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An all-in-one desktop computer is a type of computer that does away with large towers and fits all the components, such as the hard drive and operating system (OS), into the monitor unit. This makes a much smaller desktop unit that is better able to fit into cramped areas and does not require the user to link a monitor to a tower unit. All-in-one desktop computer units sometimes offer less power, depending on the brand, but their main disadvantage is that upgrading hardware is more difficult. All of the main components are placed right in the monitor, but the user may still need to purchase other hardware pieces, such as a printer, to increase the computer’s functionality.
The all-in-one desktop computer is a scaled-down version of computers that require a tower unit to hold all the software and major hardware units. The all-in-one combines the power of a regular desktop unit with the smaller size, but not the portability, of a laptop. While the units are not intended to be mobile, it is much easier for users to move an all-in-one than it is to move a full-size computer.
As of 2011, Macintosh® is the leader in deploying all-in-one computers. Most of the company's lineup involves the use of this technology. There are some Windows® all-in-one computers, however, and the company is producing more to meet customer demand for these units.
Their smaller size means some all-in-one desktop computer units may be less powerful. This is a brand-to-brand issue, and some companies have mastered creating a strong computer with the limited space. Unless the user intends to use highly intensive programs, such as games, most people using an all-in-one will not notice the decreased output.
All-in-one desktop computers have a disadvantage in that it is more difficult to upgrade their internal components. It is much harder, even impossible for some units, to open the monitor and place new hardware into the system. As of 2011, many brands — and most all-in-ones — are able to accommodate hardware upgrades, but it is still more difficult than upgrading from a tower.
Though an all-in-one desktop computer has all the main components for the computer to run, the user may still need other pieces of hardware. For example, all-in-one computers do not come with printers installed in the unit. This means the user will need to purchase and connect the extra hardware for more functionality. The keyboard and mouse unit are also separate but are usually purchased as a bundle with the all-in-one.