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Hardware (Computer Hardware)

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Definition: Hardware, in the computer world, refers to the physical components that make up a computer system.

There are many different kinds of hardware that can be installed inside, and connected to the outside, of a computer.

Take a tour inside your PC to learn how all the hardware in your computer connects together to create the complete computer system you use everyday.

Here are some common individual computer hardware components that you'll often find inside a modern computer case:

Here is some common hardware that you might find connected to the outside of a computer:

Here is some less common computer hardware, either because these pieces are now usually integrated into other devices or because they've been replaced with newer technology:

  • Sound Card
  • Network Interface Card (NIC)
  • Expansion Card (Firewire, USB, Thunderbolt, etc.)
  • Hard Drive Controller Card
  • Analog Modem
  • Scanner
  • Floppy Disk Drive
  • Joystick
  • Webcam
  • Microphone
  • Tape Drive
  • Zip Drive

The following hardware is referred to as network hardware and various pieces are often part of a home or business network:

  • Digital Modem (e.g. Cable Modem, DSL Modem, etc.)
  • Router
  • Network Switch
  • Access Point
  • Repeater
  • Bridge
  • Print Server
  • Firewall

Network hardware isn't as clearly defined as some other types of computer hardware. For example, many home routers will often act as a combination router, switch, and firewall.

In addition to all the items listed above, there's more computer hardware that I like to call auxiliary hardware, of which a computer might have none, or several, of some kinds:

  • Fan (CPU, GPU, Case, etc.)
  • Heat Sink
  • Data Cable
  • Power Cable
  • CMOS Battery
  • Daughterboard

In Microsoft Windows, hardware resources are managed by Device Manager.

Examples:
"I'm a huge fan of 3D video games so I regularly update my video card hardware to support the requirements of these kinds of games."
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