Updated: 12/26/2023 by Computer Hope
Side view, looking down the length of a keyboard.

Alternatively called an auxiliary device, a peripheral is a hardware input device or output device that gives a computer additional functionality. Peripheral devices are not essential for the computer to perform its basic tasks; they enhance the user's experience and computers capabilities. For example, a printer gives the computer the additional to print to paper, but is not required for the computer to work.

How do you pronounce peripheral?

Peripheral is pronounced as pur-if-uh-rul.

Is an accessory the same as a peripheral?

Although many use these terms interchangeably, there are differences between an accessory and a peripheral. A peripheral is an external device that connects to the computer to give it additional functionality. However, an accessory makes using the computer more enjoyable and convenient and does not add additional functionality. For example, a computer mouse is a peripheral, and the mouse pad is an accessory.


See our accessory term page for a full list of computer accessories.

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.


Unlike the computer, a peripheral cannot operate 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 devices are not required for a computer to run, so they're considered peripherals. For example, 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 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?

USB cable and port

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 from most common to least common.

Older peripheral devices use one of the following types of cables and connections to connect to a computer.

SMC Bluetooth adapter

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, 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.

Accessory, Bells and whistles, Component, Device, Expansion, Expansion card, External, Hardware, Hardware terms, Input, Interface, Output, Plug-and-play, Port, USB