The world of computers is filled with technical terms and it’s easy to get lost if you’re not that technical. To be honest, the majority of these terms sound much more complicated than they are, and the average person can become quite fluent in this jargon in next to no time. So, if you’re feeling a little “non-PC”, here’s our guide to getting computer literate.
Anti-virus software: A program designed to protect your computer from malicious software.
Address Bar: The section of your internet browser where you can enter web addresses.
APP: Short for “application”. These are small programs that don’t take up much memory or hard drive space. This term normally applies to software for mobile devices, such as phones and tablets.
Avatar: A picture or character used to represent the user, especially online.
Backup: A duplicate copy of important data, kept in case the original is lost or overwritten in any way.
Beta: A version of software released for testing by a larger community, i.e. a program that is almost finished and ready for release, but is undergoing the final stages of checking and bug fixes with help from a larger base of computer users.
BIOS: Vital software that configures your system’s components when you first turn it on; this is what appears before Windows starts loading. Stands for “Basic Input Output System”
Blog: A type of online diary or newsletter, often updated on a regular basis. The name comes from “Web Log”.
Browser: A program that allows you to read and search the internet. Popular examples include Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome.
Buffer: Data stored in memory so it can be accessed faster. For example, buffering an internet movie stores a portion on your computer so you should get a smoother viewing experience while the remainder downloads.
Bug: An error, normally related to software.
Bulletin Board: A website where people may post messages for other users. These boards or BBs are often themed around specific topics such as films, music or technology.
Burn: To write data onto a CD or DVD. The information is “burned” on with a laser.
Cache: A temporary store of data for speedy access; this may be in memory or on a hard disk. A cache often has a predefined limit and needs clearing out from time to time.
CD ROM: A type of disc containing data. More information cannot be written onto it.
CD R / RW: Discs that can be written to. In the case of RW discs, information can be added and changed multiple times. This can also apply to DVD.
Chat Room: A website where many users can meet and type messages to each other in real-time. More advanced Chat Rooms may include audio and video chat.
Cloud: Services that are provided over the internet, rather than being installed onto your computer, are referred to as being “in the cloud”. For example, online backup is often referred to as “Cloud Storage”
Conflict: A problem caused by conflicting instructions being issued at the same time by different pieces of software or hardware.
Cookie: A small file used by websites to store information about your browsing history. Normally this is designed to enhance your visit next time by remembering preferences, etc.
DAB: Digital radio. Stands for Digital Audio Broadcasting
Defragging: Running a Defrag, or Defragmentation, moves all related files to one area on your PC’s hard disk. This can give your system a speed boost, and is normally done automatically if you have Windows 7.
DirectX: A piece of software designed by Microsoft which is needed by most games. This is regularly updated to provide enhanced performance.
Display Adapter: Another name for your Graphics Card.
Dongle: A small USB device that connects to a PC, often used to mean memory sticks or mobile wireless adapters.
DOS: Not often utilised these days, this was the old Disk Operating System used prior to more recent versions of Windows.
Driver: A piece of software that helps your computer operate its hardware or an attached device.
DRM: Stands for Digital Rights Management. Software with DRM built in limits the way you can use it; i.e. a type of digital copyright system.
Duplex Printing: The ability to print on both sides of a sheet of paper.
Ebook: An electronic book.
Encryption: A form of digital protection. Emulated data is “scrambled” by a code so only those with the right “key” can read it.
E-Reader: A portable device dedicated to reading Ebooks; e.g. The Amazon Kindle.
Ethernet Port / Cable: A standard for computer networking. This is commonly used when setting up broadband and wireless internet connections.
File Sharing: Swapping files with other users, normally across the internet. Sharing copyrighted material without the copyright holder’s permission is illegal.
Firewall: A piece of software designed to stop unauthorised access to your computer over the internet or a network.
Firewire port / cable: A more recent type of connector for external disk drives and cameras, which allows faster data transfer.
Frame rate: The number of images produced in a second. Movement will appear smoother the faster this is. This is most important in games and films.
GB: Gigabyte. This is a measurement of storage size, especially related to hard drives and computer memory. For example, most computers’ memory will be 4GB or more. Hard disks can have hundreds of GB memory, and larger ones may be as large as a terabyte (TB).
Graphics Card / GPU: The part of your computer dedicated to producing the display. These range in power, with more advanced cards producing higher detail and frame rates for games.
Hacking: A Hacker is someone who gains unauthorised access to an account or computer system / network.
Hard Disk: The main storage device on a computer where all your data and files are kept.
Hardware: The physical components of your computer and any peripheral devices you attach; e.g. monitor, keyboard, printer etc.
HDMI: A type of connection designed to carry HD images and sound. Stands for High Definition Media Interface.
Icon: A small image used to represent a file or program.
Instant Messaging: A system of one-to-one text chat over the internet.
Integrated Graphics: A graphics chip built into the motherboard of the computer, most common in laptops and other portable computers, as opposed to a separate Dedicated graphics card.
IP Address: An address used to identify a computer over a network or the internet. Stands for Internet Protocol Address.
Launch: To start a program.
Malware: A blanket term for all types of Malicious Software designed to gather information without your permission or damage your system.
MB: A unit of measurement of data. A MB is substantially smaller than a GB.
Multitouch: A touchscreen that can detect more than one touch at once for more complex commands.
Netbook: A very small and portable type of Laptop computer, often with limited memory and storage space.
Network: A number of computers connected together, either physically or wirelessly.
Online Gaming: Playing games over the internet against other people.
Operating System: The main software interface you use to interact with your computer, e.g. Windows 7.
Patch: An update for software which fixes problems and may add new features.
Preview Pane: Also known as the Reading Pane, this is a window in an email program that allows you to see the contents of the message without having to open it.
Processor: The brain of the computer. Also known as the CPU (Central Processing Unit). The more powerful the processor, the faster the computer can run. Many processors these days come with multiple Cores; in effect, this means there are multiple processors in one so the system can be even faster.
Product Key: A unique code used to authenticate and activate a product you have bought.
RAM: Random Access Memory – This is your computer’s “thinking space”, measured in GB. More RAM generally means your system will run faster, although you will need a 64-bit version of Windows if you want to use more than 4GB.
Recycle Bin: A temporary holding area for deleted files. Files can still be retrieved from the recycle bin – deleting them from the bin, or emptying the bin, will permanently erase them.
Rip: Copying music from a CD to your computer is known as Ripping.
ROM: Read Only Memory – This is built-in memory pre-set with instructions that help your computer run.
Safe Mode: A start-up option that loads only the most basic options, designed to help debug and fix errors.
Search Engine: A website or toolbar that searches the internet for you; e.g. Google.
Shareware: Software that allows you to evaluate the product for no charge and freely distribute it. The free use may be for a limited period, or disable certain features.
Social Networking: Websites that allow you to post messages (or “status updates), photos, videos and the link, such as Facebook or Twitter.
Spam: Unwanted emails or messages, i.e. online junk mail.
Streaming: Viewing or listening to media without downloading it first, for example, via YouTube. The data is sent as a “stream” direct to your player at a higher speed as it doesn’t need to be saved onto the hard drive.
System Restore: Windows can be used to set System Restore points. If anything goes wrong with your computer, you can revert to a point when your system was still working properly.
Tablet: A portable computer without a keyboard that uses a touchscreen.
Touchscreen: A screen that registers where you touch it, normally to activate the icons it displays.
USB: A common type of computer connection. Stands for Universal Serial Bus.
Virtual Memory: A section of your hard drive set aside for the computer to load frequently accessed functions into. This has the effect of increasing your system’s memory and speeding processes up.
Virtual World: An online environment where users can explore and interact with each other. This may be as part of a game, such as World of Warcraft, or a more unique user-generated online experience like Second Life.
Virus: A type of Malware designed to attack and infect your computer and then spread to others.
Wi-Fi: Wireless connection to a home network or the internet. Many devices can connect via Wi-Fi, including printers, smartphones and computers.
ZIP File: A type of compressed file which needs to be “extracted” before use.