The Four Categories of Computer Hardware

Updated on February 2, 2018
amuno profile image

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

An illustration of a typical desktop computer set  comprising all the hardware components.
An illustration of a typical desktop computer set comprising all the hardware components.

Computer hardware refers to the physical devices that make up a computer. Examples include the keyboard, monitor and disk drive.

Hardware devices can be classified into four distinct categories:

  • Input devices: For raw data input.
  • Processing devices: To process raw data instructions into information.
  • Output devices: To disseminate data and information.
  • Storage devices: For data and information retention.

1. Input Devices

Components which are used to input raw data are categorized under input devices. They aid in feeding data such as text, images, and audiovisual recordings. They even aid in file transfers between computers.

The keyboard is probably the most commonly used input device. Below are just some other types of input devices.

A microphone is an example of a sound input device.
A microphone is an example of a sound input device.
Input Type
Examples
Pointing Device
Mouse, touchpad, touchscreen, multi-touch screen, pen input, motion sensor, graphics tablet, interactive smartboard, and fingerprint scanner.
Game Controller
Joystick, gamepad, and steering wheel.
Audio Input Device
Microphone and midi keyboard.
Bluetooth Peripheral
Keyboard, mouse, headset, gamepad, printer.
Visual and Imaging Device
Webcam, digital camera, digital camcorder, TV capture card, biometric scanner, and barcode reader.
Network Device
Ethernet hardware and Bluetooth/wireless hardware.

2. Processing Devices

Processing is the core function of a computer. It is the stage where raw data is transformed into information. Once data has been processed, it can be used for useful purposes.

Components that manipulate data into information are categorized under processing.

The microprocessor is the major device in this category. It works closely with primary memory during its operations. Data is stored temporarily in processor cache and primary memory during the processing period.

The microprocessor is subdivided into three important units, which work together in order to accomplish its function. The units are:

  • The control unit: It manages and supervises the operations of the processor and other components that are crucial in data manipulation.
  • Arithmetic and logic unit: The ALU is responsible for all arithmetic and logic operations like addition, multiplication, subtraction, division, and comparison logic operations.
  • Register and cache: These are storage locations inside the processor that respond to the instructions of the control unit by moving relevant data around during processing.

An AMD microprocessor is an example of a processing device.
An AMD microprocessor is an example of a processing device.

3. Output Devices

Hardware components that disseminate and display both data and information are classified under the output category.

Output is the culmination of a cycle which starts with the input of raw data and processing.

These components are sub-categorized under softcopy and hardcopy output.

Softcopy output includes the intangible experience. The user derives visual satisfaction by reading a message through display components or listens to audio files through speakers.

On the other hand, hardcopy output devices are tangible, like printouts of paper and 3D models.

The CRT monitor is an output device.
The CRT monitor is an output device.

Do you still have a CRT monitor somewhere in your house?

See results

Popular Softcopy Devices

Visual display devices include:

  • Monitor
  • Projection display
  • Interactive (electronic) smartboard
  • Touchscreen

Sound devices include:

  • Speakers
  • Headphones and earphones

Network input/output includes:

  • Ethernet cables
  • Wireless and Bluetooth transmissions

USB input/output includes:

  • Flash drives
  • External drives
  • Optical drives

Popular Hardcopy Devices

Impact printers include:

  • Dot matrix printer
  • 3D printer

Non-impact printers include:

  • Inkjet printer
  • Laserjet printer
  • Thermal printer

A 3D printer
A 3D printer | Source

4. Memory/Storage Devices

Components that retain/store data are classified under memory/storage devices.

Storage is sub-divided under primary and secondary memory and is either volatile or nonvolatile.

Primary memory usually refers to random-access memory (RAM) but can also refer to all memory that works in tandem with the processor. RAM is volatile, meaning that it retains data only when the computer is powered up.

The central processing unit (CPU) or accelerated processing unit (APU) reads instructions stored in this memory and executes them as required.

Computer memory devices.
Computer memory devices.

Secondary memory is labeled as such because data stored within secondary storage media (usually disk drives) do not communicate directly with the microprocessor. Any data stored in such media is first transferred to a RAM device for processing to take place.

This type of memory is also non-volatile since it permits long time storage as opposed to volatile memory.

To give some examples of these devices, primary memory includes:

  • DRAM
  • SRAM
  • ROM

Secondary memory is subdivided into two categories:

  • Internal devices are designed to be placed inside the computer at all times. Examples include hard disk and solid state disk drives.
  • External devices are plug and play media used to transfer files between computers. Examples include optical disks, flash disks, and external disk drives.

Questions & Answers

    © 2014 Alfred Amuno

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      • profile image

        Aarif A. Ahnaf 

        3 weeks ago

        First of all, I want to start with thanks to the author to help me. I have been searching for an article for some time. In fact, I used to benefit from this reading.

      • profile image

        YUSUF AUWAL 

        3 months ago

        HELPFUL INDEED

      • profile image

        Kalilu kamara 

        3 months ago

        Thanks very much sir I learned something new

      • amuno profile imageAUTHOR

        Alfred Amuno 

        3 months ago from Kampala

        Happy that you learned something Gladys

      • profile image

        Gladyschepngeno18@gmail.com 

        3 months ago

        Thanks. It has really helped me.

      • profile image

        ANKIT KUMAR 

        3 months ago

        It's very helpful for student

      • profile image

        Jamilu HUssaini Baba Jarmai 

        3 months ago

        I am very much indepted

      • profile image

        Dak Chuol Dhuor 

        4 months ago

        It help a lot and give your more knowledge in hardware computer.

      • profile image

        MARTHA 

        4 months ago

        HELP FULL AND VERY GOOD INFO HERE THANK YUO SO MUCH

      • profile image

        Miracle 

        5 months ago

        This is wow! I salute you man. the article is much helpful. I really do appreciate. Thanks a lot.

      • profile image

        luke 

        5 months ago

        this a lot of good info

      • profile image

        The mn 

        5 months ago

        i ctrl-c and ctrl-v so much....... ty

      • profile image

        Larry Enticer 

        6 months ago

        OMG this Helped ME nothing Not at All

      • amuno profile imageAUTHOR

        Alfred Amuno 

        7 months ago from Kampala

        Thanks for appreciating Caleb

      • profile image

        Caleb Kiprotich seth 

        7 months ago

        This a very good combination of Computer Basic Skills Which are useful ...Thanks for this plausible and fantastic ideas

      • profile image

        Scolah 

        7 months ago

        Nice article and well explained.

      • profile image

        Krittika Rasiah 

        7 months ago

        Nice

      • profile image

        cithy Ephraim 

        8 months ago

        Indeed this page is fully contained with all necessary guidelines for basic applications of this course . Thanks

        Shift_L

      • profile image

        cithy Ephraim 

        8 months ago

        Indeed this page is fully contained with all necessary guidelines for basic applications of this course . Thanks

        Shift_L

      • profile image

        abduselam sul 

        8 months ago

        thanks for sharing agreat article

      • profile image

        Ciplak 

        8 months ago

        great articles..it's help me to know more about computer hardware..thanks dude

      • profile image

        Muhammad Abdullah 

        8 months ago

        write down the four types of computer briefly explain?

      • amuno profile imageAUTHOR

        Alfred Amuno 

        9 months ago from Kampala

        Thanks Chad, hope it really is beneficial to the young fellows.

      • ChadCrouch profile image

        Chad Crouch 

        9 months ago from South Africa

        Nice article for learners. Very well structured. Good work.

      • Viral Prajapati profile image

        Viral Prajapati 

        10 months ago from Ahmedabad

        Great way to explain here..All basic and important information are cover with video and images, It's a really good..

      • profile image

        Grace kaonga 

        11 months ago

        well explained have surely enjoyed

      • profile image

        Lucia 

        11 months ago

        Its a great note. Its what I was needing for solve a problem

      • grand old lady profile image

        Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

        12 months ago from Philippines

        wow, you sure know your techiness). I bow before you.

      • profile image

        ronielyn 

        12 months ago

        thank you very much for the good info..it was a big help! ty

      • Kingsley Aghedo profile image

        Kingsley Aghedo 

        13 months ago

        Very nice presentation. I am a computer guru myself. Your pictures of a computer really drive home your points.

      • profile image

        Pinky Mahadeo 

        14 months ago

        I have learnt so much, also knows more about the hardware and its categories. Am so thankful

      • profile image

        Ashir Mubeen 

        14 months ago

        This information is pretty awesome. It helped me a lot. Following you.

      • profile image

        Harindi 

        15 months ago

        This was very helpful me to do my university assignment.Thank you very mush

      • profile image

        Well expalined. I really gained a lot. 

        16 months ago

        Mashford

      • profile image

        kelvin tatenda chirefu 

        16 months ago

        thank you so much man its so helping . i have learnt a lot from your work keep it up .

      • profile image

        tulise 

        17 months ago

        nice

      • profile image

        aqs 

        19 months ago

        Thaks for sharing such type of useful information.

      • amuno profile imageAUTHOR

        Alfred Amuno 

        20 months ago from Kampala

        Thanks Maggie for appreciating.

      • profile image

        Maggiesanchez 

        20 months ago

        Great work men!! i'm glad since i have got to understand more abt hardwares.CONGRATS!!!!!

      • amuno profile imageAUTHOR

        Alfred Amuno 

        21 months ago from Kampala

        Quite true Chad

      • ChadCrouch profile image

        Chad Crouch 

        21 months ago from South Africa

        Great article. Can help young lads with homework.

      • appsforwindow profile image

        Janu Cap 

        22 months ago from Ha Noi

        Thanks for Alfred Amuno! Glad to know the info was helpful. Follow you and follow you. Thanks friends

      • profile image

        lol 

        22 months ago

        helped with my hw

      • amuno profile imageAUTHOR

        Alfred Amuno 

        23 months ago from Kampala

        Thanks Penny

      • profile image

        penny 

        23 months ago

        it awesome summary

      • amuno profile imageAUTHOR

        Alfred Amuno 

        2 years ago from Kampala

        Good to know Phoebe

      • profile image

        phoebe faraon 

        2 years ago

        A glad to see to know the info in your computer

      • amuno profile imageAUTHOR

        Alfred Amuno 

        2 years ago from Kampala

        Glad to know the info was helpful

      • profile image

        AS"LMFlkdlhdo 

        2 years ago

        The information Was Prety Awsome I almost Get all The Correct Answers For My Assignment

        Thank you !

      • profile image

        Marck 

        2 years ago

        Ty vm

      • amuno profile imageAUTHOR

        Alfred Amuno 

        2 years ago from Kampala

        Thanks for appreciating Sya

      • profile image

        sya 

        2 years ago

        it good note. good for student to the homework..

      • amuno profile imageAUTHOR

        Alfred Amuno 

        2 years ago from Kampala

        Thanks for appreciating Farida

      • profile image

        Farida Achieng 

        2 years ago

        I have learnt allot and it has enabled me to gain more and learn more about the hardware and its categories .Am so grateful.

        THANKS SO SO MUCH!!

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