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.

Topics to Explore


Learn More / Page 9

Why does my PC try to access my floppy disk drive when there is no diskette in it?

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.

How LAN Switches Work

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.

How does disk defrag work?

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.

How Quantum Computers Work

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.

What is a packet?

It turns out that everything you do on the Internet involves packets. For example, every Web page that you receive comes as a series of packets, and every e-mail you send leaves as a series of packets. Find out what this term really means.

How Laptops Work

Laptops are now as popular as desktops, and the price gap is closing. Learn about laptops, upgrading laptop memory, using a laptop, and read laptop reviews.

How DNA Computers Will Work

In your body is more computing power than in any manmade supercomputer. The future of computing bypasses silicon in favor of the far-more-powerful DNA strand, and the possibilities are endless. Learn how DNA could replace the silicon microprocessor.

How Holographic Memory Will Work

We're talking Star Wars-level futuristic here: Holographic memory could potentially store terabytes of data in a 1-centimeter cube. Learn how tomorrow's ultra-high-capacity computer memory will work!

How Parallel Ports Work

OK, so they're not as popular as the USB port these days. But the parallel port is still a very common way to connect a printer to a PC. Learn how parallel ports operate and how they came about.

How FireWire Works

A FireWire connection lets you send data to and from high-bandwidth digital devices such as digital camcorders, and it's faster than USB. Learn what FireWire is, how it works and why you might want to use it.

What are system resources, and why do I run out of them?

In many cases, an "out of memory" message is misleading, since your whole system really did not run out of memory. Instead, certain areas of memory used by Windows have run low on space.

How BIOS Works

One of the most common uses of Flash memory is for the basic input/output system of your computer, commonly known as the BIOS. On virtually every system available, the BIOS makes sure all the other chips, hard drives, ports and CPU function together.

How Flash Memory Works

Unlike conventional hard drives, flash memory has no moving parts to break. And it can be used in smaller spaces, such as a pocket camera or cell phone. So why use anything else?

How ROM Works

Read-only memory is not only essential to your computer, but is also used in everything from video games to microwaves. Learn about the different types of ROM and how they're used.

How Virtual Memory Works

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

How RAM Works

Random access memory is the most well-known form of computer memory. It's as important to your computer's operation as the CPU, because it determines how quickly and efficiently your computer can perform your requested tasks.

What is the difference between static RAM and dynamic RAM?

Your computer probably uses both static RAM and dynamic RAM at the same time, but it uses them for different reasons because of the cost difference between the two types. See what these types of RAM do in your computer.

How Computer Memory Works

Like our brains, computers use both short-term and long-term memory to store data. But the similarities end there. There are several types of computer memory that are arranged based on both technical and financial concerns.

How Routers Work

Routers are a vital component of the Internet -- they comprise an intricate network that delivers millions of e-mail messages every day. Find out how routers deliver packets of information to the right place.

How does a FireWire IEEE-1394 connection work?

FireWire offers quite a few advantages, though it does cost a bit more than USB. Learn what makes FireWire different.

What Is the World's Fastest Computer?

What is the world's fastest computer? Well, there's the MDGrape-3 and a few other supercomputers, or there's another one that may surprise you ...

Does adding more RAM to your computer make it faster?

Up to a point, adding RAM (random access memory) will cause your computer to feel faster on certain types of operations. RAM is important because of an operating system component called the virtual memory manager (VMM).

What is the churning sound I hear from my hard drive whenever it is retrieving data?

Surely you've noticed the grinding noise that sometimes happens when you open a file on a computer. Is it normal? What causes it?

What does Alt+F4 do?

Will this keyboard combination shut your computer down or render it inoperable? It's not likely, but it's always better to ask.

What is the difference between a Pentium and a Celeron processor?

When you sort things out and compare the two chips side by side, it turns out that a Celeron and a Pentium 4 chip running at the same speed are different beasts. You should choose a chip based on how you use your computer.