What are the Parts to Build a Computer?

Knowing what are the parts to build a computer is one of most valuable hardware knowledge you can have. Learn it all today with our complete computer parts list (with pictures).

How many basic parts of a computer are there? 15? 20? 50?

The answer astounds most people when they first hear it: Seven including the computer case. Yes, you heard right... it takes just seven parts to build a PC for mainstream users (six if you're not installing an optical drive).

Graphics cards are absent from our computer parts list below because almost all current CPUs do come with integrated graphics, making discrete graphics cards an optional upgrade.

1. CPU and Cooler

CPU: Central Processing Unit, also known as processor, microprocessor

CPU Cooler: Also known as CPU heat sink, CPU fan, heat sink fan, HSF

CPU manufacturers Intel and AMD often bundle their CPUs together with heat sinks (with certain exceptions such as Sandy Bridge Extreme processors). So when you buy a boxed CPU, you are in fact getting a heat sink as well.

CPU Processor
CPU Heat Sink Fan

2. Motherboard

Also known as mainboard, system board, mobo, MB

Most motherboards will come with an I/O (Input/Output) shield, SATA cables, user manual and driver CD.

Motherboard Picture

3. RAM

RAM: Random Access Memory, also known as memory, main memory, system memory

RAM Memory

4. Power Supply Unit

Also known as power supply, PSU

Computer Power Supply Unit

5. Hard Drive

Before we go any further, it's important to know that there are two distinct types of hard drives:

1. Hard Disk Drive (HDD)

This is your (traditional) mechanical hard drive that stores data on spinning disks. Compared to solid state drives, they are slower, drain more electricity and are more prone to physical failures... but they make it up with bigger storage capacities and cheaper prices (per MB)

2. Solid State Drive (SSD)

Solid state drives are the up-and-coming successors in hard drive tech. Driven by electronic controllers (with zero moving parts), solid state drives read and write data faster, multitask better and can survive harder knocks. The big downside is that they cost magnitudes more and still run into occasional firmware problems (being a less mature technology).

For more details on the differences between them, be sure to check out our SSD vs HDD article.

In the image below, we have a 3.5 inch hard disk drive HDD on the left, and a 2.5 inch solid state drive SSD on the right:

Hard Disk Drive and Solid State Drive

6. Optical Drive

There are two choices for your optical drive when you are choosing parts to build a computer: DVD drive and Blu-ray drive

There are a few different types of DVD drives, with DVD-RW drives being most common:

  • DVD-ROM Drive: Can only read DVD discs
  • DVD-R Drive: Can read and record/write data to DVD-R discs once
  • DVD-RW Drive: Can read and rewrite (record and erase) data to DVD-RW discs multiple times.
DVD Optical Drive

7. Computer Case

Also known as computer casing, computer chassis

Computer Case

Now that you know what are the essential parts to build a computer, let's take a quick peek inside the case of an assembled computer to see how the different parts of a computer all hang together to form a complete system:

Parts to Build a Computer
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