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As a PC technician, it is very important that you understand the common components of a computer. The following table contains the three basic elements that make up a computer:

Term Definition
Hardware The physical components that work together to make a computer system or network. Hardware components include:
  • Keyboard, mouse, monitor, printer
  • Connectors and cables
  • Drives
  • Circuit boards
Software Computer programs that perform specific tasks. Software components include:
  • Operating System
  • Program applications
  • Hardware drivers (special programs that tell the operating system how to use the hardware)
Firmware Software that has been permanently placed in a hardware component. An example of firmware is a BIOS chip.

Computers perform the functions listed in the following table:

Function Description
Input The process of sending data to the computer. Input devices include:
  • Mouse
  • Keyboard
  • Touchscreen
Processing The event of a program being loaded, retrieved, transmitted, or executed. Major processing components include:
  • CPU (Central Processing Unit)
  • RAM
Storage The act of keeping or maintaining data. Storage devices include:
  • Hard disk drive
  • Floppy disk drive
  • Optical drives (CD-ROM, DVD)
  • Flash drives
Output The process of the computer presenting, displaying, or otherwise giving data. Output devices include:
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Printing
Networking and Communications Networking is a specialized form of input and output that entails using media (cable) and devices (routers, switches) to link multiple computers into an interconnected unit.

Modern PC repair and maintenance is facilitated by increasing componentization and standardization.

  • Because of componentization, a working PC is a combination of many different parts. Each component, also called a Field-Replaceable Unit (FRU), can be replaced when faulty or upgraded to provide additional functionality. Replacing a single component is cheaper than replacing the entire PC. And in most cases, replacing the component is easier and cheaper than repairing the component.
  • Because of standardization, components from many different manufacturers are interchangeable. As long as the component meets the standards, you can be reasonably confident that it will work in the system.