Basic computer functions

Basic parts of a computer

How to… identify the basic parts of a Computer

The basic parts of a desktop computer are the computer casemonitorkeyboardmouse, and power cord. Each part plays an important role whenever you use a computer.

If you are using a laptop rather than a desktop computer, most of these parts are built into your laptop as a single unit.

What you’ll learn:

  • The five basic parts of a desktop computer
  • What is inside a computer


Let’s break down each desktop computer part in turn, and why it is important:

1. Computer case: This contains the main components of the computer, and this is where the actual processing happens.  

2. Monitor: To view anything on your computer, you need to have a monitor. It connects to the video card inside your computer to display images and text on the screen. Most monitors have LCD or LED displays, which can be thin, so they don’t use much space.



3. Keyboard:



To interact with your computer, you need a keyboard. Keyboards come in different shapes and sizes, but they all do the same thing, allowing you to use your computer and put content, like words or numbers, onto the screen.

4. Mouse: The mouse is used to control the mouse pointer on the screen, it lets you point to objects on the screen, click on them, and move them. There are two main mouse types: optical and mechanical. The optical mouse uses an electronic eye to detect movement and is easier to clean. The mechanical mouse uses a rolling ball to detect movement and requires regular cleaning to work properly. If you are using a laptop, you may want to use the trackpad instead of a mouse.



5. Power cord: You will need a power cord to connect your computer to electricity so it can run. You can use the power cord to turn your desktop computer on, or charge the battery in your laptop

Watch this useful video showing the five parts of desktop computers:

Desktop computer


Do you want to know what is inside a computer, too?

If so, let’s take a quick look at what all the different parts do:

  • Motherboard: This is a large circuit board, which contains the central processing unit (CPU) or processor, which is like the brain of the computer. It processes information and carries out commands.
  • Heatsink: Because the motherboard tends to get hot when you use the computer, it is covered by a piece of metal called a heatsink to draw heat away from the processor.
  • RAM: The motherboard also contains the computer’s RAM, also known as random access memory. This is the short-term memory that the computer uses, whenever it is performing calculations. However, you cannot store your files here. This is because the RAM is cleared when you shut off the computer.
  • Hard drive: This provides long term storage. This keeps all the computer’s data, even when it is turned off. Many hard drives use a magnetic platter to store data, but many newer computers have solid state drives. These are faster and last longer, but they also cost more.
  • Expansion slots: On many desktop motherboards there are expansion slots that allow you to make upgrades using expansion cards. This could be for a video or sound upgrade.


You can watch a useful video here which shows what is inside a computer:

Parts inside a computer


Want to know more?

If you want to take a deeper dive into what is inside a computer, check out these links: