Definition of Basic Computer Parts

Written by lou martin
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Definition of Basic Computer Parts
Computer technology expanded quickly during the latter part of the 20th century. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Micro Instrumentation Telemetry Systems introduced the first personal computer, the Altair 8800, in 1975; it inspired the formation of computer technology companies, such as Microsoft. PCs originally came in separate parts or kits. Those same basic parts that made up early PCs are still important components of today's sleeker and faster models.

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Hard Drive

A hard drive, also known as a hard disk drive, is where the computer stores data using a magnetic storage technique that's similar to how data is stored on audio cassette tapes. Hard drives are constructed of a magnetic material, usually a cobalt-alloy, which is overlaid by an aluminium or glass disk and polished to a mirror-like smoothness. Data is read and written on the hard drive using a read/write head that hovers over the hard drive. The hard drive is where everything you add or create on the computer -- such as photos, music and word processing documents -- is stored for future access.

Central Processing Unit

Considered the most important part of a computer, the CPU, also known as the central processor, is commonly referred to as just a processor. On personal computers -- such as a laptop or desktop models -- the CPU is contained on a single chip called a microprocessor. In larger computers -- such as those used by large companies and organisations -- the CPU is housed on one or more circuit boards.


Random-access memory is the part of a computer that is available for the CPU to read and write data without having to access the hard drive. RAM is volatile, meaning the data contained in the RAM part of a computer disappears once the computer is turned off. Simply put, a large amount of RAM contained on a computer results in faster processing speeds. Read-only memory is usually present in smaller capacities on a computer; it is where the computer stores programs that boot the system and run diagnostics.

Miscellaneous Parts

Computers come with many basic parts that are also important for a computer to serve the measure of its design, including a display screen, mouse, keyboard and interfaces. A display screen is the part of the computer that allows you to see the files and applications that are contained on the machine. A mouse and keyboard act interchangeably, allowing you to type, point and click as you navigate the computer's many features. Computers also come with a variety of interfaces -- such as Universal Serial Bus (USB) -- that enable you to connect peripheral devices to transfer data from one device to another.

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