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Computer hardware

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PDP-11 CPU board

Computer hardware includes the physical parts or components of a computer, such as
the central processing unit, monitor, keyboard, computer data storage, graphic
card, sound card, speakers and motherboard.[1] By contrast, software is
instructions that can be stored and run by hardware.

Hardware is directed by the software to execute any command or instruction. A

combination of hardware and software forms a usable computing system.

1 Von Neumann architecture
2 Sales
3 Different systems
3.1 Personal computer
3.1.1 Case
3.1.2 Power supply
3.1.3 Motherboard
3.1.4 Expansion cards
3.1.5 Storage devices Fixed media Removable media
3.1.6 Input and output peripherals Input Output device
3.2 Mainframe computer
3.3 Departmental computing
3.4 Supercomputer
4 Hardware upgrade
5 Recycling
5.1 Toxic computer components
5.2 Environmental effects
5.3 National services
6 See also
7 Sources
8 External links
Von Neumann architecture[edit]
Main article: Von Neumann architecture

Von Neumann architecture scheme

The template for all modern computers is the Von Neumann architecture, detailed in
a 1945 paper by Hungarian mathematician John von Neumann. This describes a design
architecture for an electronic digital computer with subdivisions of a processing
unit consisting of an arithmetic logic unit and processor registers, a control unit
containing an instruction register and program counter, a memory to store both data
and instructions, external mass storage, and input and output mechanisms.[2] The
meaning of the term has evolved to mean a stored-program computer in which an
instruction fetch and a data operation cannot occur at the same time because they
share a common bus. This is referred to as the Von Neumann bottleneck and often
limits the performance of the system.[3]

For the third consecutive year, U.S. business-to-business channel sales (sales
through distributors and commercial resellers) increased, ending up in 2013 at
nearly 6 percent at $61.7 billion. The growth was the fastest sales increase since
the end of the recession. Sales growth accelerated in the second half of the year
peaking in fourth quarter with a 6.9 percent increase over the fourth quarter of

Different systems[edit]
There are a number of different types of computer system in use today.

Personal computer[edit]

Basic hardware components of a modern personal computer, including a monitor, a

motherboard, a CPU, a RAM, two expansion cards, a power supply, an optical disc
drive, a hard disk drive, a keyboard and a mouse

Inside a custom-built computer: power supply at the bottom has its own cooling fan
The personal computer, also known as the PC, is one of the most common types of
computer due to its versatility and relatively low price. Laptops are generally
very similar, although they may use lower-power or reduced size components, thus
lower performance.

Main article: Computer case
The computer case encloses most of the components of the system. It provides
mechanical support and protection for internal elements such as the motherboard,
disk drives, and power supplies, and controls and directs the flow of cooling air
over internal components. The case is also part of the system to control
electromagnetic interference radiated by the computer, and protects internal parts
from electrostatic discharge. Large tower cases provide extra internal space for
multiple disk drives or other peripherals and usually stand on the floor, while
desktop cases provide less expansion room. All-in-one style designs from Apple,
namely the iMac, and similar types, include a video display built into the same
case. Portable and laptop computers require cases that provide impact protection
for the unit. A current development in laptop computers is a detachable keyboard,
which allows the system to be configured as a touch-screen tablet. Hobbyists may
decorate the cases with colored lights, paint, or other features, in an activity
called case modding.

Power supply[edit]
Main article: Power supply unit (computer)
A power supply unit (PSU) converts alternating current (AC) electric power to low-
voltage DC power for the internal components of the computer. Laptops are capable
of running from a built-in battery, normally for a period of hours.[5]

Main article: Motherboard
The motherboard is the main component of a computer. It is a board with integrated
circuitry that connects the other parts of the computer including the CPU, the RAM,
the disk drives (CD, DVD, hard disk, or any others) as well as any peripherals
connected via the ports or the expansion slots.

Components directly attached to or to part of the motherboard include:

The CPU (central processing unit), which performs most of the calculations which
enable a computer to function, and is sometimes referred to as the brain of the
computer. It is usually cooled by a heatsink and fan, or water-cooling system. Most
newer CPUs include an on-die graphics processing unit (GPU). The clock speed of
CPUs governs how fast it executes instructions, and is measured in GHz; typical
values lie between 1 GHz and 5 GHz. Many modern computers have the option to
overclock the CPU which enhances performance at the expense of greater thermal
output and thus a need for improved cooling.
The chipset, which includes the north bridge, mediates communication between the
CPU and the other components of the system, including main memory.
Random-access memory (RAM), which stores the code and data that are being actively
accessed by the CPU. For example, when a web browser is opened on the computer it
takes up memory; this is stored in the RAM until the web browser is closed. RAM
usually comes on DIMMs in the sizes 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB, but can be much larger.
Read-only memory (ROM), which stores the BIOS that runs when the computer is
powered on or otherwise begins execution, a process known as Bootstrapping, or
"booting" or "booting up". The BIOS (Basic Input Output System) includes boot
firmware and power management firmware. Newer motherboards use Unified Extensible
Firmware Interface (UEFI) instead of BIOS.
Buses that connect the CPU to various internal components and to expand cards for
graphics and sound.
The CMOS battery, which powers the memory for date and time in the BIOS chip. This
battery is generally a watch battery.
The video card (also known as the graphics card), which processes computer
graphics. More powerful graphics cards are better suited to handle strenuous tasks,
such as playing intensive video games.
Expansion cards[edit]
Main article: Expansion card
An expansion card in computing is a printed circuit board that can be inserted into
an expansion slot of a computer motherboard or backplane to add functionality to a
computer system via the expansion bus. Expansions cards can be used to obtain or
expand on features not offered by the motherboard.

Storage devices[edit]
Main article: Computer data storage
A storage device is any computing hardware and digital media that is used for
storing, porting and extracting data files and objects. It can hold and store
information both temporarily and permanently, and can be internal or external to a
computer, server or any similar computing device. Data storage is a core function
and fundamental component of computers.

Fixed media[edit]
Data is stored by a computer using a variety of media. Hard disk drives are found
in virtually all older computers, due to their high capacity and low cost, but
solid-state drives are faster and more power efficient, although currently more
expensive than hard drives in terms of dollar per gigabyte,[6] so are often found
in personal computers built post-2007.[7] Some systems may use a disk array
controller for greater performance or reliability.

Removable media[edit]
To transfer data between computers, a USB flash drive or optical disc may be used.
Their usefulness depends on being readable by other systems; the majority of
machines have an optical disk drive, and virtually all have at least one USB port.

Input and output peripherals[edit]

Main article: Peripheral
Input and output devices are typically housed externally to the main computer
chassis. The following are either standard or very common to many computer systems.

Input devices allow the user to enter information into the system, or control its
operation. Most personal computers have a mouse and keyboard, but laptop systems
typically use a touchpad instead of a mouse. Other input devices include webcams,
microphones, joysticks, and image scanners.

Output device[edit]
Output devices display information in a human readable form. Such devices could
include printers, speakers, monitors or a Braille embosser.

Mainframe computer[edit]
Main article: Mainframe Computer
A mainframe computer is a much larger computer that typically fills a room and may
cost many hundreds or thousands of times as much as a personal computer. They are
designed to perform large numbers of calculations for governments and large

An IBM System z9 mainframe

Departmental computing[edit]
Main article: Minicomputer
In the 1960s and 1970s, more and more departments started to use cheaper and
dedicated systems for specific purposes like process control and laboratory

Main article: Supercomputer
A supercomputer is superficially similar to a mainframe, but is instead intended
for extremely demanding computational tasks. As of June 2016, the fastest
supercomputer in the world is the Sunway TaihuLight, in Jiangsu, China.[8]

The term supercomputer does not refer to a specific technology. Rather it indicates
the fastest computations available at any given time. In mid 2011, the fastest
supercomputers boasted speeds exceeding one petaflop, or 1 quadrillion (10^15 or
1,000 trillion) floating point operations per second. Super computers are fast but
extremely costly so they are generally used by large organizations to execute
computationally demanding tasks involving large data sets. Super computers
typically run military and scientific applications. Although they cost millions of
dollars, they are also being used for commercial applications where huge amounts of
data must be analyzed. For example, large banks employ supercomputers to calculate
the risks and returns of various investment strategies, and healthcare
organizations use them to analyze giant databases of patient data to determine
optimal treatments for various diseases and problems incurring to the country.

Hardware upgrade[edit]
When using computer hardware, an upgrade means adding new hardware to a computer
that improves its performance, adds capacity or new features. For example, a user
could perform a hardware upgrade to replace the hard drive with a SSD to get a
boost in performance or increase the amount of files that may be stored. Also, the
user could increase the RAM so the computer may run more smoothly. The user could
add a USB 3.0 expansion card in order to fully use USB 3.0 devices, or could
upgrade the GPU for extra rendering power. Performing such hardware upgrades may be
necessary for older computers to meet a programs' system requirements.

Because computer parts contain hazardous materials, there is a growing movement to
recycle old and outdated parts.[9] Computer hardware contain dangerous chemicals
such as: lead, mercury, nickel, and cadmium. According to the EPA these e-wastes
have a harmful effect on the environment unless they are disposed of properly.
Making hardware requires energy, and recycling parts will reduce air pollution,
water pollution, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.[10] Disposing unauthorized
computer equipment is in fact illegal. Legislation makes it mandatory to recycle
computers through the government approved facilities. Recycling a computer can be
made easier by taking out certain reusable parts. For example, the RAM, DVD drive,
the graphics card, hard drive or SSD, and other similar removable parts can be

Toxic computer components[edit]

The central processing unit contains many toxic materials. It contains lead and
chromium in the metal plates. Resistors, semi-conductors, infrared detectors,
stabilizers, cables, and wires contain cadmium. The circuit boards in a computer
contain mercury, and chromium.[11] When these types of materials, and chemicals are
disposed improperly will become hazardous for the environment.

Environmental effects[edit]
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency only around 15% of
the e-waste actually is recycled. When e-waste byproducts leach into ground water,
are burned, or get mishandled during recycling, it causes harm. Health problems
associated with such toxins include impaired mental development, cancer, and damage
to the lungs, liver, and kidneys.[12] That's why even wires have to be recycled.
Different companies have different techniques to recycle a wire. The most popular
one is the grinder that separates the copper wires from the plastic/rubber casing.
When the processes is done there are two different piles left; one containing the
copper powder, and the other containing plastic/rubber pieces.[13] Computer
monitors, mice, and keyboards all have a similar way of being recycled. For
example, first each of the parts are taken apart then all of the inner parts get
separated and placed into its own bin.[14]

National services[edit]
Recycling a computer is made easier by a few of the national services, such as Dell
and Apple. Both companies will take back the computer of their make or any other
make. Otherwise a computer can be donated to Computer Aid International which is an
organization that recycles and refurbishes old computers for hospitals, schools,
universities, etc.[15]

See also[edit]
Information technology portal
Computer architecture
Electronic hardware
Glossary of computer hardware terms
History of computing hardware
List of computer hardware manufacturers
Open-source computing hardware
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Jump up ^ von Neumann, John (1945). "First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC" (PDF).
Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 August 2013.
Jump up ^ Markgraf, Joey D. (2007). "The Von Neumann bottleneck". Archived from the
original on 9 June 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
Jump up ^ "US B2B Channel sales reach nearly $62 Billion in 2013, According to The
NPD Group". NPD Group. 4 February 2014. Archived from the original on 8 August
Jump up ^ "How long should a laptop battery last?". Computer Hope. Archived from
the original on 21 December 2013. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
Jump up ^ Domingo, Joel. "SSD vs. HDD: What's the Difference?". PCMag. Archived
from the original on 19 March 2017. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
Jump up ^ Edwards, Benj. "Evolution of the Solid-State Drive". PCWorld. Archived
from the original on 25 March 2017. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
Jump up ^ Alba, Davey. "China's Tianhe-2 Caps Top 10 Supercomputers". IEEE.
Archived from the original on 11 December 2013. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
Jump up ^ "How to recycle your old computer". Digital Trends. 18 December 2016.
Archived from the original on 17 April 2017. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
Jump up ^ Inc, Chris Keenan - Newtech Recycling. "Newtech Recycling Specializes in
Computer Disposal, Laptop Disposal, Desktop Disposal Mainframe Disposal and Server
Disposal". Archived from the original on 29 March 2017.
Retrieved 18 April 2017.
Jump up ^ "The Toxic Components of Computers and Monitors". Archived from the
original on 27 April 2017. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
Jump up ^ "What's Going On with Electronic Waste? – Electronics TakeBack
Coalition". Archived from the original on 27 April 2017. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
Jump up ^ "Wire Recycling". Archived from the original on
10 July 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
Jump up ^ "Computer equipment recycling – Essential Guide". ComputerWeekly.
Archived from the original on 21 December 2016. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
Jump up ^ Schofield, Jack (19 February 2015). "How can I safely recycle my old
PCs?". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 27 April 2017.
Retrieved 26 April 2017.
External links[edit]
Media related to Computer hardware at Wikimedia Commons
Learning materials related to Computer hardware at Wikiversity
Basic computer components
Major fields of computer science
Authority control Edit this at Wikidata
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Categories: Computer hardwareDigital electronics
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