Coly Computer Help


Click the first letter of the jargon word

Example: click P in this row of letters to find out what 'Pen drive' means

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ADSL: A broadband telephone line.

Anti-virus and anti-spy programs: Essential security programs which must always be kept up to date.

Apps (Applications) means Programs: Software such as a word processor, spread sheet, database, or a photo editing program. These are the equivalent of the tools such as a whisk, blender, and dough hook that you can insert into a kitchen mixer (the operating system) .

AVI: A video file format.

Beta software: A software that is still being developed but is available for the public to try out.

BIOS: Basic Input Output System: The program that check the state of your computer before Windows loads.

Blue screen of death: A blue screen with white text indicating a catastrophic Windows error.

Boot (boot up): Start up.


Broadband: A high speed telephone line which enables you to very quickly import (download) programs, music files, video files and picture files from the internet. Broadband also speeds up the loading of badly designed websites.
When the telephone line to your house is broadband enabled, it becomes the equivalent of a motorway with up to160 lanes. A normal telephone line is the equivalent of a country lane with single car access and no passing places.
Broadband speeds vary from 0.56Mbps to 8Mbps, that is from 10 to 160 times faster in real terms than a dial-up system.

Browser: a program such as Internet Explorer which allows you to browse the internet.

Byte: The amount of storage required for one character such as 's' or '6'.

CD-R disk: A CD disk for recording data, music, or pictures. CD-Rs can only be used once but they are now very cheap.

CD-ROM drive: a drive that can read compact Disks (CDs)

CD-RW: A CD disk for recording data, music, or pictures which can be used several times and which can have its contents erased.

CD-RW drive: a drive that can read compact Disks (CDs) and also it can record data, music, or pictures.

Chain emails: see Hoax emails

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Choose: see Select.

Configure: To configure a program or computer is to set it up to suit your particular requirements.

Core: Dual Core: A computer chip (CPU) which is virtually two chips in parallel. This means it is roughly twice as fast as a single core chip. Quad Core: A computer chip (CPU) which is virtually four chips in parallel. This means it is very fast but futuristic, hardly anything can utilise its advantages at the moment.

CRT: Cathode ray tube, the type of monitor that is like a bulky television set.

Cursor: The visible arrow which moves when you move the mouse or the arrow keys. It will change shape depending on its current function.

Data: data means the files you created yourself such as letters, spreadsheets, photos, emails, email addresses and music files.

Default: Something that the computer does without you having to tell it. If you load a blank new page in a word processor, it loads the default page which is preset with margins and font size. If you have two printers attached to your computer, you will be asked to set one of them as the default printer i.e., the one that the computer will always use unless you tell it to use the other printer.

Defragment: to tidy up a fragmented hard drive.

Display: Another word for the monitor or screen.

Driver. All hardware and software needs drivers. Sometimes Windows selects a driver for you. sometimes you have to load the drivers from a CD. Drivers are translators. They translate the digital gobbledygook spoken by computers into a language that printers, monitors, CDs and modems can understand.

Dual core: A computer chip (CPU) which is virtually two chips in parallel. This means it is roughly twice as fast as a single core chip.

DVD drive: a drive which can read both DVD and CD disks.

DVD-RW: a drive that can read DVDs and CDs and also it can record data, music, or pictures in CD or DVD format.

Ecommerce: Buying and selling over the internet.

EIDE: A system on the motherboard for controlling drives such as the hard disk and CD drive. Now being superseded by SATA.

Email: An electronic postal system. Not to be confused with webmail which is a quasi email system suitable only for people who travel and need to access their webmail away from home. AOL, Hotmail and Gmail are webmail systems. In a proper email system your email is accessed via an email client such as Outlook Express.

Error message: When a computer or program misbehaves, an error message appears on the screen. Always carefully write down the content of an error message so that the problem can be diagnosed.

Ethernet: A network of two or more computers using a wired connection instead of wireless. Wired connections are the fastest, most reliable and safest way of linking together two or more computers.

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File: A single item on your hard drive such as a letter, a piece of music or a photograph.

Firewall: A device that is designed to prevents hackers from accessing your computer. Windows XP has a Firewall which prevents hackers accessing your computer, but it does not prevent spies and Trojans sending information from your computer. If you have anti-spy programs and if you scan your computer regularly with them, the Windows Firewall is adequate.

Folder: a place on your hard disk where a collection of files is kept.

(1) to wipe a disk clean.
(2) to change the size, font, colour or position of a piece of text. To change the characteristics of a picture or document page.

Freeware: Programs which can be downloaded from a website at no cost, for instance the anti-spy programs Ad-Aware and SpyBot S& D are freeware. However, if you see a donation button, please donate a few pounds or dollars. The authors of the freeware have spent many months developing the programs and deserve some reward.

Gigabyte: One thousand megabytes. A one gigabyte hard drive will store about 200 million words.
Gigaherz: One million cycles per second. A measure of speed. A 3Ghz computer could be 3 times faster than a 1Ghz computer. However, the speed also depends very much on how much RAM the computer has.

Hard drive (hard disk): The device which stores your documents and operating system. The storage disk is usually labelled Local Disk (C:), but this is not always the case. People sometimes confuse this storage space with memory; the two are entirely different.

Hijack: Spyware and Tojans will sometimes hijack your web browser. The main symptom is that your home page suddenly differs from the one you set up. The new homepage contains dangerous links to dodgy websites and if you click the links you could also download viruses and Trojans. To solve a Hijack problem click here.

Highlight: An old fashioned term meaning select (see Select)

Hoax emails (chain emails): These are sent by naive but well meaning acquaintance and they contain bogus warnings and a request that you send the warning to all your friends. Kill off these chain emails. Refuse to worry your friends, break the chain.
Make sure you know how to recognise and deal with a hoax (chain email) warning; click here to find out.

Hyperlink: see Link

Icon: A small picture on your desktop which is a signpost (shortcut) to a folder or program. Deleting an icon does not delete the folder or program.
ISP: Internet Service Provider such as BT, TalkTalk, The Post Office or Orange.

JPG (JPEG): Pronounced jaypeg. This denotes a file in a format used by most cameras and websites. A typical file name will be something like this:
grandma-1-3-07.jpg   These files can be compressed substantially, which is why they are used on websites and for sending picture files by email.
Jump drive: See Pen drive

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Kilobit: 1,024 bits of information .

Kbits/s: Kilobits per second. Used to indicate the speed at which information is transmitted by a dial-up modem. The speed of a Broadband modem or router is always given in Mbps (one Mbps is one million bits per second) as it transmits information very much faster.

Kilobyte: 1,000 bytes. One byte contains one character such as 3 or k or 0. One kilobyte of text contains 1,000 characters (approx. 200 words)

Kb/s: Kilobits per second. Used to indicate the speed at which information is transmitted by a dial-up modem.

LAN: A Local Area Network connection. Most broadband routers are set up as LANs.

Laser printer: A printer using a charged drum and powdered pigment to print. The page cost is cheaper than inkjet and therefore laser printers are favoured by businesses with heavy print demand. The cartridge cost is very high but cartridges last a very long time.

Link: (short for hyperlink). A word, phrase, button, or picture on a website which, if clicked will take you to another page or to another website. Usually if you rest your cursor on a link you will see a hand appear. Often a little rectangle will pop-up to say what the link does. Sometimes the link word(s) will be a different colour and will be underlined like this jump to next page. Also, a hand appears when you hover the cursor over a link, and most of the links then change colour.

Megabyte: 1 million bytes (approx. 200,000 words).

Mbps: Megabits per second. The broadband unit of speed at which information is transmitted. At 8Mbps, a 1Mbyte photo could be downloaded in one to 1.5 seconds. A dial-up connection would take an average about 4 minutes. 

Megapixels: A million pixels. The higher the number of megapixels the more detail a digital camera will record. To produce sharp A4 size photos, a four megapixel camera will suffice if the camera has a good lens. Be sure to read reviews of cameras in computer magazines to find a suitable megapixel/lens combination.

Memory: The computer's short term memory is called RAM ( Random Access Memory). A document you are typing is temporarily stored in the RAM until you save it. If you switch off without saving the document, the memory no longer contains the document. When you save the document which is in the memory, it is copied from the short term memory (RAM) to the permanent storage (the hard disk). Install as much RAM as your computer will take; this increases the speed of your computer.

Menu: The list of items in the grey strip above a toolbar, if you click one of those menu items, a drop-down menu will appear.

Modem: The (internal or external) gadget that handles your email and Internet connection.
Dial-up modems run at 56,000 bits (56Kbps) of information per second. Unfortunately normal phone lines can't cope with such a flow so that 33 to 46Kbps is the best speed you can expect from a dial-up system. Broadband modems vary from 0.56Mbps to 8Mbps, ten to 160 times faster in real terms.

Monitor: See Display.

Motherboard: The main circuit board in a computer.

MP3: A type of sound file which is compressed so that it takes up less space on a disk.

MRUs: Most Recently Used web addresses. When you click the little down-arrow to the right of the Address field in Internet Explorer, a drop down list of your most recently accessed websites appears. These are the MRUs. If this list vanishes, you probably asked your anti-spyware to remove them after your latest scan.

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Name, file name and folder name: All files and folders have a name. The name can be up to 256 characters long and must not contain the characters * / \ > < ? " | : 

Navigate: To move from folder to folder to find a file or to find another another folder.

Network: A system of two or more computers linked together so that they can communicate with each other and share files and folders.

NIC: A Network Interface Card which allows computers to be connected by Ethernet cables.

Notification area: The small panel at the bottom right of the screen which shows which programs are running

NTFS: A more efficient and secure file system used on Windows XP, Windows 2000 and Windows Vista.

OCR: An Optical Character Recognition program converts a scanned document into a document file which can be stored on the computer (such as MS Word's doc file). The resulting document file can then be  edited.

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Operating System (OS): The version of Windows installed on your computer, e.g., Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista or Widows 7. Think of the operating system as a kitchen mixer with no tools inserted. The tools which you insert into an OS are programs or applications such as a word processor, a music player, a photo editing program. Other Operating Systems exist but they are relatively rare. Examples are Linux and Apple Mac. The first popular operating system was Microsoft's MS DOS.

Partition: A hard disk can be split into partitions. A different operating system can be installed in each partition. More usually one partition contains the operating system and another partition is used for data

PDF: A type of file used by Adobe, ideal for composing and viewing onboard manuals. The files can be read using Adobe Reader.

Pen Drive (Flash Drive): USB pen driveThese drives are sometimes incorrectly called memory sticks. A pen drive is a USB storage device. Ideal for transferring files between one computer and another. Used also for backing up data as they are less trouble than backing up to a CD. As with all back-up devices, it is possible for the drive to harbour a virus if you have backed up on an infected computer. Scan your pen drives with your ant-virus program.

Peripherals: Gadgets which can be connected to a computer such as a mouse, a printer, a scanner.

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Phishing: emails which look as though they have come from a bank, building society, or a well known company. The email asks you to fill in personal and financial information, this is then used by criminals to steal your identity and rob your bank account.

Processor speed: This together with the amount of RAM you have determines how fast your computer can run. A speed of 1GHz will cope with the great majority of jobs. Running high definition video on your computer requires more, say 2GHz and at least 512MB of RAM.

Program (application): Software such as a word processor, spread sheet, database, or a photograph editing program. Programs are the equivalent of the tools you insert into the kitchen mixer (the operating system) e.g., the whisk, blender, and dough hook; 

PS/2: A round connector now being superseded by USB connectors. Never plug or unplug a round connector device until you have turned off the computer.

PSU: the Power Supply Unit is inside a computer. It converts the 230 volt supply to the various lower voltages needed by computer components.

RAM: The computer's short term  memory where the document you are typing is temporarily stored until you save it. If you switch off without saving the document, the document is lost forever. If you save the document, it is transferred from the short term memory (RAM) to the permanent storage (the hard disk). To speed up your computer, install as much RAM as your computer will take.

Re-boot: Restart the computer.
To re-boot or re-start click Start--> Turn off computer --> Restart and wait while the computer shuts down and restarts itself.

Rename: To give a file or a folder a different name. This is done by right clicking the file or folder and clicking Rename . Then type in the new name and press Enter.

Restart: See Reboot above

Restore (System Restore): If after adding a new program the computer does not function properly you can go back to the time before you loaded the program. Try to un-install the troublesome program rather than use System Restore. If an un-install does not cure the problem then access the System Restore as follows: Start-->All programs
--> Accessories --> System Tools
. Then choose System Restore. Select Restore my computer to an earlier time. Click Next . Select a date and time when your computer was working properly and click Next.

Right Click: Press the right hand button on the mouse

Router: A device that connects to your phone line and distributes the internet signal to one or more computers.

Safe Mode: Safe Mode can be accessed by tapping the F8 key while the computer is just starting .This loads a minimum set of drivers which allows easier diagnosis of a problem or easier virus cleaning. In Safe mode the screen will look odd because a very basic graphics driver is being used.

Save and Save As... (make sure you learn and understand the difference).

Save is used when editing an existing document (one that is already saved and named). For a short cut, hold down the Ctrl key and tap the S key.

Save As... is used to save a completely new document. Or to save a copy of an existing document with a new file name. As an example, you may have a document saved which contains only a letter heading, after loading this document and writing a letter to Fred, you could click File-->Save as... then enter the file name Fred Letter 10-03-07. This would save your new letter and preserve the original document which would contain only the letter head details.

Scareware: Rogue programs creating false virus warnings in the hope that you will pay for a bogus cure

Screen: See Display.

Scrolling: The act of moving up or down inside a Scrolling window. Or moving left to right inside a window. This can be done by using the scroll bar. Inside the scroll bar you will see a slider bar which can be moved with the left mouse button or with the scroll wheel on the mouse. Half way up (or along) the slider bar are four little ridges, click on the ridges and hold down the left mouse button to move the slider bar. An alternative method is to roll the little wheel that sits between the mouse buttons.

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Select: This means 'choose' something to work on such as a word, a phrase, a sentence or a picture.
(i) In a Word processor you can select a piece of text, or a paragraph, or a whole document. Having selected it you can delete it, copy it, or format it.
Pre-1995, Select used to be called Highlight ; that was because in the days before 1995, the screen was black and the text was white. When selected, the text was highlighted by a white background.
(ii) In a dialogue box you can select (choose) from a list of options by clicking an item which then turns blue to indicate it has been selected.

Spam: Unsolicited emails, junk emails. As well as being an absolute pest these can harbour spies, malware or viruses. Spam can tempt you to do silly things like giving away person information to criminals (see Phishing).

Spy or Spyware: A program which install itself on a computer for the express purpose of spying on the contents. It can send the information out to the creator of the spy. Some spies disable the internet and email connection and disable your firewall and anti-virus program. Some will dial up a premium rate line (unknown to you), so running up big telephone bills (diallers can only work with dial-up accounts. Broadband is safe from diallers but not safe from all the other kinds of spy or Trojan). Spies cause computers to slow down.

Storage: Documents, photos, and information are stored on your computer's hard drive, or on a CD or a floppy disk. The amount of storage available is given in Megabytes (MB) or Gigabytes (GB).
A floppy disk will store 1.4MB (about 60 documents such as letters, or 1 small photo). A CD-R stores 650MB (12 million words or 200 average digital photographs).
A 20GB hard disk stores 800,000 documents or 6,000 digital photographs.

System Restore: See Restore above.

Taskbar: The full width bar at the bottom of the screen. The Start button is at the extreme left and the Notification area is on the extreme right of the Taskbar.

Task pane: The tall bluish panel on the left of the main Windows folders such as My Documents or My Pictures .

TFT: Thin Film Technology (or thin film transistor). This describes the thin flat screens now available to replace the bulky CRT monitors.

Toolbar: The row of buttons at the top of a program window. Some programs have more than one Toolbar. To see what a button does, rest the cursor on the button and wait a second or two.

Computer tower Tower:
The  computer proper.
It contains the power supply unit,  the processor unit, the motherboard, the hard disk, the CD and DVD drives, the USB ports and all the connection points for the monitor, speakers, keyboard, mouse and printer.

Undo: To undo what you just did click the Undo button on the toolbar.

Update: Don't confuse this with Upgrade.
Update means:-
(i) to download the latest virus definitions or spy definitions into an anti-virus or anti-spy program.
(iii) to download and install the latest program drivers or the Windows security updates.

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Upgrade: Don't confuse this with Update.
To upgrade means:
(i) to modernise an older computer.
(ii) to buy and install the latest version of a program.
(iii) with reference to free programs, it means to download and install the latest version, or to opt for a paid-for version of a free program.

USB: A thin flat connector as illustrated below.USB connector
 The new USB 2 devices are 12 time faster than the older USB 1 devices.

USB flash drive: See Pen Drive.

Video: Moving pictures such as a film or short film clip.

Video card: Another name for graphics card.

View: an item on the top menu bar which allows you to sort out problems or settings which affect the view on the screen. For example if a toolbar has vanished, click View on the menu then click Toolbars , click the Toolbar you wish to restore.

Virtual memory: When your computer needs more RAM than you have installed, it uses a part of your hard drive as extra memory. This is called virtual memory which is much slower than RAM. The more RAM you have the less use will be made of virtual memory and so the computer will run faster. You can increase the virtual memory click here to see how.

Vista: The previous version of the Windows operating system, now superseded by Windows 7.

Website: An online source of information accessed by using a Browser such as Internet Explorer.

Webcam: a small camera usually attached to the top of a computer screen for use with programs such as Skype. Webcams are also used to observe wild life or as a security video

Webmail: Not to be confused with email. Webmail is a quasi email system suitable for people who travel and need to access their mail away from home. Typical examples are Hotmail, Google mail and AOL's webmail. Most of the larger ISP's have both email and webmail. Webmail is a poor substitute for a proper email system using Outlook Express. However, webmail is useful for peeking into the ISPs inbox to see what might be blocking your incoming emails in Outlook Express. If your ISP has a spam filter, you should access the ISP's webmail service to empty the spam box (say) once week.

WiFi: A generic term covering any computer wireless system.

Windows: the most popular computer operating system, used by about 95% of computers worldwide.

Wizard: A screen panel which helps you tackle a task step by step.

XP: The most stable, secure and useful version of the Windows operating system. Windows XP was supposed to be superseded by Vista but Vista is so memory hungry, gimmick laden and tricky to use, that Vista is widely regarded as a retrograde step.
Vista has been superseded by a much better OS, i.e., Windows 7.

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Zip File: A file containing a number of files or documents in compressed form.

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