The use of Internet services are one of the most dominant reasons for having personal computers and laptops. In order to operate and especially to maintain and troubleshoot your computer, it’s important to understand basic functions and terminology for computers. All of the fundamental components of computing are either hardware or software.
Hardware is all the physical components of a computer—the monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer, and tower (or, on a laptop, the base, keyboard, and display screen) are all hardware. Other pieces of hardware can be added, changed, or removed after buying the basic components. Although hardware is the things you can see, you do have hardware parts that you can’t see, because they are connected or installed inside the computer tower. This is called internal hardware. External hardware is usually plugged into the back of the tower and is internal hardware. Here are more examples of hardware:
*CDs and DVDs—the physical plastic disc is hardware that stores software programs to run on your computer.
* CD drives and burners—for playing or recording information on CD’s.
* Modems—dial-up, cable, and DSL all require a modem (dial-up modems are often internal, but can be sold as external devices
* Wireless router—this device can be attached to a broadband modem to convert digital signal to wireless, so that you can connect to the Internet without having a cord plugged into the computer.
* Wireless card/network adapter— Usually internal, this component makes connecting wirelessly to broadband services possible, can also be bought and attached externally.
* Ipods, smartphones, Iphones, cellphones, blackberries—these devices would also be considered hardware, especially since they are often connected to the computer and can be used to connect to the Internet.
Software is everything you can’t physically touch. It’s the programs and applications that make up everything that displays on the screen, enables the hardware to run and communicate with each other, and performs tasks. Without software, your computer would just be a complicated pile of metal and plastic.
There are basically two types of software: system software and application software. System software is what makes your computer function and controls background processes—most of which you do not need to control or might not even know about. Application software, or applications, is everything you use to complete your tasks. Here are some examples:
* Microsoft Office Suite—Word, Excel, and Outlook are all applications, and so are similar programs like WordPerfect or OpenOffice.
* Web browsers—Internet Explorer, Firefox, and MSN Explorer are just a few examples.
* Games, Calculators, Calendars, Wizards—well, everything on the All Programs list!
* Antivirus programs, Spyware scanners, Registry cleaners, etc.
*Music players like Windows Media Player and RealPlayer
Software is available in all sizes and styles to perform almost any imaginable tasks or form of entertainment. You can usually download them from the Internet, purchase it on CD’s in stores, and often come stored on a CD accompanied with hardware purchases.
Knowing the difference between software and hardware and how they work is the first step to keeping your computer in good shape (e.g., knowing how and when to upgrade it) and to troubleshoot basic problems (determining the cause of the problem—is it hardware or software related?).