They are obsolete and replaced by the DVD-ROM now.

CD unit : CD reader

CD-RW : This is a CD unit that can write to blank CD's to store data and be read on standard CD-ROMs.

CPU : Central Processing Unit. This is the brain of your computer and does all the work. It's what gets binary commands to execute with binary data. The faster the CPU, the faster the computer will be at running programs.

Processor : Processor

DVD-Rom : This is a cd that can read DVDs. A DVD can hold much more data than a standard CD and is mostly used to play movies. There are also some programs and games on DVD but are still rare.

DVD-RW : This is a DVD writer and like a CD-RW is used to write data on a blank DVD media. They are mostly used to make copies or movie DVDs or backup big amount of data.

FireWire : FireWire is like the USB ports but faster. These are mostly used for external hard drives, DVD writers, digital cameras, scanners... they are also Plug&Play.

Firewire port : Firewire port

Floppy Drive : Almost obsolete they are becoming an options on new computers. They can accept 1.4 MB of data and the media is sensible to magnetic fields. Most use a cd-rom or a USB stick to carry data to other computers.

Hard disk : This unit is the data storage of your PC for your applications, user data and all that you put on the computer. The most popular are IDE and SCSI hard disks. IDE is used for personal computers and SCSI is used more for servers.

Hard disk : Hard disk

IDE controller : This is what you connect the hard drives to. They are usually embedded on the main board. You can add a faster IDE port card and use it in a PCI slot to connect faster hard drives or have more than 4 IDE units.

ISA slot : These were the oldest kind of slots that would take 8 or 16 bits cards. They ran at 8mhz and are still present in some computers for backward compatibility. Printer cards or serial cards and other slow devices use these.

ISA slot : ISA slot

Keyboard : This is what you use to type. Some keyboards have extra buttons to use internet explorer functions, open the calculator and other gadgets. There are USB and PS2 keyboards.

PS2 keyboard port : PS2 port

Modem : Using a phone line this device is used to connect on the internet, send fax or other remote connections. These are slow and replaced by cable modems or ADSL for internet connections.

Monitor : This is the display screen of your computer, it's connected on the VGA adapter of your PC usually with a DB-15 cable. There are standard monitors and LCD monitors.

LCD monitor : LCD monitor

Mouse : This is what is used to move the pointer on your display screen. Some use a ball that rolls on a pad, some use infra-red and some are also wireless.

Mouse pointer : Mouse

Network adapter : This is the card used to connect computer together using a HUB or a network switch. If you have only two computers, you can use a crossover cable to avoid buying a HUB or switch.

Twist pair : Twist pair

NV-Ram : Non-Volatile RAM. Since computers evolve quickly and may not function with new peripherals, they replaced the BIOS ROM with NV-RAM that can be reprogrammed using a program to write the new BIOS for the main board.

Parallel port : This is what is used to connect printers and other devices that need a faster data transfer than a serial port. They are more and more replaced by the faster USB ports and becoming an option on PC's.

Parallel port : Parallel port

PCI slots : Peripheral Component Interconnect. This new standard was introduced to replace the VL-BUS cards to give a faster access to the main board resources. The PCI slots on the mother board are usually white.

PCI slot : PCI slot

Plug&Play : This came out with Windows 95. They introduced this new standard to get rid of hardware jumpers on peripherals and to make their installation easier. It allows the computer to determine what a device is and how it uses the computer resources without creating conflicts.

Port : A connection socket to plug a device to a computer.

Serial port : Serial port

Power supply : The supply takes 110 or 220 volts and converts it to 12v and 5v to supply the different components in the computer.

Ram : Random Memory Access. This is the memory of the computer that can be read or written to by the applications. The more you have RAM the better.

RAM : Memory RAM

Rom : Read Only Memory. ROMs are used to keep data that does not change and used by the computer when you turn it on. They can only be read and are programmed with an eprom burner at the factory. Most computers now use NV-RAM that can be reprogrammed using a little software.

Sound cards : The sound card is just to send the sound signal to a set of PC speakers or desktop theater sound system. Some will offer an amplified output, but most speaker set comes with an amplifier. They are usually stereo, four points or 5.1 compatible depending on the specifications of the sound device.

Sound card in-out : Sound ports

USB ports : Universal Serial Bus. These are used a lot to connect keyboards, mouse, printers, digital cameras, USB sticks and many other devices without having to power down your computer. Most USB devices are detected and installed automatically using Plug&Play.

USB ports : USB ports

USB stick : These are cool little memory devices that has 64, 128 ... up to one meg and that you plug in a UBS port. They show in my computer as a removable hard-drive. They are very handy to carry programs or data from a computer to an other with ease since they are Plug&Play.

USB memory stick : USB memory stick

Vga cards : This gives the display to your monitor. Most vga cards will fit in an AGP slot of your computer main board. There is also PCI vga cards, but these are older and are usually used as a secondary display adapter for a second monitor.

VGA card : VGA card

VLB cards : Vesa Local BUS cards are obsolete and were replaced by PCI cards. They were introduced to run faster than ISA cards by running at the CPU bus speed.

Zip disk : This media was basically a floppy drive that could hold more data than a standard 1.44 floppy. It's a magnetic media like a floppy.