Computer Hardware Terms

If you are interested in understanding computer hardware basics, then it would be wise to learn the main computer hardware terms. There is no need to go into too much detail with each term. It is, however, at least good to know that these things exist. And you can always do more in-depth research on each term. Computers are complex machines, so it is best just to learn the basics here so that you will not be overwhelmed.


A binary digit, either a 1 or a 0. This is the smallest unit of data a computer can read. Data transfer is measured in bits, such as the processing of data by the CPU, or the transfer of data between cables.


Eight bits make a byte. Bytes describe How much data an electronic storage device can hold or how much data can be transferred between two devices. Kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes, and terabytes are all used to describe data storage and transfer.


An optional components that connects to the motherboard. It processes visual data to output on the screen. Graphics cards(aka Video cards) allow for more advanced graphics output than when a motherboard handles the processing. They are usually made with faster memory than is usually used with computers(RAM).


Computer hardware that is. These are the physical components of the computer. Software(blocks of code that together make up a program) controls the hardware. When you open a file in your operating system, software tells your hard drive to find a certain memory block and cause its related program to open it. Or if your computer is getting too hot, it's sensed and software tells the fan to run faster. These are just a few examples of the relationship between hardware and software. Without software, hardware could not run. Hardware includes everything from the monitor, to your motherboard. They all work together through the use of software.


The main input device of a computer that uses keys to manipulate programs and communicate.


Hardware that allows a computer to access a network, specifically the internet. Modems can accept data from telephone wires, ethernet cables, wi-fi, optical cable, etc. and relay them to a computer. A computer can then send data back to the computer it received information from. Thus, you can download data from the internet and upload it to the internet as well.


The screen that accepts data from the video card / motherboard and outputs it as graphics. Data that you input from your keyboard, mouse, etc. can manipulate what is outputted on the screen.


Input device controlled by 2 directional movement and buttons. This is a on of the main input devices that is used in nearly all new programs that employ a graphical user interface.

RAM(Random Access Memory)

A type of memory that is used to allow software to run. It is faster than ROM, which is used for hard drives. RAM needs electricity to be able to "remember" what is stored within its circuits. Once a power source is taken off RAM totally erases. DDR 3 RAM is the current standard for personal computers. The more ram your computer has, the faster it will run, up to a point.

ROM(Read-Only Memory or EPROM)

A type of memory that is used to store data. It is slower than RAM. When you turn of the power source that supplies ROM with electricity, it still retains a "memory" of what is stored withing its circuits. ROM is less expensive than RAM.