How Laptop Computers Work

By Cleveland Van Cecil

Updated September 12, 2017


A laptop computer must first power on before it can process any information. This means the computer will receive power from the wall socket through a power adapter, or through its power supply unit. Once the computer receives power, it will perform a Power On Self Test, or POST. POST is a diagnostic test run by your computer to check all the basic components of your computer required to run, such as the power supply and the processor.

Operating System

After POST, the laptop computer will then communicate with the software of your computer, checking for the most basic operating system requirements, then loading them. Once your operating system loads, you can then see the Graphical User Interface, or GUI on your monitor. The monitor and main components of the computer are controlled and connected by the motherboard. This includes the video card displaying the image on the screen and trackpad and keyboard, which allow you to control an operating system such as Windows. Now you can access the programs on your computer.


Components inside the laptop computer, such as the hard drive and the optical drive, store data for later use. These storage devices connect to special controllers on the motherboard, which in turn allow you to access them using the operating system. The hard drive, CD and DVD drives, and other similar devices are known as permanent storage devices. This means you can store data on them for later use. The data stored on these devices can be transferred to other computers, and accessed even when the computer has been off.