A Beginner's Guide to Computers: Parts of a Computer & How Computers Work
Parts of a Computer
A computer is made up of four essential parts: the system unit, monitor, keyboard, and mouse. It would be very hard, if not impossible, to operate the computer if one of these were missing. You could, of course, still use the computer without a mouse if you memorized all the keyboard shortcuts, but the graphical nature of most programs nowadays has made the mouse an indispensable part of the computer.
The system unit is the main part of the computer where all the action takes place. It houses all the components that make your computer run. Many people mistakenly refer to it as the CPU when in reality the CPU is just a small chip inside the system unit.
Understanding The Parts Of Your Computer (For Kids)
What's Inside Your Computer?
The term "computer" has also been loosely used to refer to the system unit. The system unit is composed of the following main components:
- Central Processing Unit
The central processing unit or CPU is like the brain of the computer. Here is where the machine does its thinking.
The most well-known processors are probably the Intel Celeron family, Intel Pentium family, and now the Intel Core family. To put it simply, the Celeron series is for those who use their computers mainly for word processing, using programs such as Microsoft Word or Excel; the Pentium series is for those who are into multimedia such as music and video; and the Core series is for computer users who do a lot of multitasking.
- Random Access Memory (RAM)
Usually referred to as "memory", RAM is second to the CPU in determining your computer's performance. It temporarily stores your computer's activities until they are transferred and stored permanently in your hard disk when you shut down or restart.
Memory cards can be 128MB (rare nowadays), 256MB, 512MB, 1GB, or 2GB. A lot of older computers can hold up to 1GB of RAM only. Newer ones however, can have as much as 2GB and even 4GB (by using two 2GB memory cards). The more memory your computer has, the faster it will respond. But not all motherboards are equipped to hold large memory cards so read the manual first and check the maximum RAM your motherboard can support.
- Hard Disk Drive (HDD)
The hard disk drive, more commonly known as the hard drive or hard disk, is where all data and programs are stored in your computer permanently, unless you delete them. Generally speaking, a hard disk with a higher capacity is always better.
The more common hard disk storage capacities are 40GB, 80GB, 120GB, 160GB, 250GB, 400GB, and 500GB. It's always a good idea to choose a hard disk with a large capacity especially if you want to download and store movies - an average high quality DVD movie can take up more than 4GB of hard disk space!
Motherboards usually have a LAN port for networking and internet, an internal modem for internet connectivity, and built-in USB ports for your USB devices such as printers and flash drives. Newer motherboards also have 4-6 SATA ports for your SATA devices such as hard drives and one IDE port for your CD/DVD drive.
Looking Inside A Computer
Take a tour inside the computer and see the main parts of the system unit.
Now that you know the parts that are inside your computer, it's time to learn how these parts interact with each other when you turn on your computer.
How Does Your Computer Work?
This video illustrates and explains in layman's terms what goes on inside your computer.