Hardware (H/W), in the context of technology, refers to the physical elements that make up a computer or electronic system and everything else involved that is physically tangible. This includes the monitor, hard drive, memory and the CPU. Hardware works hand-in-hand with firmware and software to make a computer function.
Hardware is an encompassing term that refers to all the physical parts that make up a computer. The internal hardware devices that make up the computer and ensure that it is functional are called components, while external hardware devices that are not essential to a computer’s functions are called peripherals.
Hardware is only one part of a computer system; there is also firmware, which is embedded into the hardware and directly controls it. There is also software, which runs on top of the hardware and makes use of the firmware to interface with the hardware.
External hardware examples
Below is a list of external hardware or hardware that is found outside of your computer that may be found with a computer.
- Flat-panel, monitor, and LCD
- USB thumb drive
Internal hardware examples
Below is a list of internal hardware or hardware that is found inside your computer and may be found in 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?
Below is a list of the most common hardware you’d likely find inside a computer or connected to a computer today (desktop computer or laptop).
- 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.
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.