IT For Beginners: Guide to Desktop Computer Parts

Computers are an integral part of today’s society. It’s virtually impossible to get through the day without using some type of computer in either your personal or your professional activities. A desktop computer is a specific type of computer that generally sits in one place, as opposed to a laptop or tablet, both of which are portable. Both hardware and software make up a desktop computer system to enable you to use it for business or entertainment.

Tower (Case)

The tower or case of a desktop computer is the cabinet that houses the computer itself. Sometimes computer cases are horizontal to enable the user to fit them on a shelf more easily. However, vertical towers are the typical configuration for most desktops. Tower cases are usually made out of metal and plastic. Some people keep the tower on an actual desktop, but it can also sit on a bookshelf or even on the floor.


The motherboard might also be called the main board. The motherboard is the primary circuit board of a computer. The motherboard supplies power to the central processing unit and every other hardware component installed on a computer. Through the motherboard, these components work together to perform processes.


The processor of a computer is often called the CPU, or the central processing unit. Think of the processor as the brains of the unit. This is the internal part of the computer responsible for computing and calculating information. The processor may be an integral part of the computer, but it is quite small in size. The CPU fits snugly into its corresponding socket on the motherboard.

Memory (RAM)

RAM is an acronym that stands for “random access memory.” RAM may also be called short-term memory. RAM enables a computer to execute processes. Therefore, the more RAM a computer has, the more processes it can complete at one time and the faster it can complete them. Any information contained in the RAM disappears when the computer is turned off.

Hard Drive

The hard drive of a computer is the place where the system stores all programs installed on the computer and all data entered into it. To use software, you must install it on the computer’s hard drive. Once it’s there, the hard drive will retrieve all information needed to run the program. Hard drives vary in capacity and the speed at which they retrieve information.

Video Card

A video card might also be called a graphics card. The video card on a computer makes it possible for images to display on the screen. The video card plugs into the motherboard. Once installed, it generates images for display. Video cards come with different specifications and capabilities. An inexpensive video card may not produce high-quality graphics on a computer, while a more expensive video card should make it possible to view images at a higher level. Anyone who uses a computer to work with photographs or for gaming will need a high-quality video card.

Optical Drive

Most desktop computers come equipped with at least one optical drive. The optical drive of a computer is responsible for reading the contents on DVDs and CDs. Optical drives perform this function with a special device that spins very fast. Some optical drives spin faster than others: Slower-speed optical drives are less expensive than higher-speed drives, though they do not work as well.


The monitor consists of a screen that makes it possible to see data or programs being executed on a computer. The resolution of a monitor refers to the clarity and sharpness of the images it displays. Monitors of larger size and higher resolution have higher prices. Some of the newer monitors even have touch-screen technology, enabling the user to touch the screen to make selections.


A mouse is a hand-held device that enables the user to move the cursor around the computer screen. By moving the mouse on a flat surface, the pointer on the screen can be moved. A mouse may have two or more buttons, which you use to select and activate options on the computer screen. A single click of the left button selects an item, while a double-click can open a file or a program. Pressing and holding the left button enables you to select and move items on the computer screen.


The keyboard plugs into the desktop computer. Entering text into the computer is primarily achieved with the keyboard. The keyboard also contains special function keys that execute specific commands. Examples of function keys include the escape key and the print-screen key. Keyboards generally resemble a standard typewriter keyboard, although some newer models have ergonomic designs and additional buttons.

Introduction to Computers (PDF)