Alternatively referred to as an auxiliary device, a peripheral is a hardware input device or output device that gives a computer additional functionality. Peripheral devices, however, are not essential for the computer to perform its basic tasks; they are an enhancement to the user's experience.
Computer peripheral examples
Below are examples of computer peripherals. None of these devices are required by a computer, but they give the computer additional capabilities. For example, a dedicated sound card provides more audio options for users, but today's motherboards still supply sound without one.
- Digital camera and digital camcorder.
- Monitor, touch screen, projector, or other display devices.
- Sound card
- Tape drive
Unlike the computer, a peripheral is incapable of operating by itself and relies on the computer to function properly. To find the roles or functions of each of the peripherals, click each of the links above.
Newer peripherals, like new Wi-Fi printers, can now operate without being directly connected to a computer. However, they often still require a smartphone or tablet connected to the same network to set up the device.
Why are the keyboard and mouse a peripheral?
Many computer users are surprised to learn that a computer can run without a keyboard and a mouse. Both of these devices are not required for a computer to run, which is why they're considered peripherals. Many servers at data centers have no keyboard or mouse, and are often managed remotely.
What peripheral devices come with a computer?
When you buy a new desktop computer, it comes with a keyboard, mouse, sound card, power plug, and may also include a monitor. A laptop computer includes everything, so it only includes a power cord.
See our computer definition for a full listing of computer components and everything found on a computer.
How do peripheral devices connect to a computer?
Today, most non-wireless peripheral devices use one of the following types of cables and connections to connect to a computer. These cable and connection types are listed in order of most common to least common.
Older peripheral devices used one of the following types of cables and connections to connect to a computer.
Some peripheral devices are designed to use a wireless connection to connect to a computer. The most common wireless protocols used by wireless peripheral devices are listed below.
Are peripherals internal or external?
Generally speaking, most peripherals are external devices. However, there are also devices like a sound card and tape drive that are internal devices and also peripherals. So, a peripheral could be an external or internal device.