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1.2: Identifying Computer System Components

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    Computer systems consist of hardware and software. Hardware is the tangible, physical components of a computer, while software is the intangible programs that function on a computer. Basic hardware components include a hard drive for storing data, a processor for performing operations, memory for holding active data, and a motherboard to tie the parts together. Even gaming consoles are considered computer hardware. Software includes computer programs, libraries and data. Software can be categorized as application (most programs), system (operating, utilities and device drivers) and malicious software, or malware (undesirable programs that results in harm or disruption).


    The four main components of a computer system are input devices, output devices, processing devices and the storage devices used to store data within the computer system. The flow of data through a computer system begins with either an input device that enters data into the central processing unit which then sends the data to an output device as information. Alternatively, data can be retrieved or sent to a storage device from the processor.

    Computer system processes

    Hardware and software work together to process data. When you open a software program, the computer reads its data from the hard drive or input device, runs the software on the computer’s processor and then displays the results on your output device or saves the data to a storage device.

    This page titled 1.2: Identifying Computer System Components is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Marcus Lacher (Minnesota Libraries Publishing Project) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.