What Is Hardware And What Is It For?

By Tanner Abraham •  Updated: 09/05/22 •  5 min read

Today the term Hardware is very common since we are surrounded by technology everywhere. However, there are still people who do not know exactly what this word that is heard almost daily is all about.

If you want to understand its meaning, know what hardware is and what it is for; keep reading because we are going to explain everything you need to know about it. In this way, if you want to set up a computer or simply expand your knowledge, you will be able to see all your doubts about it resolved.

What is hardware and what is it for?

The word Hardware is an English term that refers to the physical parts of a computer system. These are those that are tangible and that we human beings can touch with our hands.

In the field of hardware there are a large number of electronic, mechanical, electrical and electromechanical components. Within this category we can find from the computer case to its cables, its motherboard, the hard drive, the peripherals and the rest of the components that can be part of electronic equipment. In fact, it is defined as “a set of components that make up the material part of a computer”, according to the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE).

However, keep in mind that it is not a word only applied to the world of computers. In fact, the hardware is present in any other electronic device such as cameras, mobile phones, robots, etc. Hardware is the opposite of software, which is that part of the computer system that we cannot touch, that is, it is untouchable.

On the other hand, it must be taken into account that the hardware can be differentiated into two categories. On the one hand, the so-called  main hardware, which are the basics for the operation of a computer; and the  complementary hardware, which is used to improve features and perform certain functions but which is expendable in the operation of the system.

Difference between hardware and software

For many people it is confusing to talk about the terms hardware and software, but the difference between the two is very simple, since they are totally opposite concepts of each other.

While  software is the intangible part of a computer system, that is, it cannot be touched with the hands, as is the case with installed computer programs, the operating system or stored files (photos, videos, etc.); hardware  are all those tangible components that we can touch. This is the motherboard, RAM, graphics cards, etc.

However, keep in mind that the software is very important and is necessary for the hardware to work, and vice versa. Both are complementary and must be present for a computer to work.

Types of basic hardware in a computer

When talking about computers, we can distinguish a series of hardware components that are of the utmost importance for their operation. Some of the most relevant are:


This is in charge of interpreting and executing the instructions it receives, in addition to processing the data. They are present both in computers and in any other device that requires processing capacity, such as cars, game consoles, plans, mobile phones, household appliances, etc.

In the case of the computer, this CPU or microprocessor is mounted on the motherboard.


The motherboard or motherboard is a large circuit on which the different components of the computer must be placed. In it are the expansion slots, connectors, and the socket for the CPU, integrated circuits, and so on. It is the basic support on which the components are placed, so that they are connected to each other.


This is the main memory and one of the essential hardware components in a computer system. It is responsible for storing information that can be accessed very quickly, so that the processes of the different applications are streamlined.

This is responsible for storing information and data temporarily and that are read, processed and executed by the CPU. It is a type of volatile memory, so once a computer is turned off or restarted, the information stored in it is lost.

ROM Memory (Hard Disk)

The Hard Disk is the ROM memory of a device. This is the component that is responsible for recording and storing digital files. These can currently be HDD or SSD (Solid State Drive).

Both offer a non-volatile memory, so they will always store the data, unless they suffer from some operation problem that supposes the loss of the information. To start up a computer it is necessary that it has at least one hard disk, where the operating system and the programs to be used must be installed.

Power supply

At the hardware level, the presence of a power supplies or power source is essential. This is responsible for converting alternating current into direct current to feed the different components of the computer system.

It is one of the most important components of the computer. He is responsible for feeding electrical energy to the rest of the components.

Also, apart from all these there are other hardware components such as sound cards, graphics cards, etc., which may also be necessary. However, these graphics and sound cards may be integrated into the motherboard itself.

Complementary computer hardware

Among the so-called complementary hardware we can find all those devices created to perform specific functions, that is, that go beyond the basic ones.

These are not necessary for the operation of the computer but they are useful. This is the case of speakers, microphones, printers, scanners, disk drives or peripherals such as the mouse.

Tanner Abraham

Data Scientist and Software Engineer with a focus on experimental projects in new budding technologies that incorporate machine learning and quantum computing into web applications.