A desktop computer is a personal computer (PC) in a form intended for regular use at a single location, as opposed to a mobile laptop or portable computer. Prior to the wide spread of microprocessors a computer that could fit on a desk was considered remarkably small. Today the phrase usually indicates a particular style of computer case. Desktop computers come in a variety of styles ranging from large vertical tower cases to small form factor models that can be tucked behind an LCD monitor. In this sense, the term 'desktop' refers specifically to a horizontally-oriented case, usually intended to have the display screen placed on top to save space on the desk top. Most modern desktop computers have separate screens and keyboards. A specialized form of desktop case is used for home theatre systems, incorporating front-panel mounted controls for audio and video.
All-in-one computers are desktop computers that combine the monitor into the same case as the CPU. Apple has manufactured several popular examples of all-in-one computers, such as the original Macintosh of the mid-1980s and the iMac of the late 1990s and 2000s. Some older 8-bit computers, such as the Commodore PET 2001 or Kaypro II, also fit into this category. All-in-one PCs are typically more portable than other desktop PCs and many have been built with carrying handles integrated into the case. They can simply be unplugged and transported to a new location.
However, like laptops, All-in-One desktop computers tend to suffer from a comparative lack of upgradeability or hardware customization, as internal hardware is often placed in the back of the visual display unit. Furthermore, in the case of the iMac line since 2002, the CPU and other internal hardware units are, more or less, permanently glued to the motherboard due to space constraints.
Desktops have the advantage over laptops that the spare parts and extensions tend to be standardized, resulting in lower prices and greater availability. For example, the form factor of the motherboard is standardized, like the ATX form factor. Desktops have several standardized expansion slots, like PCI or PCI express, while laptops only tend to have one mini PCI slot and one PC card slot (or ExpressCard slot). This means that a desktop can be customized and upgraded to a greater extent than laptops. Procedures for (dis-)assembly of desktops tend to be simple and standardized to a great extent too. This tends not to be the case for laptops, though adding or replacing some parts, like the optical drive, rechargeable battery, hard disk, and adding an extra memory module is often quite simple.
Another advantage of desktop is, that power consumption is not as critical as in laptop computers because the desktop is powered from the wall socket. Desktop computers also provides more space for heat to escape. The two large microprocessor manufacturers Intel and AMD develop special CPUs for mobile computers (i.e. laptops) that consume less power and lower heat, but with lower performance levels.