ALL Definitions are from the Tech Terms Computer Dictionary.
Computer hardware refers to the physical parts of a computer and related devices. Internal hardware devices include motherboards, hard drives, and RAM. External hardware devices include monitors, keyboards, mice, printers, and scanners.
The internal hardware parts of a computer are often referred to as components, while external hardware devices are usually called peripherals. Together, they all fall under the category of computer hardware.Software, on the other hand, consists of the programs and applications that run on computers. Because software runs on computer hardware, software programs often have system requirements that list the minimum hardware required for the software to run.
Computer software is a general term that describes computer programs. Related terms such as software programs, applications, scripts, and instruction sets all fall under the category of computer software. Therefore, installing new programs or applications on your computer is synonymous with installing new software on your computer.
Software can be difficult to describe because it is “virtual,” or not physical like computer hardware. Instead, software consists of lines of code written by computer programmers that have been compiled into a computer program. Software programs are stored as binary data that is copied to a computer’s hard drive, when it is installed. Since software is virtual and does not take up any physical space, it is much easier (and often cheaper) to upgrade than computer hardware.
While at its most basic level, software consists of binary data, CD-ROMs, DVDs, and other types of media that are used to distribute software can also be called software. Therefore, when you buy a software program, it often comes on a disc, which is a physical means of storing the software.
Also known as an “OS,” this is the software that communicates with computer hardware on the most basic level. Without an operating system, no software programs can run. The OS is what allocates memory, processes tasks, accesses disks and peripherials, and serves as the user interface.
Thanks to operating systems, like Windows, Mac OS, and Linux, developers can write code using a standard programming interface, or API. Without an operating system, programmers would have to write about ten times as much code to get the same results. Of course, some computer geniuses have to program the operating system itself.
Microsoft Windows is the most popular operating system for personal computers. There are several versions of the Windows operating system, including Windows XP (for home users) and Windows 2000 (for professional users). Earlier versions of Windows include Windows 3.1, 95, 98, ME, and NT. All Windows platforms use a graphical user interface (GUI), like the Mac OS, and also offer a command-line interface for typing text commands.
The surge protector is an important, yet often overlooked part of a computer setup. It allows multiple devices to plugged in to it at one time and protects each connected device from power surges. For example, a home office may have a computer, monitor, printer, cable modem, and powered speakers all plugged into one surge protector, which is plugged into a single outlet in the wall. The surge protector allows many devices to use one outlet, while protecting each of them from electrical surges.
Short for “malicious software,” malware refers to software programs designed to damage or do other unwanted actions on a computer system. In Spanish, “mal” is a prefix that means “bad,” making the term “badware,” which is a good way to remember it (even if you’re not Spanish).
Common examples of malware include viruses, worms, trojan horses, and spyware. Viruses, for example, can cause havoc on a computer’s hard drive by deleting files or directory information. Spyware can gather data from a user’s system without the user knowing it. This can include anything from the Web pages a user visits to personal information, such as credit card numbers.
It is unfortunate that there are software programmers out there with malicious intent, but it is good to be aware of the fact. You can install anti-virus and anti-spyware utilities on your computer that will seek and destroy the malicious programs they find on your computer. So join the fight against badware and install some protective utilities on your hard drive!
Like a biological virus, a computer virus is something you don’t want to get. Computer viruses are small programs or scripts that can negatively affect the health of your computer. These malicious little programs can create files, move files, erase files, consume your computer’s memory, and cause your computer not to function correctly. Some viruses can duplicate themselves, attach themselves to programs, and travel across networks. In fact opening an infected e-mail attachment is the most common way to get a virus.
We all know it’s hard enough to get a computer to work well when it is healthy, let alone when it has been attacked by a virus. Therefore, it is better to prevent an attack than to try and cure it. There are many anti-virus programs available that scan incoming files for viruses before they can cause damage to your computer. Some of these programs include Norton AntiVirus?, McAfee VirusScan?, and Virex?. It is a good idea to have one of these programs on your computer to prevent a virus attack. It is also important to update your virus definitions file at least once a month so that your anti-virus program can check for all the latest viruses. It’s a lot like having a glass of orange juice every morning — it keeps your computer’s immune system strong and healthy.
As the name implies, this is software that “spies” on your computer. Nobody likes to be spied on, and your computer doesn’t like it either. Spyware can capture information like Web browsing habits, e-mail messages, usernames and passwords, and credit card information. If left unchecked, the software can transmit this data to another person’s computer over the Internet.
So how does spyware get on your computer? Just like viruses, spyware can be installed when you open an e-mail attachment containing the malicious software. It can also be installed when you install another program that has a spyware installer attached to it. Because of the insidious nature of spyware, most people don’t even know when spyware is on their computer. Fortunately, you can purchase anti-spyware utilities that will search for spyware on your computer and stomp the unwanted software out of your system. A good way to prevent spyware from infecting your computer is to install a security program that lets you know when any program is being installed, so that you can choose to authorize or stop the installation.
Most software programs require that you first install them on your computer before using them. For example, if you buy Microsoft Office, you need to install it on your computer before you can run any of the included programs such as Word or Excel. You can install software from a CD or DVD, an external hard drive, or from a networked computer. You can also install a program or software update from a file downloaded from the Internet.
Installing a software program writes the necessary data for running the program on your hard drive. Often theinstaller program will decompress the data included with the installer immediately before writing the information to your hard drive. Software updates, which are typically downloaded from the Internet, work the same way. When you run the update, the installer file decompresses the data and then updates the correct program or operating system.
Installing software is usually a simple process. It involves double-clicking an installer icon and then clicking “I Agree” when the license agreement pops up. You may have to choose what directory on your hard disk you would like to install the software in, but often the installer will even choose that for you. Some software can be installed by simply dragging a folder or application program onto your hard drive. Either way, installing software is a rather simple process and should not be intimidating. If you can cook you dinner in the microwave, you can install your own software.
In the computing world, the term “wireless” can be rather ambiguous, since it may refer to several different wireless technologies. The two most common types of wireless capabilities computers have are Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Wi-Fi is the technology used for wireless networking. If your computer has a wireless card, it is most likely Wi-Fi compatible. The wireless card transmits to a wireless router, which is also based on the Wi-Fi standard. Wireless routers are often connected to a network, cable modem, or DSL modem, which provides Internet access to anyone connected to the wireless network.
Bluetooth is the technology often used for wireless keyboards and mice, wireless printing, and wireless cell phone headsets. In order to use a device such as a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse, your computer must be Bluetooth-enabled or have a Bluetooth adapter installed.
Computers may also use other wireless technologies aside from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Products such as remote controls and wireless mice may use infrared or other proprietary wireless technologies. Because of the many wireless options available, it is a good idea to check the system requirements of any wireless device you are considering buying.
When you have two or more computers connected to each other, you have a network. The purpose of a network is to enable the sharing of files and information between multiple systems. The Internet could be described as a global network of networks. Computer networks can be connected through cables, such as Ethernet cables or phone lines, or wirelessly, using wireless networking cards that send and receive data through the air.