Abbreviated as HW, hardware is best described as any physical component of a computer system containing a circuit board, ICs, or other electronics. A perfect example of hardware is the screen on which you are viewing this page. Whether it be a monitor, tablet, or smartphone, it is hardware.
Without any hardware, your computer would not exist, and software could not be used. The picture is a Logitech webcam, an example of an external hardware peripheral. This hardware device allows users to take videos or pictures, and transmit them over the Internet.
External hardware examples
Below is a list of external hardware or hardware found outside a computer.
- Flat-panel, monitor, and LCD
- USB thumb drive
Internal hardware examples
Below is a list of internal hardware or hardware found inside a computer.
- CPU (central processing unit).
- Drive (e.g., Blu-ray, CD-ROM, DVD, floppy drive, hard drive, and SSD).
- Fan (heat sink)
- Network card
- Power supply
- Sound card
- Video card
What is the most common hardware included with a computer?
- Processor (CPU)
- One or more fans and heat sink
- Motherboard that most likely has an integrated video card, sound card, and network card.
- For most desktop computers (especially gaming computers), a separate video card is used.
- Hard drive
- Power supply
- Cables that connect internal components and external peripherals.
- Mouse or touchpad with a laptop.
- Flat-panel, monitor, or TV for desktop computers and LCD as part of a laptop.
How does hardware communicate with software?
For any hardware device to communicate (talk) with software and other hardware in the computer, instructions must be given to the computer. These instructions are included in drivers that are either part of the operating system or installed into the computer after adding the hardware. Hardware may also use firmware, which is data stored on the hardware device that allows it to work with a computer or by itself.
What are hardware upgrades?
A hardware upgrade is any new hardware better than that which it replaced or additional hardware that improves performance. An example of a common hardware upgrade is a RAM upgrade, where the user increases the computer's total memory. Another example is a video card upgrade, which is the act of removing an old video card and replacing it with a newer, more powerful model.
Where can I buy computer hardware?
There many locations to buy computer hardware today. Many local computer retail stores and repair shops have hardware available in stock that can be purchased immediately. However, for more options and lower prices in most cases, it is generally better to buy hardware online.
Can hardware run without software?
Most hardware cannot run without software or some form of instructions programmed into the firmware. Hardware that does not require software are very basic devices. For example, a basic pair of headphones require no software or instructions because they're only passing the audio from a computer to your ears. However, more sophisticated headphones (e.g., wireless headphones) require instructions for connecting wirelessly to a computer.
When was hardware first created?
If you think of hardware as any device with moving parts, hardware could be said to be first created as early as 2700 B.C. with the first abacus. However, most think of hardware as something containing a mechanical component, which means the Antikythera mechanism constructed between 200 and 60 B.C. would be the first hardware device.
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