Glossary of Personal Computer Basic Terms

If you are a new PC’s user, before you proceed, you should discover some PC basic terms referring to the specific parts of your computer. You should learn what each part is responsible for.

PC Basic Terms


Hardware is any piece or any component that has a physical structure and in located inside or connected to your computer as a part of it. If you have a desktop, your keyboard monitor is certainly a piece of hardware. More commonly, people refer to this term when they speak about the components buried inside the computer, such as PCs hard drive, motherboard, power supply and so on. Technically, even the computer’s case is a piece of hardware.

  • CPU (short for Central processing unit): the brain of the computer which controls the other elements;
  • Disk Drive: Device that reads and writes information on a disk;
  • Hard Drive: Device that reads and writes information (usually located in the computer case;
  • NIC (short for Network interface card): Board inserted in a computer that provides a physical connection to a network.


These items are also connected to your PC, but they are not essential to its functioning, they add functionalities though. For example, a printer and scanner are peripheral, as well as joysticks or other game controllers, network hardware, digital cameras and so on. As a rule, peripherals connect to your computer via the ports built into your PC. Note that often keyboard, mouse and monitor are not referred to as peripherals, exactly because they are required as essential items your computer need to operate it.

  • Keyboard: A peripheral used to input data by pressing keys;
  • Modem: Device used to connect one computer to another over a phone line;
  • Monitor: Device used to display information visually;
  • Mouse: Device used to point to items on a monitor;
  • Printer: Device that converts output from a computer into a printed image.


This term refers to any program (or application) you run on your computer. It may reside your hard disk or a USB flash drive, it may be accessed via a network, etc., it’s still a software. When we watch video or listen to digital music, when we write texts or chat with friends, when we perform any task using our computer, we use software. When talking or reading about upgrading software, patching it or updating it, we always refer to a piece of software or, say, a new version of the software already installed, which is modified with the latest features, where developers fixed some known bugs or added new files. Obviously, the later the version of the software, the more features it includes. The term software applies to any program and drivers. Well, all computer viruses form part of software.

  • Apps (short for Applications): Programs that perform a specific function;
  • Bit: Computer’s most basic unit of information;
  • Boot: The process of loading or initializing an operating system on a compute which occurs as soon as a computer is turned on;
  • Browser: A program used to view World Wide Web pages (Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Microsoft Edge, etc.);
  • Bug: Part of a program that causes the computer or the application to malfunction. Bugs are often remedied in patches or updates to the program;
  • Byte: Small unit of data storage; usually holds one character, one byte contains 8 bits;
  • Click: Occurs when a user presses a button or a key. Clicks generate commands to the computer;
  • Database: Large structured set of data; a file that contains numerous records that contain numerous fields;
  • Diskette: Small flexible disk which was used for storing computer data;
  • Double Click: Occurs when a user clicks twice on  akey or a buttonin very fast succession and thus generates a specific command to the computer;
  • Download: Process of transferring data between computers;
  • Drag: Occurs when a user points the mouse at an icon or folder, presses the button and moves the icon or folder to another place on the computer without releasing the button until the object is in place;
  • Driver: Software program that controls a piece of hardware or a peripheral;
  • FAQ: Short for Frequently Asked Questions, that’s documents that answer questions common to a particular item;
  • File: Unit of data storage; an element of data storage; a single sequence of bytes;
  • Folder: Graphical representation used to organize a collection of computer files;
  • Freeware: Software provided at no cost to the user;
  • Gigabyte (abbreviated GB): 1,073,741,824 bytes or 1,024 megabytes;
  • GUI (short for Graphical user interface); uses pictures and words to represent ideas, choices, functions, etc on the screen;
  • Icon: Small picture used to represent a file or program in a GUI interface;
  • Internet: Network of computer networks encompassing the World Wide Web, FTP, telnet, and many other protocols;
  • IP (short for Internet Protocol): a computer’s unique address or number on the Internet;
  • Kilobyte (usually abbreviated KB): 1,024 bytes;
  • Megabyte (usually abbreviated MB): 1,048,576 bytes or 1,024 kilobytes; this volume is enough storage to approximately equal a 600 page paperback book;
  • Memory: Device that holds computer data;
  • Menu: List of operations available to the user of a program;
  • Network: Collection of computers that are connected;
  • Peripheral: Any of a number of hardware devices connected to a CPU;
  • RAM (short for Random Access Memory): Type of storage that changes; when the computer is turned off, the RAM memory is erased;
  • ROM (short for Read-only memory:: Type of storage that is not changed even when the computer is turned off
  • Scroll Bar: Allows users to control which portion of the document will be visible in the window. Scroll bars can scroll the windonwe either horizontally or vertically or both directions;
  • Shareware: Software provided at a minimal cost to users who are on their honor to send in payment to its creator;
  • Spreadsheet: program arranged in rows and columns that manipulates numbers;
  • Tool Bar: Graphical representation of program activities; row of icons used to perform tasks in a program;
  • URL (short for Uniform Resource Locator); the address of a site on the World Wide Web; a standard way of locating objects on the Internet;
  • Virus: Deliberately harmful computer program designed to create annoying glitches or destroy data on another computer;
  • Window: Screen in a software program that permits the user to view several programs at one time;
  • Word Processor: Program that allows the user to create primarily text documents.


The tech word interface simply refers to the design of the screen and the controls users see when they are using software on their computers.

Freeware and Shareware

A freeware software is a program released into the public domain. This piece of software is generally released with the programming code which user can use for free. On the contrary, shareware is not free. Users can try a shareware program before they buy it, and then, if they like what they use, they can send the payment to the author. These programs are usually less expensive than similar commercial programs where the box, the market expenses and so on are usually added on. Before buying a shareware program, experts recommend to check to make sure that the author offers regular updates.


Firmware is nothing more than the software instructions which are stored in the internal memory of the internal brain of a piece of hardware. A manufacturer might always release a firmware upgrade to add support for a new version of hardware.


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