Computers work by taking raw data, processing it and providing an end result. The act of putting in information is called "input," the act of storing the information for processing is called "memory," and the act of providing an end result is called "output."
A computer accepts input from users when they use things like the keyboard and mouse. A user tells a computer what it is supposed to do. The computer then stores these commands in memory, which can be a hard drive or RAM. The computer's processor takes the information the user inputs and decides what to do with it to provide an end result. When it has finished its processing, it provides an output to either a printer, monitor, speakers or other output equipment.
Computer programs, such as those that come on a CD or DVD, allow the computer to work on its own. It completes all the necessary functions necessary to do what the user wants with little or not interaction required from the user.
When looking at how a computer works, terms like software, hardware and operating system can be confusing. Software refers to a computer program like word processors, music players or photo editors. Hardware is everything the computer itself is made from. The operating system on a computer is software that allows the computer to run. Windows is an example of an operating system.