Ever since the advent of computer systems there has been the physical component of the machine and the intangible component. Very crudely put, the parts of a computer machine that you can touch are hardware and the parts that you cannot touch are software. The hardware provides the infrastructure for the machine to operate while the software is responsible for providing the user with information and results. Hardware consists of internal as well as external components. The internal components such as the hard drive or RAM are necessary for a computer to function while external hardware such as a printer or fingerprint reader are optional accessories.

Functions of Hardware

Simply put, hardware is anything physical that allows a computer to function. These include internal components such as a hard drive, RAM, BIOS and motherboard. These form the brain or the central processing unit of the computer where the operating system and other software carry out functions. Apart from the central processing unit, various other peripherals are attached to a computer such as a keyboard, mouse and monitor or LCD. These allow a user to effectively use the CPU.

Hardware can be categorized into input or output devices. Input devices are those that allow a user to input functions or instructions to the computer such as a keyboard or a mouse. Output devices are those that present the results of the functions and processes requested through input devices to the user. Output devices include printers and LCD monitors.

Connecting hardware

Connecting hardware used to be difficult since different peripherals had exclusive connector ports and not all computers had them resulting in lots of users being unable to use specialized hardware. However, since the advent of USB ports, virtually all peripherals can be connected using a standard connector. This has resulted in a significant increase in the different types of peripherals being manufactured and used today.

Removable devices and expansion slots

Development in the computer industry is extremely rapid and that means newer and better devices are being launched every day. This raises a problem of obsolescence and the rapidly diminishing life of computers. To address this issue, most computer cases have removable components and expansion slots that can be used to upgrade a computer. For example, if a user is running low on memory, he can simply add an additional hard drive and use the same computer. Similarly, if graphics processing power is low in a computer, a user can add a graphics processing unit to improve performance.