5 Types of Personal Computers

By Faithe Wempen

When most people think about computers, they picture a personal computer, or PC. It’s designed for only one person to use at a time. Most of the computers you and your friends and family have are probably personal computers.

The term PC has different meanings in popular culture. On one hand, it means any computer designed for personal use. On the other hand, it is also sometimes used to refer specifically to a computer that runs Microsoft Windows, as in “Which is better: Macs or PCs?”

Personal computers fall into several categories, differentiated mainly by their sizes:


1A desktop computer is designed to be used at a desk and seldom moved.

It consists of a large box called the system unit that contains most of the essential components. The monitor, keyboard, and mouse all plug into it using cables (or in some cases, using a wireless technology).

Desktops offer a lot of computing power and performance for the price, and they’re flexible because you can connect whatever monitor, keyboard, and mouse you want to it, as well as install additional storage drives, memory, and expansion cards that add new capabilities.


2A notebook, as its name implies, is a portable computer designed to fold up like a notebook for carrying and storage.

Its cover opens up to reveal a built-in screen, keyboard, and pointing device, which substitutes for a mouse. A notebook can run most of the same software as a desktop, and is similar to it in performance. Some people call it a laptop.

Notebooks allow you to take your computer with you almost anywhere. They’re more expensive than desktops of the same level of performance, however, and not very customizable or upgradable.

3Short for Internet notebook, a netbook is a smaller and less powerful notebook computer designed primarily for accessing the Internet.

A netbook is usually cheaper than a notebook or desktop, and is lighter and more convenient to carry around, but may not have enough memory and a powerful enough processor to run all desktop applications.


4A tablet is a portable computer that consists of a touch-sensitive screen mounted on a tablet-size plastic frame with a small computer inside.

There is no keyboard or pointing device; a software-based keyboard pops up onscreen when needed, and your finger sliding on the screen serves as a pointing device. Tablets are extremely portable and convenient, but usually do not run desktop computer applications and have limited memory and storage capabilities.


5A smart phone is a mobile phone that can run applications and has Internet capability.

Smart phones usually have touch-sensitive screens. Many have a variety of location-aware applications, such as global positioning system (GPS) and mapping programs and local business guides. Smart phones have a lot in common with computers, but they lack the power and flexibility of larger computing devices.