Tip & How-To about Computers & Internet

Computer technical jargon buster

Being a computer technician we have a certain terminology the majority of which is abbreviated.

Not very many people understand this terminology and in most cases can lead to people loosing interest or becoming completely confused.

In this tip section I am going to break down the terminology and give a brief description of what the abbreviations mean.

With that in mind I hope to be able to help the less computer savvy of us, as well as some of us professionals that need the odd reminder.

CPU = Central Processing Unit: Commonly known as the "Processor" this is the brains of the computer, carrying out the instructions of a program and is the main element of the computer.

GPU = Graphics Processing Unit: This is a graphics (video) card or on-board graphics on a motherboard. This device sends the video signal to the monitor so you can see your desktop.

PSU = Power Supply Unit: This speaks for itself and is the device that provides power to the computer, laptop etc.

Motherboard: This is the printed circuit board inside a computer that allows you to connect hard drives, CD/DVD roms and is also known as a system board or main board.

BIOS = Basic input/output system: This provides boot information to the computer and basic instructions for input like the mouse and keyboard. Without the bios the computer is a useless bunch of wires and components.

IDE = Integrated Drive Electronics: this refers to hard drives and optical drives and is the Parallel ATA (PATA) interface.

SATA = Serial Advanced Technology Attachment: Again this refers to hard drives and optical drives and is the main interface used in new computers.

Optical Drive = CD or DVD drives.

HDD = Hard Disk Drive.

SOLID STATE DRIVE: A device, such as an cell/mobile phone, or memory card, which has no internal moving parts, some webbooks have solid state drives.

FDD = Floppy Disk Drive: These drives are now almost obsolete but are still used in some office computers.

USB = Universal Serial Bus: This interface has replaced parallel and serial connections and is widely used to connect a computer with devices such as MP3 players, printers, digital cameras and external devices.

RAM = Random Access Memory: Commonly known as "System Memory" this is a form of data storage and can allow data to be accessed in any order hence the word "random".

CHIPSET: This refers to to two sets of chips on a motherboard. The "Northbridge" the northbridge links the CPU to very high-speed devices such as main memory and graphics controllers. The "Southbridge" the southbridge connects to lower-speed devices such as USB, audio and Ethernet controllers. Most computers require drivers for these two chips.

EEPROM = Electronically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory: This chip keeps it's memory when power is removed from the computer. BIOS chips use this kind of memory when used with a "Power on Password" or "BIOS" password and keeps settings.

CMOS BATTERY: This is essential for keeping the settings of the BIOS like the date and time and boot orders. If this battery runs out then the computer will not be able to keep its settings, usually replacing the battery resolves the problem.

GUI = Graphics User Interface: This is used in many different devices from computers to MP3 players and uses icons and visual indicators instead of text.

BYTE = A unit of computer storage that can hold a single character. 1024 bytes make a kilobyte, or 1Kb.

MB = Megabyte: 1024 kilobytes makes 1 megabyte.

GB = Gigabyte: 1024 megabytes makes 1 gigabyte.

TB = Terabyte: 1024 gigabytes makes 1 terabyte.

CACHE: A store for frequently-used data or files. Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox uses a hard disk cache for web pages and web data.

COOKIES: Text files generated by websites you visit and stored on your computer's hard disk. Cookies contain preferences and other information about your use of the sites, contrary to popular belief they are not harmful but can be used to find out about all previous use of the internet.

DOS = Disk Operating System:The standard PC operating system well before Windows arrived on the scene. DOS manages how files are stored on your computer and is controlled through typed commands.

EXPANSION SLOT: A socket on a computer's motherboard designed to take expansion cards like graphics cards, audio cards etc.

FIRMWARE: Software permanently stored on a device that controls it's basic operations. DVD Players/roms and many other electronic devices use firmware. Firmware can be upgraded using a process known as 'flashing" and sometimes can cause the device your flashing to stop working.

GHz = Gigahertz: This is a thousand megahertz and is a measure of how fast the processor in your computer is working.

HEATSINK: A block of metal (usually aluminium) and is used to dissipate heat from a hot component, usually the processor.

LED = Light Emitting Diode: An electronic device that emits light when an electric current is passed through it and are used in just about every modern electronic device.

NTFS = NT File System: A file system used by Windows 2000, XP, Vista and Windows 7.

FAT = File Allocation System: A file system used by Windows 95, 98 and ME and is now mainly used in flash drives and memory cards.

OEM = Original Equipment/Electronics Manufacturer: This refers to components sold to manufacturers purely for incorporation in complete systems.

Windows will automatically detect the new device and install any needed drivers from its own database.

ISP = Internet Service Provider.

POP3 = Post Office Protocol 3: A protocol used for remotely accessing and retrieving email from an ISP. Most email applications like Outlook use POP3 for incoming emails.

SMTP = Simple Mail Transfer Protocol: A standard for sending email messages. SMTP is for sending messages rather than receiving them.

TCP/IP = Transmission control protocol/internet protocol: A protocol used to transfer data and information from one internet-connected computer to another.

Wi-Fi: 802.11a, b or g, used for wireless networking devices.

WPA/WEP: Protection for data over wireless networks.

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