What is...

A Hard Drive

This is where all your data and programs are stored on your computer, when you create a document or download a picture and save it, you're saving it onto your hard disk drive (HDD). Think of it as your filing cabinet, where you store all your letters, bills etc.


HDDs are measured in Gb (Gigabytes, which is 1000 Megabytes) or Tb (Terabytes, which is 1000 Gigabytes). You should chose one as large as your budget allows. Common sizes are 500Gb, 1Tb, 1.5Tb & 2Tb.


RAM (or Memory)

This is Random Access Memory and is one of the most important factors in determining the speed of your machine. Think of this as your desk, the more RAM you have, the bigger your desk. When you go and retrieve a pile of paperwork from your filing cabinet, the bigger your desk, the more things you can place on it at the same time.


Again, this is measured in GB (Gigabytes), common sizes are 4GB, 6GB, 8GB & 16GB. More is better.



Another important part determining speed, this is the Central Processing Unit (CPU) or processor. This is the brain of your computer. There are many CPU manufacturers such as Intel & AMD.


CPU speed is measured in GHz (Gigahertz), Common speeds are 2.4GHz, 3.1GHz etc. The higher the number, the faster the processor.


Another factor to take into consideration is the number of 'cores' in the processor, dual core is faster than single core and quad core is faster than dual core.


A Graphics card/Memory

This is responsible for processing the images that appear on your screen. Many computers have on-board graphics capability, this means it is built into the motherboard of your PC. This is fine for basic use such as word processing, web browsing etc. But if you intend to use your PC for gaming, you might prefer a dedicated graphics card. This has it's own processing power and memory built in to produce better looking and smoother images.


A Motherboard

This is simply the main circuit board inside your computer. It has numerous chips including the CPU and memory chips on it and all your drives (HDD and CD/DVD) are attached to it.



Drives are storage devices, The main one is the HDD inside your machine, normally called the 'C' drive. But there are external hard drives which you can connect to your computer via a USB cable and the very common USB stick, which is useful for carrying your work/data with you and can be used on virtually any PC.


A Browser

This is a program on your PC which lets you view webpages and surf the internet. Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are all web browsers. When someone says "open your browser", they simply mean go onto the internet.


Click (sometimes called left click)

This means to point your mouse curser (the arrow on your screen, controlled by your mouse) onto an item and press/release the left mouse button once.


Double Click

Same as above but rapidly press/release the left mouse button twice.


Right Click

Same as Click except you press/release the right mouse button once.

This action normally brings up a context sensitive menu, what appears on the menu is dependant on the item on which you right-click.


Copy and Paste

This is how you copy a piece of text on your screen and place it somewhere else on your screen, rather than re-typing it. Very useful if you see something interesting on a webpage and want to copy it into a Word document, or you want to copy some text in an email, such as a password and paste it into a webpage.

  1. First highlight the text by placing the curser at the end of the text you wish to copy.
  2. Hold down the left mouse button and move the curser to the beginning of the text and release the button. The text is now highlighted.
  3. Right click on the highlighted text and a menu will appear, click 'Copy'. The menu will disappear, nothing else visible will happen.
  4. Now go to the program where you wish to place the copied text, i.e. Word.
  5. Right click in the area you wish to paste the text and a menu will appear, click 'Paste'.

That's it, done.



Has many connotations but we'll stick to the PC related issues. You can use this to move things such as desktop icons or files. You simply click on an object and whilst holding down the left mouse button, move (or drag) the object to where you want it, then release the button.



This is where you access your email via the internet. You visit the website of your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and login with your user name & password to access your emails. This can usually be set up to log you in automatically when you access the website, so you go straight to your mailbox.

With webmail you can access your emails from almost any internet connected PC in the world. The disadvantage is that if your internet connection stops working, you cannot access your emails.


Email client

This is a piece of software on your PC such as Microsoft Outlook or Windows Live Mail (free program) which contacts your ISP and retreives your email from them and then stores it on your PC. The advantage of this method is that even if your internet connection fails, you can still access all your previous emails. The disadvantage is that you cannot easily access them from any PC. You can however, usually set this program up to leave a copy of your emails on your ISP servers so you can still access your Webmail from any PC.


The Cloud

At the moment, you have you computer in your home or office and all your programs, documents, photos and music are stored on the hard drive within your PC. You know where they are and with good security software on your computer, your data is fairly safe. Unfortunately, unless you take your computer with you, it's difficult to show your latest holiday snaps to your Auntie Maud when you go for tea.


Cloud computing means that all your programs, documents, photos and music can be stored on the massive computers or servers of other organisations and all you need do is log on from any internet enabled PC anywhere in the world and you can finish that letter or presentation you were creating, look at your photos or listen to your music. All your data is stored up in the clouds.


A couple of things to consider though, your ISP probably won't provide this service for free and over time, they could introduce various charges based on how much data you store on their servers or how often you access it. The next issue is security, Cloud providers will undoubtedly provide very good security to protect your data but as we've seen in the past, this is no guarantee that your data won't go missing or be accessed by hackers.