Computer Hardware

About Computer Hardware

If you're the kind of person who regularly builds custom computer systems, you know all about CPUs, processors, motherboards, GPUs, and the rest. But what about everybody else? Why should the rest of us know about these things, when we're just going to buy computer hardware from a major retailer?

Well, even if you're a normal consumer, it's helpful to know what's "under the hood."  That way, if you need to decide if paying an extra $200 for one processor over another is a good idea, you'll have a sound basis for making the decision.  Let Office Shop Direct help you with the basics as you begin shopping for your system.

A computer system is physically built using several base components.  The term "computer hardware" is used to describe these individual physical components, these "parts," which range from the central processor to the computer case to peripherals like the monitor and speakers.  No computer program or application can work without the presence of proper computer hardware components.  For example, without the correct sound card, you won't hear any audio while you're watching a video presentation onscreen, no matter what kind of speakers you have connected.

Computer Hardware

Here are some of the principal building blocks of a computer system and what to look for when building your system:

Expansion Cards and Motherboards

You'll need more than the right combination of CPU, RAM, and hard drive memory to power your system.  Among other items, you should consider these:

Graphics Card (GPU):  The graphics card is what you connect your monitor to so you can actually see your desktop and applications in action.  It "draws" on the monitor screen what the CPU tells it to draw.  As it happens, many CPUs come already integrated with a graphics card on the motherboard (see below).  But for HD video viewing and other graphics-intensive uses, a separate graphics card is necessary and can take you to a new level performance-wise.  NVIDIA and AMD are the primary GPU manufacturers to watch for.

Motherboard:  All of the above components are integrated on what's called a motherboard.  The motherboard physically houses the CPU, RAM, video card, sound card, and connectors for other devices (CD and DVD drives, USB ports, Wi-Fi, etc.).  It also determines how expandable your system is.  Before purchasing a motherboard, check for its compatibility with the CPU by consulting the manufacturer's compatibility list.  Check out trusted motherboard manufacturers like Asus, MSI, and Intel.

And More:  In general, anything that's a physical component of a computer system is hardware (as opposed to software, which is non-physical and programmed into the CPU, for example).  So hardware includes your monitor, keyboard, mouse, speaker system, printer, etc.

Network hardware is especially important.  This includes things like routers, Wi-Fi transmitters, printer servers, digital modems, and more.  Cisco hardware is an especially trusted brand when it comes to networking hardware.

So, when you're shopping for "a computer," you're really looking to buy computer hardware, to a large extent.  There are many parts that go into building a computer, from CPU/processors to hard drives.  Vendors include everyone from Dell, Apple, and HP to Cisco.  Hardware matters and it's worth being at least a little familiar with some of the main components as you build the right system for you.