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Mar 16

49 common computer terms and meanings

A number you may know but a few you may not. Here is a list of 50 common computer terms and their associated meaning.


1. Attachment
An attachment is a file normally sent via email. The attachment could be anything from a file or program to a picture or video.

2. Anti-Virus
Is a software program that is installed on your computer to identify and remove computer viruses and other harmful files.

3. AVI
Stands for “Audio Video Interleave” and is a popular video format used for playing movie files.

4. Backup
When someone uses the term backup in relation to computers they are referring to copying files and folders from a computer to another location so that you have a copy should your computer completely fail.

5. Bandwidth
When referred to with regards to computers it normally means the rate at which you can transfer data from one location to another.

6. Bios
Stands for “Basic Input Output System”. You can access this section of your computer when it first starts normally by pressing F2 or del. The bios can do things such as change what devices boot first and options to over-clock your computer in some systems. Its not recommended you change the Bios unless you know what you are doing.

7. Bookmark/Favourites
A bookmark or a favourite saves the location of a page you like to be easily accessed in the future.

8. Browser
There are 2 types of browser. One is a file browser such as windows explorer which allows you to see files and folders on your computer. The second is a web browser which allows you to access the internet to view websites. Examples of web browsers are internet explorer, google chrome, Firefox

9. Control Panel
This is the part of the windows operating system which allows you to change different settings such as adding users or removing programs

10. Cursor
This is basically your mouse pointer, normally an arrow but it can change depending on what task you are doing (egg timer, circle, hand)

11. Device Driver
This is a bit of software used by the operating system to operate a device like your graphics card or speakers.

12. Desktop
When you start your computer this is the screen you are presented with (sometimes after you have logged in) The icons on your desktop are short-cuts to programs on your computer.

13. Email Client
There are a number of different email clients (Thunderbird, Outlook, Windows Mail) An email client is used to download emails from your mail server to your computer and to upload (send emails).

14. Email Address
This is an address which email messages are delivered to. Like you have you home address that your mail company delivers mail to this is you computer address where your mail is sent.

15. Firewall
Since Windows XP SP3 there has been a basic firewall integrated into the operating system. A firewall acts as a barrier between you and the internet filtering anything that is deem to be nasty. It also stops programs from accessing the internet on your computer that don’t have permission. The benefit of this for example is that it can stop a program sending data back to the creator of a virus that could contain private information and passwords.

16. Flash Drive/USB Stick
This is a device used to store data that can be plugged into your computers USB slot. These tend to be small and light devices that come in a variety of sizes. USB drives use flash memory which has no moving parts which makes them more reliable and durable.

17. Gigabyte
A gigabyte is a term used to describe an amount of data. To put it in real world terms if you had a gigabyte of space you would be able to store approximately 120 songs in that space. Most people may recognise it from there internet provider documentation when referring to limits.

18. File
A file is something stored on your computer.

19. Google
Google is probably the most well-known search engine in the world.

20. Hard Drive/Disk Drive
This is where all your data is stored. This includes the operating system files as well as your personal files like photos, videos, documents. These drives vary in size from 40GB to around 2TB (2000GB)

21. Hardware
Hardware are the physical devices in your computer. For example your processor, hard drive DVD drive, sound card are all examples of hardware.

22. Hibernate
Hibernate is when your computer goes into a mode that saves data to the memory so that when you press a key or come out of hibernate the computer is in the same state as it was previously.

23. Home Page
This is a website or page which loads when you open your web browser or you press your home button on your choice of web browser.

24. Icon
This is a small graphic that represents a program or file. You tend to find these icons on your desktop

25. ISP
Stands for “Internet Service Provider” and these are the people that provide you with a connection to the internet.

26. Junk Mail
Junk mail is something that pretty much everyone who has used email has received at some point. It tends to be advertising or fake emails from places claiming to be banks or PayPal or trying to sell you viagra or some other product.

27. Malware
Is short for malicious software and this is software that is designed to infect your system and either disrupt it or gather sensitive information.

28. MP3
MP3 is a digital encoding format that is a very common way to store audio.

29. Operating System/OS
This is the main piece of software on your computer. Everything tends to run on top of the operating system. Examples of operating systems are windows vista, windows 7, Mac OS X.

30. Path
Path is the location of a file on your computer. For example c:\windows\test.txt means the file test.txt is in the folder windows and the windows folder is on drive C. That is the path of that file.

31. Peripherals
These are thing that you add to your computer such as a printers, mouse, keyboard, monitor. Pretty much anything that plugs into your computer.

32. Parental Controls
These are designed to give parents control over what there child can do or view on the computer as well as limiting the amount of time they spend on it.

33. Plug and Play
This is a technology which basically means you plug something into the computer and it lets the computer recognise it all automatically.

34. Phishing
Phishing is the process of trying to get sensitive information from you via emails.

35. Pixel
These are dots or squares that make up and image. If you split your screen into a grid 1024 across by 768 down every square would be a pixel (786,432 pixels). An icon on your desktop for example may be 15 pixels by 15 pixels and each pixel can be a different colour.

36. RAM/Memory
RAM is a storage media on your computer that stores data on programs you are running. Unlike your hard drive when you shut power off the data is cleared (volatile memory)

37. Registry
This is where windows stores the majority of its settings and is considered the brain of the operating system. It can store everything from serial numbers and passwords to how you like your screen to look.

38. Resolution
This is the measurement of your screen in pixels. For example the most popular resolution is 1024 x768 which is 1024 pixels across by 768 pixels down.

39. Router
A router is a device used to forward data and route it. You probably have router connected to your computer. It gets its data from the internet and directs it to the correct port on your computer. It also allows you to share files across a network in the same way.

40. RSS
Really Simple Syndication is used to publish work that is often updated (for example blogs)

41. Run
This is used to “Run” an application on your computer using the programs path (c:/windows/runme.exe)

42. Safe Mode
When your computer starts in safe mode it only loads the basic devices and drivers to operate. It is often used to diagnose and fix issues with your computer and is usually accessed by pressing F8 on boot up

43. Scroll
When you move the bar to the right down so you can see more of the screen what you are doing is scrolling. This can also be achieved by using a mouse wheel.

44. Spyware
This kind of malicious software does exactly what it says on the tin, it collects information without your knowledge and is typically difficult to detect.

45. SSD
“Solid state drive” is a data storage device that uses solid state memory to store data which means there are no moving parts. At the moment considerably more expensive that normal drives but do offer better reliability.

46. Start Menu
The start menu lists all the programs on your computer and orders them so they are easier to launch. In windows systems this is normally found by clicking the windows/start icon in the bottom left corner

47. URL
“Uniform resource locator” is the address of any web-page/document or image on the internet. This is usually shown in the top of your browser starting http://www

48. Virus
A virus is a piece of software that is generally designed to be malicious and either sabotage files or steal data

49. VGA
“Video Graphics Array” is display hardware and is generally what you PC monitor plugs into (blue connector) although with the uptake of DVI and HDMI you may find your monitor no longer connects this way