13 Basic Things To Know About Computers

INTRODUCTION

CYBER QUICK START GUIDE

Welcome to a beginner’s guide on the basic things to know about computers, and congratulations on taking the first steps into the cyber world. Aye, while most modern computers are pretty much fuss-free these days, but the cyber jungle is still deep with many different technologies and changes over the years.

Where do we begin? What are the essential basic computer skills and knowledge? This guide will walk you through a few of the basic stuff, so you don’t get lost in the cyber jungle. Read on to find out!

 

1) BASIC COMPUTER PARTS

The very first thing you need to know about computers is the parts and what they do. There are probably hundreds of different devices and hardware components, but here are a few of the raw basics:

  • Monitor/screen: What you are looking at right now. Displays text, images, videos, and all those information.
    • Cathode-Ray Tube (CRT): Once upon a time, computer monitors are big, bulky, and can be used as training weights. CRT monitors are obsolete and rarely seen now.
    • Liquid Crystal Display (LCD): The technology that took over CRT. LCD displays are thin and use heck a lot less energy… Not surprising as to why these got popular.
    • Light-Emitting Diode (LED): The common Joe modern-day screen technology that is everywhere – Desktops, laptops, tablets, mobile phones.
  • System Unit: Houses the hearts and brains of the computer. Laptops, tablets, smartphones, and all-in-one computers don’t have this “separate unit”, as it is all integrated into one device.
  • Keyboard: What you use to type characters and numbers with.
  • Mouse: Used to move the cursor on the screen, and interact with various elements. You can kind of call it your digital fingers.

 

2) BASIC COMPUTER HARDWARE

Moving on to the internal computer hardware, here are a few of the essentials:

  • Motherboard: The heart and “main circuit board” of the computer, where all the components will be connected to.
  • Central Processing Unit (CPU): The mind of the computer, does all the calculations and data crunching.
  • Random Access Memory (RAM): For temporary storage of data, used by the CPU for calculations and stuff.
  • Data Storage – Hard Disks and Memory Cards: Where all your data is permanently stored.
  • Graphics Card: This one has a graphical processing unit (GPU) that also does data crunching, but specially reserved for all those 3D graphics stuff.

That’s all for the basic computer parts. But of course, there are a lot more computer parts and devices, which you can read in my other guide if you want:

22 Basic Computer Parts and Their Functions (With Pictures)

 

3) BITS & BYTES

When it comes to memory and storage space in computers, we quantify it in bits and bytes. Just what are bits, and how much is a gigabyte? A terabyte:

  • Computers can only understand 1 or 0.
  • 1 bit is a single 1 or 0.
  • 8 bits make up 1 byte.
  • 1000 bytes make up 1 kilobyte, 1000 kilobytes make up 1 megabyte, 1000 megabytes make up 1 gigabyte, 1000 gigabytes make up 1 terabyte, and 1000 terabytes make up 1 petabyte.

Yep, that is a lot of zeros, and how much insane data we squeeze into tiny memory sticks.

 

 

4) OPERATING SYSTEMS

What the heck is an operating system? Simply put, a computer is just a collection of hardware components, devices, and an “empty shell”. The operating system is a piece of software that acts as a platform where you install applications upon – It handles all the coordination between the hardware, so you don’t have to worry about it. A few popular operating systems in the are:

 

5) SHORTCUT KEYS

Stop fumbling through the menus, shortcut keys can help you to navigate a lot faster. Here are a few common ones that you have to know.

Windows Shortcuts
Windows-E Open “My Computer”.
Windows-Up Arrow Maximize the current window.
Windows-Down Arrow Minimize the current window.
Windows-Left Arrow Move the current window to the left.
Windows-Right Arrow Move the current window to the right.
Windows-D Minimize all windows.
Alt-F4 Closes current window.
Windows-L Lock your computer.
Alt-Tab Switch between windows.
Mac Shortcuts
Command-N Open a new finder window.
Command-M Minimize the current window.
Command-W Close the current window.
Command+` Switch between windows.
Command+Shift+Q Log out.
Common Shortcuts
Ctrl-C or Command-C Copy
Ctrl-X or Command-X Cut
Ctrl-V or Command-V Paste
Ctrl-Z or Command-Z Undo
Ctrl-Y or Command-Y Redo

 

 

6) BASIC SYSTEM CONTROLS

When it comes to system settings, beginners tend to freak out instantly. Yes, things can go wrong if you mess with the wrong things, but you still need to learn how to control your own system. How about starting with how to manage/uninstall the apps that you don’t use?

 

WINDOWS

Start button > Search for control panel > Under programs, uninstall a program. Feel free to explore the rest of the control panel, maybe change the wallpaper under appearance.

 

MAC OSX

Uninstalling applications on a Mac is slightly different – Open a finder window > Applications > Drag and move an application into the trash bin. To access the “control panel”, click on the Apple icon on the top left side of the screen > System Preferences.

 

7) BASIC TROUBLESHOOTING

So what do we do when computers act strange or stop responding? There is this simple golden rule of troubleshooting ever since the ancient days –

  • Try to stop the application that is causing trouble.
  • Force shut down and restart the computer if it is totally unresponsive.

 

WINDOWS

If your Windows PC becomes unresponsive, try pressing control-shift-escape to launch the task manager. Applications that are causing trouble will usually be highlighted as “not responding” or eating up 100% CPU. Select that application, and hit “end task”.

 

MAC

Similarly, on a Mac, press command-option-escape to open up the force quit window. Applications that have gone to the moon will be highlighted as “not responding”. Select the problematic application, then hit “force quit”.

 

IF ALL ELSE FAILS

If even force closing the application does not work, press and hold the power button on your computer for at least 4 seconds. That will immediately shut down the computer. As you switch on the PC again, it might complain something about not shutting down properly… But if everything returns to normal, then that is good. But if it is still acting strange, you will need to get some professional help.

 

 

8) BASIC MAINTENANCE

Computers are pretty much fuss-free these days, but they are not exactly maintenance free. It is still good to do some routine maintenance on both the software and hardware once in a while:

  • Clean the dust off the fans, allow good ventilation and for the sake of your own health as well.
  • Clean the gunk off the keyboard and mouse… They are magnets for dust, dirt, food bits, and even your own skin/broken fingernails.
  • Free up some space, uninstall apps that you don’t use anymore.
  • Update the OS, anti-virus, and apps.

For a more in-depth guide on how to maintain your computer, check out my guide:

15 Simple Computer Care Tips (With Pictures)

 

9) BASIC NETWORKING

You don’t have to be a computer networking wizard, but at least understand try to understand the basics. At least you understand some of the devices, what they do, and not get conned by overzealous salesmen.

  • Modem: Short for modulator-demodulator. This device connects you to the Internet.
  • Firewall: An device that protects your private network, always good to have but not required.
  • Wireless Router: This is the one that creates your private network, where you connect your devices to share the Internet connection.
  • Repeater/Wireless Booster: If you live in a large house, the range of the wireless router may be limited. You can use a repeater to boost the range of your wireless network.

 

 

10) INTERNET BASICS

While we are still on the topic of networking, here is a short section on the confusing Internet stuff.

  • What is the Internet? – The Internet began as an idea for military use. What if we connect all the computers and networks together? So that they can communicate with each other, even if one computer goes down. That is basically the Internet in a nutshell, where computer devices and networks are all connected together, on a world-wide scale.
  • IP – Stands for Internet Protocol, which is basically a set of rules to how computers should communicate with each other.
  • IP Addresses – We give a unique IP address to each device in a computer network to identify them, much like giving them a street address… So that we can deliver the correct data packets to the correct computer.
  • DNS – Who the heck remember places by their exact street address? This is why we give location names such as XYZ shopping mall and ABC park. It works the same way on the Internet, and who will remember websites by their IP addresses? This is why we have the Domain Name System (DNS) which will map a given website address to the IP address.
  • URL – Stands for Uniform Resource Locator, which is just a “hardcore technical” way of saying “website address”.

 

11) WIRELESS FILE SHARING

One way to share files between 2 computers is to use a USB Flashdrive. But when you are connected to your own home network, there are more convenient ways to do, and you can try out free apps such as Send Anywhere and Share It. Alternatively, you can also use cloud drives such as Google Drive, One Drive, and Dropbox.

 

 

12) REMOTE CONTROL YOUR COMPUTER

Don’t we all have those times where we left some important documents or forgotten to copy work out from the computer? Thankfully with the help of technology, you can actually remote control your computer through the Internet… Provided that you left the computer on, and connected to the Internet. You can check out:

This is also pretty useful if you have smart home devices attached to your computer, enabling you to remote control your own house.

  • Monitor your security cameras through the computer.
  • Lock and unlock doors.
  • Switch on the air conditioner before you reach home.
  • Switch on/off the lights, open/close the windows.

 

13) SECURITY

Finally, the world is full of shady stuff these days, and it is best to get some protection. While having anti-virus software installed on your computer does not make it totally immune to virus and cyber attacks, it does still offer a layer of protection.

While a locked door can still be broken down, but it does take quite a lot of effort to do so, and it does keep a lot of those wannabe robbers away. You can check out some of these free anti-virus software.

 

CLOSING

WHAT’S NEXT?

Thank you for reading, and we have come to the end of this guide. I hope that this has helped you to better understand the basics of computing, 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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