Components of a Computer System

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The term ‘Computer’ does not describe a single entity. Instead, a computer is a composition of various units assembled together. Generally, a computer is made up of the following basic components:

  • Hardware
  • Firmware
  • Software

Now, let us describe each component of a computer system in detail:

Hardware

‘Hardware’ refers to the tangible components of a computer system. It consists of all the physical parts and attributes of a computer system. The computer screen, keyboard, mouse, speakers, microphone, printer and scanner are all examples of hardware. There is also another type of hardware, which cannot be directly seen by the user, but which makes the computer actually run. This hardware normally resides inside the CPU chassis, and can only be viewed when the chassis is removed. Some of the more common hardware parts of the computer are:

  • Mother Board:

Also called a ‘Main Board’, ‘Logic Board’ or a ‘System Board’, the mother board is the primary circuit board that makes up the electronic system of the computer.

  • Central Processing Unit:

This is one of the main components of a computer that reads instructions, processes data, and produces an output of the calculation in computer programs.

  • Random Access Memory:

A RAM is the main memory of the digital computer where the free space is used for manipulating and displaying data. RAM is volatile memory, which means that data is lost when the computer is shut down, unless it is properly saved.

  • Power Supply:

The power supply, as the name suggests, supplies electrical energy to the computer to make it run.

  • Computer Bus:

The bus is used to transfer data, instructions, or power within the various components of a computer, or between multiple computers.

  • CD-ROM Drive:

It is a device that is used to play the CD-ROM, a kind of removable data storage device.

  • Hard Drive:

It is a type of data storage device that stores the data on rotating disks with magnetic surfaces. The hard drive can retain the data even when the power is off.

Firmware

Firmware is a kind of permanent software present inside ROM chips that controls the internal functions of hardware devices. Firmware boots up computerized or digital devices, as ROM chips are non-volatile, meaning they do not require a power source to hold their contents. This distinguishes firmware from RAM, which loses all of its stored data immediately at shutdown. Most computer devices like printers, scanners, cameras, and USB drives have their own firmware embedded inside them. Firmware may be updated, or it may be replaced in some cases.
The most common firmware in a computer system is the one present inside the Basic Input/ Output System. The BIOS chip on a motherboard holds instructions that help the hardware initialize, and the software programs of a computer including the operating system to load and run, and control the computer. To enter the BIOS setup, press either of the following directly after restarting the PC, before the operating system loads: F1, F2, Esc, or Del.

Software

Software basically means a set of instructions or data. As opposed to storage and display devices that are called hardware, software is anything that is stored electronically into a computer and that which is intangible is called software. There are further 3 kinds of software in a computer system:

  • System Software

System software is a kind of software that is responsible for managing and operating a variety of hardware components, so they can work together properly. It is also responsible for providing a platform for running the programming and application software. Examples of system software include the operating system, device drivers, servers, as well as all the utilities that help the computer function.

  • Programming Software

Programming software includes all the resources and tools that software developers use to create, maintain, debug, and support computer programs or applications. Programming software may include compilers, debuggers, linkers, interpreters, and text editors, that can be combined together in an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) to help a programmer to write computer programs and applications.

  • Application Software

Application software is a kind of software that makes the computer perform specific processes and computations for the user. Examples of application software are word processors, spreadsheet programs, and database management systems.

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11 thoughts on “Components of a Computer System”

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    1. Thank you for your nice comment. ROM does not fall into either the hardware, software or firmware category. It is actually a piece of memory (which can be virtual) that can either be part of a hardware item, or software. Firmware is stored into ROM, and sometimes some software also, which makes it quite hard to explain. There are ROM chips available though, which are hardware. Usually ROM is just built in into hardware to store the software. I did not include ROM in the article because it’s sort of confusing.

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