What is Computer Hardware – Understanding Computers and How They Work

If you are new to computers, you may have wondered what is computer hardware and how is it different from computer software? Put simply, the hardware is physical equipment, everything that allows the software to function. Aside from the cover components such as case and keyboard, the mouse, the program disks and books, hardware would include all “mechanical, magnetic, electronic and electrical components that make up your system”. (Ref: wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn). Power supplies, floppy disks, digital video drives, flash drives, joysticks, cables, wires and audio components are considered to be “hardware” for computer use.

Computer hardware includes all assorted devices that allow capturing and storage of data, that carry out operations or any series of operations on that data, or that produce control outputs. Computer software, on the other hand, is any of your computer’s self-contained or external programs and databases. Computers normally come pre-loaded with operational and some functional software when you purchase them.

Within hardware, there is a lot of variety from which to choose. For example, keyboards can be standard, with or without accessory numeric keypads, they can be split or otherwise ergonomically designed. The mouse also has been modernized from a two click to a wheel style scroll button mouse. External accessory drives are available in many capacities and sizes. Flash drives are available with a range of storage capacity.

What is computer hardware? It is anything you are able to see and touch (from the outside), and interior physical components like the motherboard or drive mechanisms. Software, although you may see and touch the actual disks data is contained on, is neither visible nor touchable. Compare it to your thoughts versus your brain.

Easily visible hardware includes your central processing unit (CPU), speakers, monitor, mouse, screen, cords, and mouse pad. These make up the actual unit. Peripheral devices (hardware) would be your floppy disks, hard drive, floppy drive, CDs, CD drive, and random access memory (RAM) boards. Some of these are removable and/or can be shared and mailed. USB connectors, motherboards, routers and modems are also considered computer hardware.

Computer hardware and software are highly developed and protected materials. Operating systems have evolved along with the computers to be used with ease by most operators. What used to fill entire buildings can now sit on your lap! Larger systems are created for commercial, business, and government use.

There is one more situation to acknowledge, and that is the use of external hardware not located at your computer. This is where you have purchased, for example, a website from a host company, and you are using their equipment accessed remotely from your computer via the internet. You rent space on their computer, benefit from using their equipment, hardware and software far more expensive and intricate than you would have at home. It works well as needed, for website design, back up data storage, and off site data storage.

So, the next time someone asks you “what is computer hardware”, you will be able to answer the question!