What Are the Basic Hardware Components of a Computer?

The central processing unit, the random access memory and the graphics card are the basic hardware components of a computer. In some cases, the graphics card may be a built-in part of the central processing unit. All three components communicate with each other through a motherboard.

Abbreviated as CPU, the central processing unit is the brain of a computer. It executes instructions sent by programs, handles user input and distributes tasks to other components. The number of cores and the speed at which each core runs determines the processing power of a CPU. Intel is a well-known CPU manufacturer that makes CPUs for both home users and professionals.

Abbreviated as RAM, the random access memory is a type of storage that the computer can access randomly. Random in this context refers to the ability to reach a certain byte without touching the preceding bytes. The RAM stores the kind of information that the applications may need right away. The RAM of your computer stores the data related to the Web pages currently open in your browser. The computer wipes all data on the RAM when it's shut down.

The graphics card, often abbreviated as GPU, is a hardware component that handles complicated visual calculations required for high-resolution videos, complex 3-D applications, video games and image recognition applications.

Some CPUs have a built-in GPU. For instance, the Core i5 processors by Intel feature the HD Graphics GPU series. Such GPUs are ideal for users that do not need high-end graphical calculations.