Differences Between Computer Hardware And Networking

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 September 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.

Computer hardware consists of components that a computer requires to operate. Computer networks are groups of interconnected computing devices, such as independent computers and nodes, to communicate, receive and transfer data and resources. If you are new to computer science or want to improve your knowledge in the field, you can benefit from learning the basics of hardware and networking. In this article, we discuss the definitions of computer hardware and networking, list their components and find out the key differences between the two.

Differences Between Computer Hardware And Networking

Computer hardware and networking refer to the physical devices within a computer and the networks that connect them to share resources and exchange data with each other. A computer system's hardware consists of its physical and tangible components. This comprises the motherboard, the central processing unit (CPU), random access memory (RAM), read-only memory (ROM), power supply unit and hard disk drive (HDD).

Computer networking refers to a combination of connected computing devices, such as laptops, servers and smartphones, along with various network devices, communication protocols and Internet of Things (IoT) devices that interact with one another such as audio or visual systems, sensors, cameras and thermostats.

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

What Is A Computer Hardware?

The hardware of the computer stores and executes software instructions. The two categories of hardware are internal hardware and external hardware. A computer's internal hardware consists of components crucial to its operation. External hardware comprises devices attached to a computer that add or enhance its functionality and provide additional features. The components of computer hardware include:

Internal hardware

Internal hardware comprises devices located inside a computer. This includes the hardware that processes data and communicates with secondary storage and display devices. Some examples of internal hardware components include:

CPU

CPU, also known as the central processor, is an integral part of a computer system. It contains the circuitry required to process the input, store the data and provide the output. The CPU comprises three major units:

  • Arithmetic Logic Unit: The arithmetic logic unit (ALU) is an important part of the CPU that performs mathematical, logical and decision-based operations.

  • Control Unit: The control unit (CU) is circuitry that directs the operations of the processor and produces control signals to execute different operations.

  • Memory Unit: The memory unit stores all the data and instructions required for processing, using bits to store binary information.

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GPU

The graphical processing unit (GPU) is a specialised processor designed to render images and videos by performing rapid mathematical operations. Compared to CPUs, GPUs can perform multiple calculations simultaneously across numerous data streams due to the number of cores and parallel computing architecture that they use. GPUs are useful for gaming, video editing, machine learning and cryptocurrency mining.

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RAM and ROM

Memory is an essential component of computer systems and comprises RAM and ROM. RAM is a volatile memory that stores files temporarily, which is lost on the shutdown of the computer. In this memory, the CPU stores the programs and data it requires to execute a program. If you request a file or information, the computer retrieves it either from its storage disk or from the Internet. Users can easily change, upgrade or expand RAM.

A ROM is a non-volatile memory that stores information crucial to the operation of a computer system. It stores the instructions permanently, which the users cannot override or modify.

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Motherboard

A motherboard connects all computer components together and facilitates communication between each of them, which makes it one of the most essential parts of a system. It facilitates the communication between several components, such as the CPU, RAM and other hardware components. The components of a motherboard include the CPU chip, basic input/output system (BIOS), power supply connector, cooling system, clock generator, parallel ports, peripheral component interconnect (PCI) and complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) battery.

External hardware

The external hardware or peripheral components of a computer are items connected externally to a computer to control inputs or outputs. Some examples of external hardware components include:

Mouse

A mouse is a hand-held device that controls the cursor movement on a computer screen. It helps to select, hover, drag-and-drop files, folders and text and open and execute a program. The cursor on the display screen moves in the same direction as users move the mouse.

Keyboard

A keyboard is a primary input device that enables users to enter data into a computer. There are multiple buttons and special keys that produce numbers, symbols and letters and perform different operations. There are various types of keyboards, such as mechanical keyboards, wireless keyboards, virtual keyboards and ergonomic keyboards.

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Monitor

Monitors are electronic output devices, also known as video display units (VDUs) that display different media such as images, audio, video and graphics with the help of the video card of a computer. Modern computer monitors usually have higher levels of colour accuracy, high refresh rates, high resolutions, full high definition (HD) support and additional features. This makes monitors ideal for work, graphic design, displaying data and making powerful presentations.

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What Is A Computer Network?

A computer network consists of multiple computers that share information with each other. It helps in communicating messages, sharing files, accessing and maintaining information and sharing operating programs on remote networks. There are various types of computer networks, ranging from local area networks (LANs) to enterprise private networks. The components of a computer network include:

  • Network interface card: A network interface controller (NIC) card is a hardware component that connects a computer to a network.

  • Hub: A hub is a common point between various computers, enabling their communication over a network.

  • Switch: Switches connect devices such as computers and wireless access points and exchange packets of data between them in a network.

  • Repeater: A repeater is an electronic device that receives and amplifies an incoming signal before retransmitting it.

  • Router: A router is a switching device for networks responsible for routing network packets to other networks or devices.

  • Modem: Modem is the modulator de-modulator abbreviation and comprises devices that transfer data from one network to another through telephone lines after converting them from digital mode to analogue mode.

  • Server: Servers provide data, resources, services or programs to other computers called clients via a network.

  • Bridge: Bridges connect two or more networks in computer networks and create a single network by connecting two or more communication networks.

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Other Differences Between Computer Hardware And Networking

Computer hardware and networking are two separate components that build a computer system. Below are some differences between them:

Utility

Computer hardware comprises physical devices that make a computer system work. A computer network comprises software and protocols that enable a set of computers to communicate with each other. The primary function of computer hardware is to support functions such as processing, communication, secondary storage and input and output. The main purpose of a computer network is to exchange data and share resources with other computing devices.

Related: How To Become A Network Engineer: A Complete Guide

Software

Hardware and software are both essential to the operation of a computer system. Computer hardware works in sync with various computer software to make a computer system work. The software required for computer networks assists in their operations, design, monitoring and application. That includes network storage software, asset management software, security surveillance software, data archiving software and patch management software.

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Hardware

Hardware devices include keyboards, monitors, CPU, ON/OFF switches, universal serial bus (USB) devices, analogue-to-digital converters, hard drives and printers. It also contains block devices, which are non-volatile, such as hard disks, floppy disks and CD-ROMs. The components in a network include cables and connectors, network interface cards, modems, routers and hubs. The interconnection of these devices facilitates the interconnecting between any number of devices, enabling easier communication and sharing of resources.

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Advantages

Hardware facilitates communication between different parts of a computer system and helps reduce costs, provides endless possibilities, such as feature upgrades and data monetisation and increases employee morale when using computers. Computer networks help build business connections, share files, resources and Internet connections in a cost-effective way and also help increase storage capacity. Together, they are responsible for faster problem-solving, faster file sharing, increasing storage capacity and making operations more efficient and effective.

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