The Four Main Categories of Computer Hardware Devices



What are the four main categories of computer hardware and why do they matter? Well, if you’re interested at all in learning more about modern-day PC’s and how to build or service them, then knowing to distinguish between the different kinds of hardware components is fundamental. These four components are not only found in your everyday laptops and desktops, but are something that most machines with microprocessors have in common, including phones and tablets. Here is a general overview of the categories:



This is such a basic category, that it is practically part of the definition of what a computer is. To be able to perform some kind of process, the computer will need input from a user (or another machine) first. Input devices can be as simple as your keyboard and mouse, or can be as elaborate as specialized sensors. It all really depends on the application. In general, though, an input device is one that allows the computer to receive information.



The opposite of input, these devices deliver the results after your machine is done processing the input. For example, the computer monitor constantly displays (output) the movement of the cursor, which you move with the mouse (input). Other examples of output devices include 2D printers, 3D printers, and speakers.



Processing is what happens between the input and output. The whole point of a computer is really the processing part, and it is through these calculations that it delivers what you want. Examples of processing hardware includes your CPU and your GPU if you have one.



For the computer to be able to do any work, it needs to be able to at the very least store the information that it is currently working with temporarily. This is called primary memory, which in most modern devices comes in the form of RAM. For more long-term storage, information that is not currently being processed can be stored in what is generically called secondary memory. Most computers have some version of this as well, whether it be a hard drive or an external memory card.


There are the four general categories of computer hardware. Now that you are familiar with them, you should be able to identify components and understand their purpose more easily.


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