What Are The Seven Basic Parts Of A Computer?

Chris Myers is a field service technician for Tech Experts.

People usually notice performance issues in their computers after five to six years. When that starts to be the case, a hardware upgrade can be a real boost to both performance and the computer’s lifespan. Where do you even begin when upgrading a computer, though?

Even though their inner workings can seem complicated, computers are actually made up of a few key parts.

Core Upgradable Components – RAM
Random-access memory comes in small removable cards (or “sticks”) that are inserted into the computer’s motherboard. RAM modules usually come between two and four gigabytes each, used in sets of two.

In a computer, RAM holds the code and data actively used by the CPU. Every program you have open takes up a certain amount of space in RAM. For example, using an Internet browser with 8 tabs open takes about 1 gigabyte of RAM.

Using up 95-100% of RAM capacity will usually cause the computer to crash, so it’s something you want to avoid. Adding more RAM to a computer will allow the user to have more programs running at once.

Hard Drive
The hard disk drive (HDD) stores the operating system and all user files on several small disks, called platters, stacked on top of each other. They are read by a mobile arm, much like record players.

Hard drive performance is determined by how much data the manufacturer is able to fit on each platter (areal density) and how fast the platters spin (RPM). Usually, the only public number is the RPM, either 5400 or 7200. A 7200 RPM hard drive is about 30% faster than a 5400 RPM one.

If you want real performance though, you need a solid state drive (SSD). Solid state drives are five times faster than 7200 RPM hard drives. They just have a little less storage capacity and can be more expensive.

Graphics Card
The graphics processing unit (GPU) handles graphics and image processing. Most business computers don’t have one since they just use database or word-processing applications. However, if you use any graphics intensive programs like computer-aided design (CAD), computer-generated imagery (CGI), or digital content creation (DCC), you will see a massive performance boost after installing a graphics card.

Other Parts In A Computer – CPU
The Central Processing Unit is the core of the computer. Every action taken by the user or a program is processed one-by-one in a CPU thread. Modern CPUs have multiple cores so that it can have more threads running at once. Four cores are the standard amount now.

CPUs are the main source of low performance on older PCs, especially if they were bought for a fairly low price to begin with. However, changing a CPU often requires changing the motherboard as well. Therefore, it is not a cost effective solution versus buying a new computer.

The motherboard is a large circuit board that all other PC components connect to. It is basically the framework that turns all of those pieces into a working computer.

The case refers to the outer shell around all of the components. Most cases come with several cooling fans installed. The main thing to remember about cases is that the smaller the case, the hotter the computer will be.

Power Supply
A small box with its own fan that runs power cables to all of the other parts. More expensive computers usually come with better power supplies, which is a good thing considering the severe damage that can occur when a power supply fails.