14 Basic Components Of A Computer System (With Functions)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Basic computer skills are essential for professionals in all roles and industries. A computer comprises two primary components, namely hardware and software. Knowing the role and utility of different computer components can help you improve your computer skills. In this article, we discuss the different components of a computer and share their purpose in the computer system.

Related: Computer Skills: Definition And Example

What are the basic components of a computer?

Here are the fundamental components of a computer along with their functions:

1. Central processing unit (CPU)

The CPU is the primary control centre of the computer, and it facilitates communication and collaboration between different hardware and software computer components. It is also usually the most complex and valuable part of the entire system because of its complicated design and utility. Without the CPU, the other parts of a computer serve no function. The power supply gives the CPU the necessary energy to process different operations. CPUs require regular maintenance, like cleaning, dust removal, checking the fan and ensuring that all circuits are connected. The CPU contains the circuit boards, memory and RAM of a computer.

2. Motherboard

The motherboard acts as the central electrical circuit by connecting different parts, distributing power as per energy requirement and delivering information and instructions across the computer system. The motherboard processes the actual exchange of information and data in a computer system and comprises the CPU, memory and secondary storage devices. Motherboards are very sensitive and may malfunction if exposed to high temperatures, pressure or humidity. They require maintenance to check for corrosion and electrical connections.

3. Random access memory (RAM)

RAM is the memory space that houses temporary data, processes, information and commands. When you launch a program or use an application, it uses the RAM to stay active and work optimally. Different types of computers may use different RAMs. The higher the RAM in your computer, the more is its processing power and ability to run various applications simultaneously. In many personal computers and laptops, people increase the RAM to complement an update in the operating system or other software. Deleting temporary files and turning off the computer regularly after usage help with efficient RAM utilisation.

Related: How To Become A Computer Hardware Engineer: A Complete Guide

4. Video graphics array port

A video graphic array (VGA) port is a connector usually present in desktops and other display devices. It is typically present on the side or back of a monitor or display screen and helps share the screen or visuals with another machine. Special VGA cables may be required to facilitate this sharing. You may also require the VGA port to connect a computer or laptop to a projector. The quality of visuals often depends on the number of connectors in the port.

Newer video cards may not have a VGA output port, and smaller laptops may also omit them due to their compact design. In such a case, a signal converter may be necessary to connect them to a projector.

5. Power supply

The power supply port provides electricity that activates the entire computer system. Usually, the power chord is present at the back of the CPU or the PC tower and goes directly into the electricity socket. Places with variable power supplies may use a UPS or uninterrupted power supply unit to ensure that fluctuations do not impact the computer's performance. Many modern personal computers have in-built UPS units. Laptops operate on removable batteries that require charging periodically. The life cycle of laptop batteries is finite, and their performance decreases after a few years.

6. Cooling fan

A computer system or laptop uses electricity to operate and produces heat in the process. All CPUs and laptops have a cooling fan to circulate air in the internal system and prevent overheating. High-end computers may also have more than one cooling fan to ensure that the user can use heavy-duty applications that require high performance from the system. Usually, gaming computers and computers for professional purposes, like video editing and sound mixing, have more than one cooling fan. If your computer is frequently overheating, make sure you check the fan and clean it to remove any debris.

7. Hard drive

Hard drives are the storage devices that save the file, information and programs. They are usually magnetically coated discs that store all this data digitally. Hard drives with high storage can naturally save more data. You can also purchase external removable storage devices to manage data more efficiently. Alternatively, you can also move your data to cloud-based storage services and save storage memory on your system. Hard drives are susceptible to failure, and backing up your drives regularly is a good practice.

8. Display monitor

The display monitor of a computer is the screen where you can view different programs and operate the system. The resolution and pixel density of a monitor determines its sharpness and quality. The performance of a monitor is usually a top priority for all computer and laptop users. Laptop and computer screens emit artificial light that can be detrimental to your eyes if exposed for long durations without any break. You can affix an anti-glare film on your monitor or wear glasses while using the computer to minimise the effect of this light.

Related: Basic Computer Skills: Definition And Examples

9. Keyboard

The computer keyword is an important piece of hardware used to input text, characters and other important commands. The keyboard contains keys for alphabets, numerals and symbols, alongside having special keys for specific purposes and commands. In many tablets and virtual PCs, the keyboard may also be virtual. Different types of keyboards are available in the market, but most of them have the same set and arrangement of keys. A keyboard can be wireless or wired. Most keyboards also have a backlight to illuminate the keys and enable users to use the computer at night or in low-light conditions.

10. Printer

The printer generates a copy of virtual text or images on paper using ink. For example, if you make a text-based report on your computer, you can print several copies of this document. Inkjet and laser printers are the two most commonly used printers. Most leading computer companies also offer printers. Printers require maintenance, which includes regularly replacing ink cartridges and toner, removing jammed papers and cleaning connectors. 3D printers are also available, and you can produce 3D objects using the right code and raw materials.

11. Computer mouse

The mouse in a computer is a small device that controls the cursor and gives input to the system. A mouse can be wired or wireless, has left and right click-buttons and usually has a small scrolling wheel to help users navigate a long page. Mouses come in different shapes and sizes and can also be suitable for left or right-handed individuals. They usually require a flat surface to work optimally. Smaller-sized mouse devices are also available for users who want to travel with their computers or laptops.

12. System software

A computer has three crucial system software components. These software solutions act as an interface between the hardware and other applications and enable you to use the computer easily. These three crucial system software applications are:

  • Operating system: the foundational software that runs the entire computer, its programs and applications

  • Language processor: the software that converts all user instructions into a language that the computer can understand

  • Device drivers: device-specific software that enables different devices, like a printer or mouse, to function

Related: Common Operating System Interview Questions (With Sample Responses)

13. Application software

These are individual software applications that provide specific functions and features. These applications are usually third-party services and can be based on the computer system and stored in the memory or have a cloud-based operation. Without application software, a computer system would have very little utility. Some popular examples include word processing software, spreadsheet software, presentation software, database management software, editing software and other multimedia software.

14. Utility software

These are optional but important software components of a computer that help improve its performance, security or utility. These software solutions help manage the computer's memory, files and other applications. They also help customise the interface and desktop, alongside making the computer system safer to use and helping with the recovery process in case of a system failure. Some common examples of utility software applications are anti-virus software, disk management tools, file management software, backup and encryption tools, compression software, disk defragmenter and disk cleaner software.

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