Skip to main content

The Three Major Components of a Computer System

Alfred is a long-time teacher and computer enthusiast who works with and troubleshoots a wide range of computing devices.

This image illustrates the major components of a computer system.

This image illustrates the major components of a computer system.

There are three major components of a computer system:

  • hardware
  • software
  • humanware

While hardware and software components co-exist to make up the actual computer, the humanware component adds in the human face to bring the complete computer into a functional and productive existence. When installed separately, each may be useful to an extent but incapable of achieving complete computing potential. Hardware and software need the human factor in order to make input and connectivity possible.

1. Computer Hardware

These are computer system components that can be touched by the human hand. Examples include:

  • Display monitor
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Motherboard
  • Memory modules
  • Disk drive

These parts are housed within the laptop or the desktop system-unit. For the desktop, however, the keyboard and mouse are attached and used externally.

A typical installation of computer hardware component includes a monitor, a computer, a keyboard, and mouse.

A typical installation of computer hardware component includes a monitor, a computer, a keyboard, and mouse.

The most important piece of hardware is the microprocessor chip, which is commonly known as the central processing unit (CPU).

New and slim laptop computers merge the traditional CPU and the graphics processing chip (GPU) into what is called accelerated processing unit (APU). These chips are usually attached to the motherboard in these laptops.

The CPU and APU are responsible for all arithmetic and graphics manipulation.

The AMD CPU is an example of a microprocessor and, as shown above, is attached to a motherboard.

The AMD CPU is an example of a microprocessor and, as shown above, is attached to a motherboard.

A component just as important is the disk drive. This is where computer data is stored. It is classified as secondary memory.

There are two popular types of disk drives to choose from.

Hard disk: This drive is mechanical by design and stores data on magnetic and metallic platters. Its data is read magnetically by read/write heads which make it reliant on an uninterrupted supply of power. A sudden power outage can lead to data loss or drive failure. It must be used properly for the sake of data integrity and long lifespan.

Scroll to Continue

Solid state disk: This new type of disk drive stores data on flash memory chips and is less prone to erratic behavior. It is faster and reliable even in the event of sudden power outages.

An illustration of various hardware components inside the system unit.

An illustration of various hardware components inside the system unit.

Another vital part within a system is the motherboard. It provides communication and direct connectivity to devices throughout the computer.

Sample Acer motherboard.

Sample Acer motherboard.

Connectivity to a motherboard can be internal or external.

Internal devices that connect to the motherboard include:

  • Microprocessor (CPU).
  • Disk drive.
  • Random access memory (memory modules).
  • Power supply unit (PSU).

External peripherals that connect to the motherboard include:

  • Monitor.
  • Keyboard.
  • Mouse.
  • Printer.
Above is Apple's iMac computer, an example of a single unit computer set. It contains the system unit and monitor bundled together.

Above is Apple's iMac computer, an example of a single unit computer set. It contains the system unit and monitor bundled together.

Unlike the desktop and single unit computers, which have the mouse and keybaord as separate devices, the two are integrated within the laptop computer.

Unlike the desktop and single unit computers, which have the mouse and keybaord as separate devices, the two are integrated within the laptop computer.

2. Computer Software

The software component refers to the instructions, programs, data, and protocols which run on top of hardware. It is also retained temporarily and persistently in primary and secondary hardware media. The random access memory chip is an example of primary hardware while the hard disk drive is an example of secondary hardware.

An illustration of software componet running on a computer

An illustration of software componet running on a computer

Software can be divided into system, application, malicious and programming categories.

System Software

The system manages other software and devices inside the computer. The foremost example of system software is the operating system (OS).

In a typical setup, the operating system is like the motherboard for software. It is the first thing that is installed, followed by applications and other software. Three popular operating systems for traditional computers include Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Popular mobile operating systems include Android OS, iPhone OS, Windows Phone OS, and Firefox OS.

Application Software

This is designed for end-users to perform a specialized assignment in order to output useful information.

An example would be a word processing application used to compose letters or brochures, such as Microsoft Word.

Other popular examples include Adobe Photoshop, Corel Draw, and AutoCAD.

A collection of application software is bundled in a package that is commonly known as a software suite. A typical suite includes software for word processing, presentation, graphic design, and spreadsheet.

Examples include Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, and iWork.

Software is written in computer languages such as Visual Basic, C, and Java.

The software component is stored on optical media, disk drives and cloud storage spaces

The software component is stored on optical media, disk drives and cloud storage spaces

Malicious Software

Malware is short for malicious software, which is a generic term that refers to exploitative code designed by criminals and black hat hackers to maim normal operations of a computer. Malware attacks can result in data loss and hacker access to private information.

Affected computers can also be converted into zombies and used in a bigger mission of criminal activities like launching denial of service attacks (DOS) and spreading spam.

Malware scripts are delivered to the computer as viruses, trojans, rootkits, keyloggers, worms, or through email and websites as adware, spyware, ransomware and scareware.

Programming Software

These are tools used by developers to create all kinds of software like Windows OS and Word processing. Also called languages, they are used to write source codes, debug errors, maintain and create new software for computers and write malicious scripts like viruses and trojans.

Popular examples of high-level languages are Java, Javascript, BASIC, PHP, Visual Basic, Visual C++, Visual Basic, Python, Ruby, Perl, Java.

3. Humanware

The humanware component refers to the person that uses the computer. More specifically, it is about the individual that makes hardware and software components productive.

Typically, a great deal of testing is done on software packages and hardware parts to ensure they enhance the end-user experience to aid in creating documents, musical and video recordings, and all forms of raw and finished data.

A baby using a computer is one cute example of humanware.

A baby using a computer is one cute example of humanware.

The Analogy of Components of a Computer

In a nutshell, a working computer system can be compared to a functioning kitchen.

  • Food and cooking utensils are hardware.
  • The recipe is software.
  • The chef is humanware.

Even after purchasing the freshest ingredients and the finest pots and pans, there will not be a good meal without a chef. He/she will make good use of listed recipes to make good of the ingredients and utensils.

Both hardware and software are complemented by the works of a human to produce a fully functional computer system.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Alfred Amuno


Alexander Maaboah on July 22, 2020:

I am touched with your article. Perfectly done. I like the comparism, the arrnagement and everything involved in this article.

Keep it up.

Mona Gonzalez on July 19, 2020:

Nice article. I am not techy but your article was easy for me to follow. I particularly like the comparison in the end to kitchen utensils, recipes and chefs.

Naisamula on July 12, 2020:

God bless u teach me more

Abdulhamid Aminu on April 18, 2020:

I Abdulhamid Aminu I Want Know Something About Computer Who can help me.becouse of during examination Iam Compuse especiall y in this course

Precious Ezeh on April 09, 2020:

Thanks for your understanding

keep it up

Emmanuel ofufemi on March 19, 2020:

Whao! You've Did A Great Job...

Steward Langai on February 10, 2020:

thanks so much for that

DESTINY KHALLS on January 22, 2020:


Dauda Sam on January 21, 2020:

very attractive and important

May God continue to improve your source of income Ameen.

this website give me the best knowledge about computers.

victor valdes on January 17, 2020:

interllectual site i love it

Ik on January 13, 2020:

I love it

Eoadeyeye on November 29, 2019:

Your teaching is taking everyone to the next level.

Keep it up.

maryam madu on November 13, 2019:

thanks for your teaching

George on October 31, 2019:

That was helpful

goodswill on October 29, 2019:

tanks for that

Sarah on October 17, 2019:

You have helped me a lot.

Dani on October 17, 2019:

Vere Vere Goode

ruby patton on October 12, 2019:

yeah it was good keep on going with the work

Esther peter Halison on October 11, 2019:

very interesting , simple explanation. i love that

Muyeti Rebecca on October 02, 2019:

Thanks so much for your teachings.

Godson Osbert on September 28, 2019:

It's really interesting to be on this site

Rilwanu A Tata on September 18, 2019:


mugabe benald on September 18, 2019:

At least i have picked something.

joseph on September 07, 2019:

thanks so much,, this part really gave me headache during my class time but now i've gone through it and have understood it

Imma on August 22, 2019:

The try for now

Folusho on August 12, 2019:

Am glad, i have added to my knowledge in the field of "Elements of Computer system" by visiting the site...Kudos.

Head Pain on July 08, 2019:

thank you so very much

yohanis zerihun on July 08, 2019:

thank you so very much

FAITH SULE on July 05, 2019:

I love your website thank u extremly muh

Aliyu ahmed on July 01, 2019:

Add your Comment...I'm happy for visit this website

Ibrahim on June 05, 2019:

Thank you so much\

I needed this for my Finals

Juster Magaritha on May 20, 2019:

Thanks for knowledge provission

Sarada Prasanna Rout on May 20, 2019:

Very useful to my

Suzie on May 20, 2019:

Extremely interesting and helpful website. Love it and like it

Emmanuel oluwakemi on April 02, 2019:

It's such an intelligent explanation. God bless

Ashafa Aliyu on April 01, 2019:

seriously am very happy for this that

MUSTAPHA on March 22, 2019:

I Am enjoying your webside so, thank you Extremly much.

waswaka emma on March 15, 2019:

really you have given the way to go

musa hussein on February 26, 2019:

Thanks a lot

Benjamin Botwe on February 20, 2019:

you people have great gifts and talents to tut giving you a 6star*

Amah Blessed on January 29, 2019:

I'm grateful. Thanks dearly!

Moses on December 04, 2018:

Have loved the descriptions and yeah it makes some one easy to perceive the content .

sylvester on November 14, 2018:

thanks for the notes

ccccccc on November 09, 2018:

ya its great

Israel on November 09, 2018:


jeffry on November 08, 2018:

its educational

Temmy on October 14, 2018:

Easy and straightforward. Good work

Lovely beautiful work on October 11, 2018:

I am impressed

Emmanuel on October 07, 2018:

that nicely

i love that's

odunayo on October 02, 2018:

great work

Lawrental on September 26, 2018:

Great! What a simplify way of teaching beginners.

flynnsfreelance on September 24, 2018:

Thank you for this info. teaching a beginners class - useful!

Gold on September 21, 2018:


Mickhael on September 12, 2018:

Nice Excellent Job....Please i would like to know the main component of a personal computer system, pls I need an answer now

Alfred Amuno (author) from Kampala on September 12, 2018:

Thanks Cent and all that make their thoughts loud and clear. I am grateful the content herein is beneficial to the readers.

Cent on September 12, 2018:


Kevins on September 05, 2018:


walter chirande on August 02, 2018:


joseph jackson makoye on July 10, 2018:

oooh add more

Asif Ali on July 05, 2018:

helpfull data (very nice)

MUZEHE GHANDI on July 03, 2018:


Shewin Bagnes on June 27, 2018:

Very Helpful Thanks!

Ayodele Abosede Imoleayo on June 05, 2018:

I like it

Jerome Jay Karwon on May 16, 2018:

In discussing the basic parts of a computer, why do people include CPU, Power cable, CD ROM, etc. which are amazingly parts of the System Unit or Computer Case? I want to know...

Cheward on May 15, 2018:

Very helpful

- on April 30, 2018:

Very Helpful Thanks!

Seth. on April 17, 2018:

Helps a lot

Farhan on April 16, 2018:

Well questions

Shu'aib Wa'alamu shika on April 13, 2018:

Tnks u for ur assistant

Ruth Anivai on April 06, 2018:

These notes are really a big help to me.

Thank you.

Fridah Chimupeni on April 06, 2018:

Thank you so much for your information

Maryam Bala Ningi on April 05, 2018:

excellent job thanks for your assistance

I thank you and thank God

Efetobore on April 01, 2018:



easy to learn

shikor on March 26, 2018:

it's helpful

Alfred Amuno (author) from Kampala on March 25, 2018:

Thank you all for appreciating

Oluwatoyosi on March 25, 2018:

love it

sely on March 13, 2018:

Very nice $ educative i waz illitrate bt now am literate

bernadette mwongeli omc on March 04, 2018:

a nice and educative forum

Frank Mitchels on February 28, 2018:

Wow great stuff, really interesting how computers work. I'm 57 and my 11 year old grandson has been teaching me how to use them, but when he's not there i rely on stuff on the 'web. Thanks again for your helpful page, good to see someone is informing us old fokes on this new tech.

ronald ucu on February 23, 2018:

good notes

Prosper on February 08, 2018:

Nice one

Bhawana sharma on January 05, 2018:


Alfred Amuno (author) from Kampala on January 02, 2018:

Thanks Abdul

abdul malik on January 02, 2018:

very nice notes on computer and also parts of computer.

ivan geofrey on December 11, 2017:

good notes ,the help me to understand types of disk

Salia Sheriff on November 16, 2017:

Thank you very much for allowing me to know the difference between SSD and HDD. You make my day easy.

Alhassan Usman Buratai on November 07, 2017:

Wow such a wonderful comprehensive, essential explanation on computer issues. Thanks you a lot for this excellent job...

Sam Ru on November 03, 2017:

this is quite intriguing..hope to learn a whole lot more!!


sunday john on October 29, 2017:

i was confused in some part of. component of computer but now am well understood. thanks to our potential analyst

faeezah yunusa on October 28, 2017:

What are the gains of computer to the society

Maryam Ali on October 19, 2017:

What Are The Example Of Human Ware

Anonymous on September 26, 2017:

Humanware Is Love

Humanware Is Life

randy on September 22, 2017:

This is loving

Bryanna on September 16, 2017:

I love this

Emmanuel D.Sumo on September 14, 2017:

Many thanks to our potential analyst

dianne ocampo on September 05, 2017:

great thanks a lot mwaa

bien clarence on September 05, 2017:

ilove sir jovi

Hussaini Yahaya Abdullahi Bununu on August 29, 2017:

we thank God about modern technology.

muhidmah on August 28, 2017:

thanks alot

caleb on August 13, 2017:

yaaaaaani i was stuck but am now confident enough to stand before my students to explain the three components of the computer clearly and preciously.

thanks mr Amuno

Related Articles