How best to know your computer hardware


Computer Hardware and Component Parts

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3 The Computer Hardware: Component Parts – System Units (Processors and Disk Drives); Input Devices (Keyboard and Mouse); Output Devices (Monitors, Speakers, and Printers); Storage Devices (Disks and Drives) and Computer Network and Data Communication Devices (Phones, Tablets, Cables)
3.3 Computer Peripherals
Computer Hardware and its Component Parts: How best to know your computer hardware. Photo credit: pixabay from pexel

Information Technology Education:

The Computer Hardware: Component Parts – System Units (Processors and Disk Drives); Input Devices (Keyboard and Mouse); Output Devices (Monitors, Speakers, and Printers); Storage Devices (Disks and Drives) and Computer Network and Data Communication Devices (Phones, Tablets, Cables)


What is a Computer Hardware? 

Computer hardware is any computer-related physical parts or components including input, output, and storage devices and a system unit; computer accessories and their networks that can interact with the computer system. It is the computer and all the equipment attached to it. Computer hardware is also any part of a computer that can be touched or felt.

The computer hardware accepts data, processes the data and gives out information as output in the computing system, and interconnects other components of the computer.


Component Parts of the Computer Hardware

The components of the computer hardware are and the system unit and the computer peripherals

Computer Hardware - Component Parts
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The System unit or the Computer cabinet

Computer Hardware - System Unit
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Computer Hardware – System Unit. Image credit:


The system unit is the metallic or alloyed box-like casing that houses the power supply unit, processor, main (primary) memory, disk drives (hard disk drive, CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive, and floppy disk drive), motherboard, and ports of the input and output devices.  The system unit protects the internal electronic components from damages.

The motherboard is a large board containing a number of electronic components – the CPU (Central Processing Unit), Read-Only Memory (ROM), Read Access Memory (RAM) – the 2 types of main memory, a clock, and the expansion slot.

The CPU, regarded as the brain of the computer, is the most important part of a computer system because it controls and performs all the computer tasks. It is a processor or microprocessor and has 2 component parts – the Control unit (CU) and the Arithmetic and Logic Unit (ALU)

The position of the system unit in relation to the monitor and keyboard depends on the type of microcomputer. On desktop personal computers (PCs), the system unit is usually a component separate from the monitor and keyboard. On notebook personal computers (laptops), the keyboard and mouse occupy the area on top of the system unit and the monitor attached to the system unit by a hinge. On hand-held or palmtop computers (such as a Personal Digital Assistance – PDA), the system unit usually occupies the entire device as the screen is part of the device.


In our other Information Technology posts, you will find:


What exactly is Information Technology (IT)?

What is WWW?

Information and Communication Technology (ICT): The 21st Century Skills for an Information System Age

Computer network technology services for distance learning programs

Computer Peripherals

Computer peripherals is described as the hardware computer parts that are connected to the system unit and controlled by the computer microprocessor. Examples of computer peripherals are the computer keyboard, the computer mouse, the computer monitor, disk drive, printer, and joysticks. They are made up of input devices, output devices, secondary storage devices, and data communication devices.


Input devices of the Computer Hardware

Computer Hardware - Input devices
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Any data entered into the computer is called an input like name, address, mobile phone number, etc. The input device is any computer hardware component that enables a user to enter data, programs, and commands into the CPU (Central Processing Unit) of a computer.

The 2 commonest examples of input devices are the computer keyboard and the computer mouse. Other examples of input devices are a scanner, joystick, puck, stylus, digitizer, touch-screen, Magnetic Input Character Recognition (MICR), light pen, microphone, mouthpiece, Optical Mark Reader (OMR), Bar Code Reader (BCR), Optical Character Recognition (OCR), digital camera (digital camcorder or digicam), trackball, and digital video camera


Examples of Input Devices of the Computer Hardware


The Computer keyboard

A keyboard is an input device of the computer hardware of a set of typewriter-like keys that enables data in form of numbers (such as 0, 1, 2, etc.); letters (such as A, B, C, etc.); symbols (such as +, =, /, &,  –, etc.); commands, diagrams, etc., to be imputed into the computer.

The computer keyboard has 4 types. The 4 types of computer keyboard are ordinary keyboard, enhanced keyboard, super-enhanced, and the standard keyboard.

There are 5 divisions or sections of the computer keyboard. They are the Alphanumeric keys; the Numeric keys or Numeric keypad (or Calculator keys); the Cursor-control keys (or Text-editing keys); the Special keys, and the Function keys


 The Computer Mouse

A computer mouse is an input device of the computer hardware that allows commands to be sent to the computer by using the pointer to click. That is to say that a computer mouse is pointing, clicking, dragging, and dropping device. Primarily for children and younger learners, it can be defined as the input device of computer hardware that fits comfortably under the palm of a hand.

The mouse pointer is a small arrow that moves on the computer monitor or screen that can be clicked to select a program

The computer mouse functions by rolling the rubber ball at the base on a mouse pad to start a movement of the mouse pointer in any direction.

There are 3 buttons for a modern computer mouse. They are the left or default button; the right or short-cut menu button and the scroll or middle button which is like a small wheel. These buttons are used to perform clicks (single, double, and right-clicks) as well as dragging. Drag means to click and hold the mouse button while moving the mouse.

There are 3 types of the computer mouse, namely: optical mouse, mechanical mouse, and optomechanical mouse.

A mouse performs 3 tasks or functions. It is used to draw and paint pictures as well as select an object on the computer screen of the monitor.



A scanner is an input device that sends prepared texts, scanned images and pictures, (such as photos, logos, drawings, diagrams) into the computer system and converts them into a file. It works like a photocopier.



The joystick is an input device used for playing games on the computer. It moves the cursor and other objects on the screen similar to the way a computer mouse works.



The microphone is a device used to input recorded voice data into the computer and then change the voice data to digital signals and stores it.


Light pen

The light pen is an input device of the computer hardware that selects objects on a display screen by directly pointing to the objects with the pen. It uses a light-sensitive detector to select an object on the screen. It selects objects on the screen similar to the way a computer mouse works.



Touch-screen is a computer screen designed to detect and recognize the location of a touch on its surface and it recognizes input data when pointed and pressed against an object on the screen.



The stylus is a pen used with tablets, smartphones, and PDAs for graphic drawings by touching the surface of the computer device with the tip of the pen. Selections and commands can be controlled by pressing a button on the stylus or pressing the stylus against the screen surface. A stylus can have a cord or be cordless.



A puck is a mouse-like input device of the computer hardware with buttons used for selecting items and choosing commands on graphic tablets. It is usually used in engineering applications. It has a clear plastic section extending from one end with crosshairs printed on it.


Digital Camera (digicam)

It is used to capture and store pictures electronically on the computer. It is used to input both motion and static pictures.


Digital Video Camera

A digital video camera is an input device that enables us to record video in a format that we can save on the computer.



The trackball is a pointing input device that produces horizontal and vertical movements on the screen. Compared to a computer mouse resting on its back, the trackball consists of a ball resting on two rollers at right angles to each other.


Optical Mark Reader (OMR)

It is used to sense the presence of a pencil or pen mark on a paper medium. Optical Mark Reader is common with multiple-choice examination answer sheets.


Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

Optical Character Recognition is used in entering printed characters (data) on paper and defining their shapes by detecting dark and light patterns on the paper.


Magnetic Input Character Recognition (MICR)

Magnetic Input Character Recognition used in entering printed characters (data) on magnetic surfaces and determining their shapes by detecting dark and light patterns on the surface.


Digitizer or Frame grabber

A digitizer or Frame grabber is an input computer hardware used in computer graphics that uses a video camera to capture, copy and store video images (such as one from the videotape or TV.


Barcode Reader

Barcode represents data input data in a form readable by a machine. It is a pattern of parallel bars and spaces carrying information. A barcode reader is one of the most efficient means of obtaining data automatically.


Output devices of the Computer Hardware

Computer Hardware - Output devices
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Output devices are pieces of computer hardware component that shows the result of processing operations or data transformations and manipulations (information) produced by the computer and sent to the users.

Output information from the Central Processing Unit (CPU) is in the form of electronic signals which need to be converted into forms (alphanumerical, numerical, audio-visual, and graphical forms) that can be understood by humans.

The output information can be obtained through the following devices: From a computer or TV screen (monitor); in printed form (printer); in graphical form (plotters); in an audible sound form (speakers), and through other output devices (like the modem and headphone)


Examples of Output Devices of the Computer Hardware


The Computer monitor or Video Display Terminal (VDT)

A monitor or Video Display Terminal (VDT) is a TV screen-like output computer hardware that displays texts (characters), pictures, and videos (graphics) and produces a soft copy. The display of information on the screen is usually facilitated by the cathode-ray tube (CRT) or the liquid crystal displays (LCD) components.

The monitor has 2 connecting cables. One connects to the source of power while the other to the system unit. Computer monitors are the commonest output device of the hardware.

There are 2 types of monitors. One is monochrome monitor and the other is colour monitor.


The Computer Printer

The Computer Printer is an output computer device that transfers or copies processes data (information) in form of texts and graphics from the computer onto paper. The paper copy of the information printed is called the hard copy (or printout)

The computer printer has 2 connecting cables just like a monitor. One connects to the source of power while the other to the system unit.

There are generally 2 types of printers. They are impact printers and non-impact printers.


The Speaker

The speaker is an output device that produces sounds (audio) outputs in form of speeches, music, and other sound information.  Speakers are either internally built into the computer system or separately outside the computer as external speakers



A plotter is an output computer hardware used to produce precise and good quality graphics and drawing under the control of the computer system. They are useful in creating maps, architectural drawings, and charts.



The modem is an output device that transfers data from the telephone lines to the computer (modulation) and transfers data from the computer back to the telephone line.


Headphone and earphone

It is an output device that produces audio or sound output in a similar way to a microphone. It differs from the microphone in the sense that it is hung to the head and slotted into the ear openings (for the earphone).


Secondary storage devices of the Computer Hardware

Computer Hardware: Secondary Storage Devices
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Secondary storage devices are computer hardware outside the system unit used to save data, instruction, and information from the computer. They include are floppy disk (diskette), CD-ROM disc, DVD-ROM disc, and flash disk.


Examples of Secondary storage devices of the computer hardware


Floppy Disk (Diskette)

The floppy disk can be used to save data, instructions, and information from the computer and transfer it to another computer device and create small backups. Information in the floppy disk is read through a floppy disk drive (FDD) in the system unit.

Floppy disks were occasionally used to store a computer’s operating system (OS), application software, and other data before the hard disks in personal computers were popularized. Floppy disks come in two sizes – the 51/4-inch and 31/2-inch and they are square-shaped.


CD-ROM and DVD-ROM Discs

CD-ROM Discs stands for Compact-Disc-Read-Only-Memory Disc is just like a compact disc (CD). CD-ROM Discs are circular in shape and can save a large amount of data from the computer than the floppy disk. Information in CD-ROMs is also transferable from one computer to another.

DVD-ROM Discs stands for Digital Versatile Disc-Read Only Memory. A DVD-ROM disc is similar in size and shape to a CD-ROM disc but can store a larger amount of data and information. Information CD-ROM and DVD-ROM Discs can be accessed by the in the DVD-ROM drive in the system unit of the computer. CD-ROM and DVD-ROM Discs are circular-shaped.


 Flash disks (or USB flash disks/drives or pen drives)

Flash disk (or USB flash disk/drive or pen drive) has become a popular secondary storage device replacing the use of floppy disks because it is small, portable, and long-lasting. Flash disks can store a larger quantity of information compared to diskettes and CD-ROM and DVD-ROM discs.

Flash disks can transfer data and information from one computer device to another and can be a very useful way of storing data for future use.


Computer Network and Data communication Devices

Computer Hardware - Computer Cables
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Computer network and data communication service devices are physical components of Information Technology (IT) service infrastructure including the setup and maintenance of equipment like modems, routers, computer servers, telephone (phone) systems, computer cables, and other individual devices like laptops.


Some examples of Computer Network and Data communication Devices


The Phone System

Phone system technology enables users to use a Private Branch Exchange (PBX) in a business, workplace, or school set up to control voice and video calls (place and receive calls, transfer calls, and mute and unmute calls) in the cloud without using expensive and complicated equipment.

Apart from the management of calls, the phone system also enables messaging and online communication and collaboration using supportive consoles like mobile devices, a headset with a laptop or PC, and an IP phone.


The Router

A router is a computer internet and data communication hardware device designed to receive, analyse, convert data packets or move them to another network interface. It forwards data packets between computer networks and performs traffic directing functions on the Internet.


Computer Cables

The computer cables are used to connect different parts of the computer system hardware like the monitor, mouse, keyboard, printer, system unit together.

The computer cables are used to transfer data at high speeds within the input and output components or devices of the computer. Power cable, USB Cable, Audio Cables, Video (VGA) Cables, Telephone Cable, Network Cable, and Mouse and Keyboard Cables


Power Cable

A computer power cable with a 3-hole female connector is used to connect the system unit to an electrical outlet on the wall. All electronic devices that used alternating current come with a power cable.


USB Cable

USB cables are used to connect new devices to a computer or computer devices like the keyboard, mouse, webcam, portable hard-drive, printer, mobile phone, scanner.


Audio Cables

Audio cables are used to connect microphones and speakers to the computer. The most common audio cable is the standard headphone jack known as a TSR connector.


Video Cable or VGA Cable

The Video Cable or VGA Cable is one of the most common video connectors for computer monitors. The video cable with a 15-pin male connector is used to connect a monitor to a computer.


Telephone Cable (also called RJ11)

The telephone cable (RJ11) has 4 wires and a connector has 4 pins. The connector has a clip at the top to help maintain a tight connection. The telephone cable is used to connect a computer to the internet through the modem.


Network Cable (or Ethernet cable or RJ45)

The network or Ethernet cable connector has 8 wires and a clip to help maintain a tight connection like a phone connector. The network cable, which is similar to a telephone but only in thickness and width, is used for networking.


Mouse and Keyboard Cables

A mouse and a keyboard cable both have a male connector with 6 pins used to connect them to a computer.

A mouse cable connector and a keyboard cable connector look alike but the colours are different. A mouse cable connector is usually green in colour and a keyboard cable connector is usually purple in colour.


This blog on ‘Computer Hardware and Component Parts’ is categorized under Information Technology Education.

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