Basic Computer Terms for Beginners (Illustrated With Pictures)



Welcome to a beginner’s guide on the basic computer terms. The cyber world sure is confusing these days with a ton of jargon, technical words, and abbreviations. But fear not – Let us walk through the essential ones in this guide, explained in simple English. Read on to find out!





Central Processing Unit (CPU)

The brain of the computer, the main component that does all the processing and number crunching.


Random Access Memory (RAM)

Short term memory of the computer. Fast, volatile memory that the computer uses to compute the more immediate processes. Once the power is switched off, everything inside the RAM will be lost.


Read-Only Memory (ROM)

Small capacity long-term memory of the computer. Unlike RAM, ROM will retain the information even after the power is switched off.


Hard Drive

Large capacity long-term memory of the computer. This is usually where we install all the applications and keep all our data. Not to be confused with ROM, hard disks are not as fast as ROM as it is mechanical in nature; It has to spin a data platter in order to read data from it, while ROM is just solid electronic chip.


Solid-State Drive (SSD)

A “different” kind of hard disk that comprises fully of ROM. Has faster read/write speed than the traditional hard disks, but also costs more.


Flash Drive

A device that comprises of memory that we can use to store or transfer data with. Otherwise also known as a pen drive or thumb drive.


Bits & Bytes

How is memory capacity measured in a computer? In the smallest unit, a computer can only understand 1 or 0 – We call this a single bit of data.

  • 1 byte = 8 bits.
  • 1 kilobyte = 1000 bytes.
  • 1 megabyte = 1000 kilobytes.
  • 1 gigabyte = 1000 megabytes.
  • 1 terabyte = 1000 gigabytes.
  • 1 petabyte = 1000 terabytes.



Well, the device that we type on to input data to the computer.



The device that we use to move the cursor on the screen.




The device that displays images from the computer, where we read things from.



A device that we use to print documents with. Not to be confused with a 3D printer, this one only prints on paper.


3D Printer

An “advanced” printer that prints objects by melting a spool of thread plastic called “filament”.


Universal Serial Bus (USB)

The de facto standard connector that we see on nearly every device… Has many different versions:




Application (App for short)

Software that you install on your computer to do all kinds of things – Word processing, browse the Internet, listen to music, watch videos, etc…


Operating System (OS)

System software that serves as the platform. Allows users to install and run applications, manages the hardware and system resources. Windows, Mac OSX, Android, iOS, and Linux are the popular ones.



Software that enables the hardware to work properly with the operating system.



Abbreviation for “graphics”.


Word Processor

Software that we use to type out text documents.



Once upon a time, we have to use a pen, paper, ruler to draw tables and use a calculator to the Math. Today, a spreadsheet application does all the magic.



Software that we use to create presentation slides.



Freeware refers to applications that are offered for free.



Shareware refers to applications that are offered free for an evaluation period, but will require a fee thereafter.


Malware & Virus

Bad software that is designed to cause damage to your computer.



Something like a driver, it is basically a control software that is permanently embedded on devices.


Graphical User Interface (GUI)

Pronounced as “gooey”, basically all the windows, buttons, icons, and toolbars that you interact with on a computer.





The Internet (spelled with a capital “I”), is a combination of 2 words “inter” and “network”. It is a network of networks, linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies – Wikipedia.


World Wide Web (WWW)

The WWW is an information space where documents and other web resources are accessible over the Internet – Wikipedia. So please take note, the Internet essentially refers to the infrastructure, while WWW refers to the online content.


Uniform Resource Locator (URL)

In simple terms, the web address. For example,


Internet Service Provider (ISP)

The company that provides you with the service of accessing the Internet.


1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G

“G” is short for “generation”, and these are referring to the generations of the wireless mobile network. I.E. First generation, second generation, fifth generation, etc… Of course, the later generations are more advanced than their ancestors.



Short for “wireless fidelity”. Not to be confused, WiFi and “G” are 2 different technologies. “G” networks literally carpet entire cities, while WiFi is good for homes and offices.



Short for modulator-demodulator. The device that connects you to the Internet. They actually come in many shapes and sizes these days, wired ones that use copper wires, fiber optics, and even wireless modems that use the mobile network.


Wireless Router

Used to create your own private WiFi network. Connect this to a modem to share the Internet connection among many devices.



A security device that protects your devices against virus, malware, and the bad guys. Can be in the form of a dedicated network device, or software installed on a computer.



Web Browser

Software that you are using right now to access the information on the WWW.


Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML)

Used to create web pages, the backbone behind them; Specifies how the web pages are structured.



Not the ones we eat… Cookies are “tokens” that are sent from a website to the user. They are used to properly identify the users, and to store small amounts of data – Things such as a shopping cart, or your personal preferences on that website.



Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. Yep… CAPTCHA for short. A technique used to fight spam, by asking the user to complete a simple game, or to enter a series of characters.



There are actually a lot more computer terms… So many that we can write an entire encyclopedia with. If you are interested in learning more, here are 2 of the more complete lists:




Thank you for reading, and we have come to the end of this guide. I hope that this has helped you to better understand, and if you have anything to share with this guide, please feel free to comment below. Good luck and happy computing. May the cyber force be with you.

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