There is a personal computer in almost every home and office and yet there are still people confused about computer hardware. You can define a personal computer as a system that was built for one person to use but there come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The tower size was the most common when they first became popular, but today people are more prone to purchase a midi or mini tower to save on space. The difference in size mainly dictates the amount of bays that are available for drives and the type of motherboard that will fit into the case.
The computer contains multiple components that are placed inside to create the unit. You can have all the hardware in place, all in working order but without software, mainly an operating system you are left with a dumb computer. The operating system will manage the hardware inside the computer and determine how it is utilized and also allows the user to control the way the system operates. You may have heard the term firmware and it has been associated with computer hardware, it is not considered hardware, just a program that is embedded into the hardware itself. The firmware in the hardware can be updated to help your hardware work properly with different operating systems and other software on your computer.
The hardware is considered all parts that are inside or connected to the outside of the computer. The computer case, mouse, keyboard, monitor and speakers are considered hardware. Inside the computer you have parts such as the motherboard, CPU, memory, hard drive, ROM drives, video card, sound card, Ethernet card and power supply. The computer hardware in each system may vary by type, brand or even size but the main components are always the same in order for the system to work. If you go to purchase a bare bone system it will come complete with case, power supply, mother board and CPU, memory, video, sound and sometimes hard drive. This is the basic components to get the tower to operate; you can then add ROM drives, speakers, keyboard, and mouse and monitor to have a working dumb computer. In order to have a computer that is completely operational you have to install an operating system and the necessary drivers for the hardware to work.
Each piece of hardware in your computer is different; some will require drivers while others will not. The memory for instance requires no drivers and is simply plug_and_play and most ROM drives and hard drives act the same way. But, other hardware inside your system such as your Ethernet card, video card or sound card will require drivers to be loaded once the operating system is installed to operate correctly. Many times the operating system you use will pick up the computer hardware drivers without having you install them manually. Once you boot your system up for the first time your operating system will detect the new hardware and begin searching for the necessary drivers.