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The Four Main Categories of Computer Hardware Devices

Updated on April 3, 2017
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Alfred is a long time teacher and computer enthusiast who works with and troubleshoots a wide range of computing devices.

The typical computer set can be broken down into four distinct hardware categories. This breakdown actually defines what a computer is and does. From the outset, a computer is a programmable electronic device which -

  • inputs raw data by use of input peripherals,
  • uses the microprocessor to process received instructions into information,
  • outputs this data or information via the monitor, print or other outlets,
  • stores data and information derived onto appropriate media for future use.

An illustration of a typical desktop computer set
An illustration of a typical desktop computer set

Computer hardware devices are thus grouped under four major hardware categories:

  • Input hardware
  • Processing hardware
  • Output hardware
  • Storage hardware

Computer hardware components are categorized under input, processing, output and memory/storage devices
Computer hardware components are categorized under input, processing, output and memory/storage devices

1: Input Hardware

All computer hardware components which are used to feed raw and other data to a computer set are categorized under input hardware.

A microphone is an example of sound input device
A microphone is an example of sound input device

Introduction to Computer System

Overall, a computer system is an interaction of three major components namely hardware, software and humanware. The three components are integral in that none of them is functional without the others.

  • Computer hardware components are the physical devices that make up a computer, allowing software to run on them. Examples of these devices are keyboard, mouse, monitor etc
  • Computer software includes protocols, programs and data which run on hardware componets. Software can only be experienced its examples are Linux OS, device drivers, Google Docs, video and mp3 files.
  • Humanware refers to the user of the computer.

The following is a list of commonly used input devices:

  • Keyboards
  • Pointing devices:

Mouse
Touchpad
Touchscreen
Multi touch screen
Pen input
Motion sensor
Graphics tablet
Interactive smartboard

  • Game controller devices:

Joystick
Gamepad
Steering wheel

  • Audio input devices:

Microphone
Midi keyboard

  • Visual and Imaging devices:

Webcam
Digital camera
Digital camcorder
Tv capture card
Scanner
Barcode reader

2: Processing Hardware

Computer hardware components that manipulate raw and other data, into information are referred to as processing devices.

Processing hardware is not as populated as other categories of hardware parts. Typically, the microprocessor is the major processing devices in the computer. It is also important to note that the microprocessor works closely with computer memory devices during its operations.

The microprocessor is subdivided into three important units which work together in order to accomplish all processing activities. The units are:

  • Control unit
  • Arithmetic and logic unit
  • Register and cache
  • The Control Unit

The control unit manages and supervises the operations of the processor and other components that are crucial in data manipulation.

  • Arithmetic And Logic Unit (ALU)

The ALU is responsible for all arithmetic and logic operations like additions, multiplications, subtractions and division, and comparison logic operations.

  • Registers And Cache Memory

Registers and cache are storage locations inside the processor, which respond to the instructions of the control unit by moving relevant data around.

An AMD microprocessor is an example of a processing device
An AMD microprocessor is an example of a processing device

3: Output Hardware

Hardware components that disseminate and display both data and information are of the output category. All computer output forms are the culmination of the purpose the computer is tasked to accomplish.

Output devices are categorized under softcopy output and hardcopy output. Softcopy output is usually related to the experience the user derives from interacting with the computer.

The user derives visual pleasure by watching a movie he downloaded from cloud storage. This is usually by monitor display output.

A collection of old CRT monitors. The CRT monitor is an output device
A collection of old CRT monitors. The CRT monitor is an output device

Do you still have a CRT monitor somewhere in your house?

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The school teacher will however need to have his grammar exam transferred to tangible hardcopy output in order to have students write appropriate answers on them.

  • Softcopy output

Display output

  • Monitor
  • Projection display
  • Electronic smartboard

Sound output

  • Speaker
  • Headphone and earphone
  • Hardcopy output

Impact printer

  • Dot matrix printer

Non impact printer

  • Inkjet printer
  • Laserjet printer
  • thermal printer

3D printer
Cloud printing

4: Storage Hardware

The parts of the computer that are used to store data in whatever form are classified as storage devices. Computer storage is either primary or secondary and is either volatile or nonvolatile.

Primary memory is commonly used to mean random access memory (RAM) but actually refers to all memory that work in tandem with the processor. The central processing unit (CPU) or accelerated processing unit (APU) read instructions stored in primary memory and execute the instructions as required.

An external disk storage device
An external disk storage device

Secondary memory is secondary because data stored within secondary storage media (usually disks) cannot directly communicate with the microprocessor. Data stored in such media first is transferred to main memory (DRAM) from where manipulation by the processor can occur.

  • Primary storage
  • DRAM
  • SRAM
  • ROM
  • Secondary storage

Internal storage & External storage

  • Magnetic storage
  • Optical storage
  • Flash storage
  • Paper storage

An SSD for laptops is an example of flash storage
An SSD for laptops is an example of flash storage

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    • profile image

      Farida Achieng 15 months ago

      I have learnt allot and it has enabled me to gain more and learn more about the hardware and its categories .Am so grateful.

      THANKS SO SO MUCH!!

    • amuno profile image
      Author

      Alfred Amuno 15 months ago from Kampala

      Thanks for appreciating Farida

    • profile image

      sya 13 months ago

      it good note. good for student to the homework..

    • amuno profile image
      Author

      Alfred Amuno 13 months ago from Kampala

      Thanks for appreciating Sya

    • profile image

      Marck 10 months ago

      Ty vm

    • profile image

      AS"LMFlkdlhdo 10 months ago

      The information Was Prety Awsome I almost Get all The Correct Answers For My Assignment

      Thank you !

    • amuno profile image
      Author

      Alfred Amuno 10 months ago from Kampala

      Glad to know the info was helpful

    • profile image

      phoebe faraon 10 months ago

      A glad to see to know the info in your computer

    • amuno profile image
      Author

      Alfred Amuno 9 months ago from Kampala

      Good to know Phoebe

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      penny 8 months ago

      it awesome summary

    • amuno profile image
      Author

      Alfred Amuno 8 months ago from Kampala

      Thanks Penny

    • profile image

      lol 7 months ago

      helped with my hw

    • appsforwindow profile image

      Janu Cap 7 months ago from Ha Noi

      Thanks for Alfred Amuno! Glad to know the info was helpful. Follow you and follow you. Thanks friends

    • ChadCrouch profile image

      Chad Crouch 6 months ago from South Africa

      Great article. Can help young lads with homework.

    • amuno profile image
      Author

      Alfred Amuno 6 months ago from Kampala

      Quite true Chad

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      Maggiesanchez 5 months ago

      Great work men!! i'm glad since i have got to understand more abt hardwares.CONGRATS!!!!!

    • amuno profile image
      Author

      Alfred Amuno 5 months ago from Kampala

      Thanks Maggie for appreciating.

    • profile image

      aqs 4 months ago

      Thaks for sharing such type of useful information.

    • profile image

      tulise 2 months ago

      nice

    • profile image

      kelvin tatenda chirefu 5 weeks ago

      thank you so much man its so helping . i have learnt a lot from your work keep it up .

    • profile image

      Well expalined. I really gained a lot. 4 weeks ago

      Mashford

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      Harindi 8 days ago

      This was very helpful me to do my university assignment.Thank you very mush

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