What is computer hardware

What is computer hardware, define computer hardware, definition of computer hardware.

How do we know
what is computer hardware?

The question of 'what is computer hardware' is quite a common one, even nowadays there are a lot of people who don't know the definition of computer hardware.

We would like to correct that right here and now!

Believe it or not, there are there still lots of people from all walks of life who don't know what is computer hardware. Hard to believe (perhaps) in this day and age of virtually at least one Personal Computer (PC) in every home and office.

The main reason being they've never had to, or needed to, know about what is computer hardware terminology before. It's nothing to be ashamed of, you must have been one of these people at one point. But you chose to find out more to get informed and knowledgeable.

So, for those who want, or need to know exactly what computer hardware is, you can right here. Maybe it's for your personal awareness, or to help land a new of job. The reason is not important, but the fact you want to is good, as knowledge is never wasted.

Read on to find out exactly what computer hardware is and how to positively define the difference between computer hardware, firmware and software. Even if you think you know nothing about it, you may already know more than you think!

The term Personal Computer simply means a computer designed and built for one person to operate. We all have laptops and desktops at home and at work, which in a lot of cases will be essential to our work.

PC's come in quite a few different shapes and sizes, but I think the most common style we all will have come across is the tower (large size), or probably more accurately the mini (small size) or midi (medium size) tower. The size difference giving more drive bays for various uses. We'll have look into that a bit later on.

A PC is made up of multiple physical components that are all fitted together in a certain way to make up the base computer unit. Now once this is done and it can be switched on, you will then have what's called a dumb computer.

They are called dumb computers at this stage because although all the parts are working correctly electrically, they don't know what to do. But why, what's missing? When the hardware is fully assembled and operating, the computer needs an operating system.

An Operating System (OS) is software for a computer that manages the hardware and the way different programs use the hardware. The OS also regulates the ways a user can control the computer.

An operating system is software, but it's needed to control and tell all the PC's hardware what to do and at what time to do it. Different operating systems examples are like 'Windows xx' and 'Linux', either can be installed as well as a multitude of additional software to perform the operator's desired functions.

- BTW -
Some computer hardware definitions sometimes will also refer to FIRMWARE seemingly in place of hardware. Firmware refers to a computer program that's uploaded into (embedded) a hardware device. Like all programs, it can be updated and supplied on flash ROMs or as a image file (binary not picture) for uploading into existing hardware.

Firmware is not hardware, it's software but it's very closely linked to the harware it's written for.it's a computer program that's executed by a microprocessor or micro controller within the harware device. Being very closely linked its relevant hardware device, the program has no purpose outside of it.

Think of FIRMWARE as a dedicated program for a single item of hardware that can be updated. Without it the hardware is useless or dumb like the PC before the operating system is loaded on. Not to be confused with drivers though, they tell the OS how to deal with the hardware.
- BTW -

A book does provide a very useful analogy to define not only what is computer hardware, but also computer software too. You should be thinking of the cover, the pages and the ink as the hardware.

At the same time the words, sentences, paragraphs, and the storyline, ie the information held within the book would represent the software.

A computer without software is very much like having a book full of blank pages, you need the software to make the computer useful. Just the same as you need the words and story to make a book meaningful.

A big step in the definition of what is computer hardware, is actually in the name hardware. Hardware refers to any part of the computer which is manufactured. It can refer to individual components or a group of components.

Hardware refers to any and all parts on, connected to, or about the computer that you can actually physically touch. Parts like the computer case, the mouse, the monitor (display screen), the keyboard and speakers are all a good definition of computer hardware.

The list is not only limited to these, but also things like the printer and scanner. Which may have no physical wired connection to the computer itself. (Therefore being wireless and connected by a radio data link).

Hardware is any physical part of the computer, in contrast to software which is untouchable. Software exist as an electronic file or zero's and ones in memory. Which is a manifestation of ideas, concepts, operational methodology and logic, it has no substance.

But the disk or flash drive it is recorded on is hardware,

you can hold it in your hand. (And you have to plug it in!)

Software is important but not always essential for some hardware to operate. Hardware which is in need of, but without any operational software, will be about as much use as a door stop.

Having said that, some hardware does not rely on having software to operate though, it is then usual to define computer hardware like this as electronic hardware.

As this name would suggest, this hardware would operate by electronics alone, it may well need some software to interpret its output. To allow the computer to make use of the information it's giving out that is.

Lets elaborate a bit to make that clearer.
An example of electronic hardware, a mouse!

You plug it in and it works, the computer won't be affected by the mouse until it has a piece of software installed to tell the computer where to look for what the mouse is saying.

The piece of software is to allow the computer to use the mouse output and not the other way round. The piece of software is called a driver, but it is not necessary for the mouse to operate.

The mouse will operate as soon as it's plugged in and gets power. Its the computer that need the driver to hear instructions from the mouse and then translate these into movements of the cursor on the screen.

As a general rule of thumb for what is computer hardware, if you have to physically plug it in, it's hardware. If you have to install it, it's software.

A lot of hardware has some related software, sometimes this inbuilt software has to be changed to make the hardware work better, this is called an update or upgrade.

When looking at what is computer hardware, it's important to realize the hardware is the dumb bit. Plug in hardware and it will generally do what it's being told to do.

Even if that means it is doing nothing!

It's when you install the related software it comes to life as this then allows the computer to know what the hardware is doing. It also allows the computer to instruct the hardware to do much more than it could before by just being powered up.

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