Computer Hardware Parts

Five major components make up the hardware of a computer. They are the central processing unit (CPU), hard drive, motherboard, random access memory (RAM), and input/output devices. This article will go over each part one by one.

Central Processing Unit (CPU)

The CPU is perhaps the most important part of the computer. The CPU is often referred to as the "brain" of the computer. It contains circuitry that allows it to fetch, decode, and execute instructions stored in memory.

CPU Architecture

There are two major CPU architectures currently on the market: 32-bit and 64-bit. A bit is a binary digit (0 or 1) used for digital information processing; more bits generally mean greater computing power. 32-bit CPUs handle 32-bit memory addresses whereas 64-bit CPUs can work with larger sets of random access memory (RAM). Microprocessors compatible with 64-bits were first released around 2005 so many computers run on both instruction sets today. However, some programs require newer operating systems available only for 64-bit CPUs.

Hard Drive

The hard drive is a data storage device that holds programs and files. The information on the hard drive is nonvolatile, meaning it does not require direct power to retain its contents. In other words, when you shut off your computer, the information saved on the hard drive remains unchanged until another save occurs.

Flash Memory vs. Hard Drive

Unlike flash memory (or solid-state drives) which are more expensive per gigabyte, a traditional magnetic platter in hard disk stores more data at a lower price point compared to solid-state drives. Solid-state drives have become popular in recent years due to their performance advantages over traditional HDDs but many options remain available for purchase today. For example, a traditional HDD can hold up to 4 terabytes (TB) whereas a solid-state drive may max out around 1 TB.


The motherboard is the key component that connects all of the internal hardware components such as RAM, CPU, and hard drives. Motherboards generally come in ATX and microATX form factors that determine their size and how many expansion slots they have for additional ports or components. The most popular sizes are full-sized ATX and miniITX motherboards.

Expansion Slots: PCI Express x16 vs. PCI Express x4

A computer has one central processing unit (CPU) but multiple devices that connect through the motherboard such as graphics cards (GPU), sound cards, and network cards. These devices can be plugged into expansion slots on the motherboard to increase their functionality.
A PCI Express x16 slot is an example of a standard expansion slot for this type of device. A PCI Express (PCIe) connector allows for increased throughput and data transfer rates compared to its predecessor, the Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI). PCIe slots allow up to 16 lanes which provide speeds up to 8 Gbps whereas an older PCI slot has 4 lanes at 2.5 Gbps per lane. PCIe 3.0 released around 2010 increased the lane count from 1 to 32 with speeds running over 10 Gbps per lane; however, PCIe 3.1 introduced around 2014 brought back support for only 16 lanes. PCIe 4.0 is expected to release soon but it's not supported by motherboards yet.
The PCI Express x4 slot sometimes doesn't get enough attention even though its throughput ranges from 250 MBps to 985 Mbps which makes for a decent upgrade over an older PCI slot. Motherboard manufacturers use the PCIe x16 slots for their higher performance and bandwidth requirements whereas the PCIe x4 often gets overlooked and underutilized.


Accessing and updating information in RAM happens at incredible speeds because it acts as temporary "working memory" while the computer runs; however, when you shut off your computer this information disappears unless you save or copy it somewhere else such as on a hard drive or drive (see below). Internal RAM slots are usually labeled DIMM1, DIMM2, or SDRAM.
RAM stands for random access memory which stores the information that your computer uses to process tasks. Internal RAM is soldered onto the motherboard however many computer manufacturers incorporate user-accessible slots so you can upgrade it after purchase or install more than what came with your system. RAM speeds have become important in recent years as processors began reaching higher clock speeds and PC gamers started emulating video game consoles to run their favorite titles on PCs with enhanced resolutions and graphics quality.
The most common types of internal RAM today are DDR3 (SDRAM) which ranges from 800 MHz to 2133 MHz depending on its transfer rate whereas DDR4 is currently limited to 2133 MHz. There is also DDR2 and an older SDRAM interface which ranges from 400 to 533 MHz.

Solid-State Drives (SSDs)

The main advantage of a traditional solid-state drive over an HDD is that SSDs have no read/write head, don't use moving parts, and therefore access information much faster as long as the data remain on the drive. A downside of this technology is that it stores less data at a higher cost per GB due to its expensive manufacturing process compared to HDDs which store more data at a lower cost per GB. Solid-state drives are more durable but they still can fail during normal operation if their circuitry becomes damaged over time through heat exposure or electrical damage.

Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)

It's not unusual to hear gamers talk about the newest graphics card since these graphic cards enable computers to generate high-end visuals such as those seen in many different types of video games. They turn on and off at lightning speeds while you play games that require them for their enhanced graphics quality.
A Graphics Processing Unit, or GPU, is a specialized electronic circuit designed to rapidly manipulate and alter memory to accelerate the rendering of images in a frame buffer intended for output to a display device. It differs from a CPU because it contains additional hardware which makes it optimized specifically for handling the repetitive calculations required by 3D graphics. There are many different types of GPUs including those designed to handle computations specific to audio processing, molecular modeling simulations, etc...For our purposes though we'll restrict ourselves to discussing how they apply in-game settings to computer games.


We have seen that there are many other things in a computer apart from the motherboard. Some of these are internal where some are external to the case. They have made computers very powerful allowing them to do many different tasks. So what can you get for your money? It's up to you to decide how much you want or need for your budget but always remember that expensive doesn't always mean better, you need to check out all the options and decide which one is best for you.