Computer Hardware

From USB connectors to motherboards, the HowStuffWorks Computer Hardware Channel will help you find explanations, reviews, videos and prices for the parts you need.

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Chances are good that your operating system includes virtual memory. It makes your computer act like it has a lot more RAM than actually it does. Find out what virtual memory is and how it increases the speed of your PC.

We've all used one, and most of us are sitting in front of one right now. Curious to know what's going on inside that ever-present PC? Here's your chance to find out -- without prying open your own.

By Jeff Tyson & Stephanie Crawford

Removable memory has unchained us from our PCs -- we can now carry gigabytes of data wherever we go in a device the size of a matchbox. Learn about the three major digital storage technologies.

By Jeff Tyson


Silicon microprocessors are about to reach the limit to their storage capacity. But one technology may extend the life of the silicon microchip -- it's called extreme-ultraviolet lithography, and it may keep silicon useful for a few years longer.

By Kevin Bonsor

A computer is full of buses -- highways that take information and power from one place to another. While USB is good when utilizing small electronic devices, sometimes you need something bigger. That's where SCSI comes in.

By Jeff Tyson & Tracy V. Wilson

Voice over Internet Protocol lets you make free long-distance phone calls using your computer. It's essentially a phone network that uses the Internet infrastructure already connecting computers all over the world. Learn all about the technology behind VoIP and how you can set it up on your PC.

By Robert Valdes & Dave Roos

As we move closer to intelligent computers, they may begin to follow us wherever we go. Learn how ubiquitous networking will allow our data and information to travel with us.

By Kevin Bonsor


Essentially, a bus is a channel or path between the components in a computer. And having a high-speed bus is as important as having a good transmission in a car.

By Jeff Tyson & Ed Grabianowski

If your computers are in different rooms, phone-line networking may be a good way to connect them. Learn all about the pros and cons of using a phone-line network.

By Jeff Tyson

No new wires! Power-line networking uses the wiring already in your house to connect your computers. Learn about the pros and cons of a power-line network and how to set one up.

By Jeff Tyson

If you're thinking of networking the computers in your home, you have several options to explore. Will you go wired or wireless? And what's the best way to ensure the safety of your network?

By Tracy V. Wilson & John Fuller


For high-end gaming and video editing, an upgradeable graphics card is a must. Cutting edge video processors allow users to render complex visual effects, blisteringly fast frame rates, and multiscreen displays, with resolutions up to 4K and beyond.

By Jeff Tyson, Tracy V. Wilson & Talon Homer

The Integrated Drive Electronics interface is the most popular way to connect a hard drive to a PC. Find out where IDE came from and how it works today.

By Jeff Tyson

The power supply in your PC provides all the different voltages your computer needs to operate properly. Find out how it puts the pieces together and troubleshoot your power supply problems.

By Gary Brown & Talon Homer

Did you know it takes two full weeks for a microprocessor plant to produce one silicon-based microprocessor? Imagine being able to make one yourself by downloading designs and then printing it on your desktop fabrication machine.

By Kevin Bonsor


Sound cards truly ushered PCs into the world of multimedia. Before the invention of the sound card, a PC could only beep! Learn how a sound card allows a computer to create and record high-quality sound.

By Tracy V. Wilson

Floppy disks were the first portable computer storage devices, created in 1967. They may be obsolete these days, but they definitely made computer history.

By Gary Brown

When you delete files from your computer and empty it out of the Recycle Bin, can it be recovered? Learn about computer recycling bins and file recovery.

The serial port was an integral part of most computers for more than 20 years, but new computers usually have USB connections instead. Serial ports are still used for most modems, as well as a few other electronic devices.

By Jeff Tyson


If you're reading this via the Internet you're probably using Network Address Translation (NAT). NAT helps reuse IP addresses and improve security -- find out how it works.

By Jeff Tyson

When your PC tries to access your floppy disk drive, there could be a number of reasons. Luckily, they're pretty simple to solve -- we'll show you how to troubleshoot and fix this problem.

We wouldn’t get very far without LAN switches -- bedlam would break loose at each network junction and most of us would be wondering what happened to that e-mail we sent two hours ago.

By Jeff Tyson

When you save a document, your machine disseminates little pieces of the file into empty spaces on the hard drive. Learn why it's done this way and how defragmenting maintains your computer's performance.


Scientists have already built basic quantum computers that can perform specific calculations; but a practical quantum computer is still years away. Learn what a quantum computer is and just what it'll be used for in the next era of computing.

By Kevin Bonsor & Jonathan Strickland

It turns out that everything you do on the internet involves packets. For example, every webpage that you receive comes as a series of packets, and every email you send leaves as a series of packets. Find out what this term really means.