Do You Know The Main PC Parts And What They Do?

Summary: This brief article discusses the main components of a computer. Knowing more about the parts in a computer can help users analyze problems and make simple DIY repairs and upgrades. To learn more or for assistance, contact GEEK-AID Computer and Network Support at to discuss IT maintenance for your home or small business computer system.

Most computer users do not think much about how their machines work. The operations of PCs are taken for granted until a problem arises. Many people could not offer a good definition of what a computer is and how it works. Wikipedia ( defines a computer as “a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations (computations) automatically. Modern digital electronic computers can perform generic sets of operations known as programs. These programs enable computers to perform a wide range of tasks.” The definition is simple but doesn’t do justice to the complex, electronic hardware miracles inside a computer that work together to perform complicated tasks.

PC Parts and What They Do

There are several basic components to computers: a central processing unit (CPU), a motherboard, a graphic processing unit (graphics card or video card) or GPU, a storage drive (solid state or hard drive) and RAM chips. These components can vary in appearance and power, depending on the brand. However, they are all common in modern-day computers.

What is a Motherboard?

A motherboard is a main circuit board through which all computer components communicate. Just as a mother “manages” her children, a motherboard is the circuitry hub that coordinates all computer functions.

The CPU and Motherboard Form a Team

Working in tandem and directly plugged into the motherboard is the central processing unit or CPU. The CPU, also called the computer’s “brain,” retrieves, translates and executes instructions for computer functions. Like motherboards, CPUs communicate directly with components to coordinate computing operations. Think of CPUs as the brains and motherboards as the brawn.

GPUs Bring Computing to Life

Users cannot visualize all the processing done in the CPU and communicated through the motherboard without a graphics processing unit (GPU), also known as a graphics card or video card. GPUs can communicate with monitors directly and display the text, video or images in a real-world format viewed by users. Graphic designers, gamers and 3-D designers require powerful GPUs and high-end monitors to create high-definition displays. Many motherboards have GPUs already built into their circuitry.

Storage Devices

Much of today’s data storage is based in the Cloud. However, local storage of data is still crucial to working with computers. The two main types of retained data storage are hard drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs). SSDs are quickly becoming more popular than HDDs. Though cheaper than SSDs, HDDs have moving mechanical parts that can wear out over time. SSDs have no moving parts, are faster than HDDs and do not require a physical arm to scan a spinning storage disk to find and retrieve data.


Random access memory, commonly known as RAM or volatile memory, is not permanent storage. It is temporary data storage in which memory chips hold data that is made available to computers while they are in use. Once a computer is restarted, all data previously stored in RAM is erased.

The Power Supply

A computer’s power supply converts electricity from a wall outlet to the correct power required to drive the computer and its components. To repair or replace a power supply, users should unplug the computer and discharge any static electricity they might have by touching a grounded metal object not connected to the computer. Strong enough static electricity can damage the internal circuitry.

Network Cards and Bluetooth Adapters

Network cards and Bluetooth adapters are components built into most modern motherboards.


A computer port is an interface that enables the connection of peripheral devices. The most common ports included with computers are:

It is prudent for users to understand what computers are and the main components that drive them. Having insights into “what does what” is valuable. However, most users should not engage in DIY computer repairs without expanded IT knowledge. An untrained operator can do much damage to a computer while trying to repair a problem. An inadvertent electrical short can sometimes burn out the motherboard or other vital components. When unsure of what steps to take for an installation, upgrade or repair, it is well worth the expense to enlist the help of an IT consulting service.