41 Different Parts of a Computer Defined
Updated Jan 6, 2021
Is your computer running slower than a turtle in molasses? Maybe you have to let your computer run overnight to complete a simple 3D render that should really only take 20-30 minutes. Or maybe your games keep lagging to the point of being unplayable? Perhaps you just want a computer upgraded with all the latest technology that makes doing your work a total pleasure.
Yes, you can run to the store and pick up the most expensive offering, plug it in, and get working or playing pretty quickly. Even though a $7,000 pre-built system will probably do a pretty great job, that money may not be spent on the right areas of the system for your needs.
If you don’t feel like paying the price of a used car for your computer, there is another option—build your own computer from the ground up. The advantages of doing so include being able to customize it to fit your exact needs. Plus, you can save a lot of money. You can expect to get more than enough power for a lot less money than the cost of a pre-built system.
Either way you choose to go, it’s imperative you know what to look for, so terminology is key. Pluralsight has put together this definitive list of different parts of a computer, and we’re not just talking about the basics such as a monitor and motherboard. We’re going deep here. So review these 41 parts of a desktop computer and get shopping (or building)!
Glossary: 41 Different Parts of a Desktop Computer
Here are 41 different parts of a desktop computer. Don’t be intimidated by the list’s length, as many of these components (especially the slots, ports, and connectors) are prebuilt into the motherboard. We’ve only included components that are still in use today, and peripherals are not included.
Analog/Digital Converter: Converts analog signals (such as sound) into binary code.
ATX Power Connector: Connects power to the motherboard. It is being phased out in favor of the microATX and mini-ITX, but is still standard in many personal computers.
Basic Input Output System (BIOS) Chips: Provides software drivers and configuration settings to support peripherals.
Card Reader: Reads/writes on a memory card that is made of flash memory chips.
Case: A cabinet in which the computer’s motherboard, power supply, drives, and other units are contained.
Central Processing Unit (CPU): The control unit that executes operations and commands.
Chipset: Provides electronic interfaces (transmitting and receiving) between all subsystems.
CMOS Battery: Contains configuration settings such as the time, date, and hard disk info.
CPU Cooler: Draws heat away from hot-running chips.
CPU Socket: Uses a series of pins to connect a CPU to the motherboard.
Dual In-Line Memory Module (DIMM) or RAM Slots: Holds memory chips on a motherboard.
DisplayPort: A digital interface connecting a computer with a monitor. It supports audio, multiple channels, packet transmission, and copy protection.
Drive Bay: The space inside a computer case where a disk drive is placed.
Ethernet Port: Where the ethernet cable is plugged into the motherboard.
Expansion Slots: Where additional computer hardware circuit boards are inserted onto a motherboard.
Fan Headers: The 3-4 pin socket on the motherboard that supplies power to a fan.
Front Panel Header: Where the hard disk connectors (power/restart button, case speaker, lights) are located on the front of the computer case.
Graphics Processing Unit (GPU): A specialized programmable processor (stand-alone card) that provides fast graphics for videos and games.
Hard Disk: The main, built-in storage medium.
HDMI Port: The socket that an HDMI cable plugs into for outputting video.
Heatsink: A cooling device on the motherboard designed to transfer heat away from the CPU.
Integrated Development Environment (IDE): Programming tools for writing applications.
Motherboard: The primary circuit board in a computer. It contains slots, ports, connectors, and a chipset.
Network Interface Card (NIC): A plug-in card that allows the transmitting and receiving of data between a computer and a local network.
Northbridge: A controller part of a chipset that interconnects the CPU to memory, built-in graphics, and PCI Express.
Peripheral Component Interconnect Extended (PCI-X) Slots: A local computer bus where PCI cards are plugged in for using peripheral add-on devices.
Power Supply Unit (PSU): The system that converts AC current (from the wall outlet) into DC currents (used in electronic circuits).
PS/2 Port: Where the keyboard or mouse is plugged in.
Random Access Memory (RAM): The “working memory” hardware that temporarily stores data that is being actively executed and processed.
Rear Ports: The physical connectors at the back of the computer case, where cables and plugs attach to the motherboard.
Serial ATA (SATA) Ports: Where the optical drives and hard drive interface connects to the motherboard.
Serial Port (Sometimes Referred to as a COM Port): A male 9-pin connector for connecting peripherals.
Solid State Drive (SSD): An all-electronic storage device.
Sound Card: A plug-in card that supports both digital audio and MIDI for recording and playing back sound. It also features input ports for peripherals such as a microphone.
Southbridge: A controller in the chipset that connects the CPU to SATA drives, USB drives, and built-in audio.
RGB Header: Where custom lighting is added to a computer case.
TOSLINK: An optical interface that provides a 125 Mbps to 1.2 Gbps data rate for digital audio connections.
Trusted Platform Module (TPM) Header: Where a microchip can be added on the motherboard to provide hardware-based cybersecurity.
Universal Serial Bus (USB) Drive: A solid-state storage module that connects to the USB port.
Universal Serial Bus (USB) Headers and Ports: The places where computer peripheral devices are plugged into the motherboard.
Video Card: A circuit board that generates images for the computer monitor.
Hopefully you find this to be a useful glossary of the different parts of a computer! After you’re done, make sure and check out our 10 “To-Dos” After Building a Computer. After upgrading your hardware, don’t forget that you can upgrade your personal skills with Pluralsight.