Learning to use a computer can be intimidating and frustrating. The following is a introduction to computers, their components and the basic knowledge you need to understand how your computer works and how you can improve its performance.
We will also provide information on commonly used software, printing, connecting to the Internet and email.
You can read through all of the information or click on a link below to jump to a specific topic:
1. Computer basics
3. Software Basics
4. Why Computers Run Slow
5. Windows Vista Tweaks
6. Printers and Printing
7. Connecting to the Internet
8. Surfing the Internet
10. Troubleshooting and Repairs
11. Future topics and requests for information
The basic computer hardware configuration consists of the following:
- Hard disk
- Central Processing Unit (CPU)
- internal memory (RAM - see next page for more details)
- Disk drive (floppy disk, CD, or DVD)
- USB ports
- SD card slots
- Modem and/or Wireless adapter
- Printer / Scanner
Here is a description of some of the common terms you will see in computer store advertisements:
Motherboard - Internally your computer has a motherboard which is a large circuit board that houses the CPU, the RAM and connects to the hard disk, other disk drives and USB ports.
USB - Universal Serial Bus. This is a slot in your computer that allows the connection of various input devices. Many printers have USB connections and plug into USB ports. Other common uses for USB ports are Digital Cameras, MP3 players, Memory Sticks and External Hard Disk Drives. Laptop computers usually use USB connects for the mouse and external keyboards. It is preferable to have at least 2 or 3 USB ports on your computer to allow multiple USB devices to be used at any one time.
Kilo, Mega, Giga and Tera - A lot of confusion around computer terminology centers around size and speed. Hard disk size, Memory size and File size are measured in bytes.
1KB = 1,000 Bytes
1MB = 1,000 KB (or 1,000,000 Bytes)
1GB = 1,000 MB (or 1,000,000,000 Bytes)
1TB = 1,000 GB (or 1,000,000,000,000 Bytes)
Because computer technology advances so quickly, Hard Disk sizes have grown from hundreds of Mega Bytes to Giga Bytes in just a few years and disks are now available in Tera Bytes. Advancements in technology also mean that while the physical size of the disks are getting smaller their capacity is getting bigger all of the time.
Computer processor (CPU) speed is measured in Hertz (hz). Current CPU speeds are around 1.5Ghz to 3.5Ghz. Generally the faster the speed of your processor, the better the performance of your computer. (See Slow Computers for other factors that influence speed and performance.)
There are various types of disks available for use with computers. Hard disks can be Internal or External. There are different types of Internal hard disks, so if you want to upgrade your disk and don't know what type you have, you should take it to a computer store to make sure you get the right kind for your system. External Hard disks have advanced significantly in recent times, Most now come with a USB interface and some of the disks with larger capacity reqpacity require external power. Smaller external disks and memory sticks will plug directly into a USB port and do not require any additional power to work. Floppy disks are almost obsolete now as their small capacity (1.44MB) is a limiting factor. Most computers have a CD or DVD disk drive. ROM means Read Only Memory, but most computers these days have read/write functions on their disk drives and these are know as CD burners or DVD burners.
More information is covered on the following screens:
Computer Memory (RAM)
Printers, Scanners and Printing
Connecting to the Internet
If you are looking to upgrade your computer, visit our purchase assistance page to see how we can help you or enter your location (city, state and/or zip/postal code) here to find a computer store near you: