Computer Basics for Beginners

by Elizabeth Chaplin

For anyone who has ever owned a computer, knowing the basics is a piece of cake. However, if you're a new computer owner, it may not seem so easy. The most important thing is to understand the basic--yet vital--components of your computer first; then you can move onward and upward from there.

The Components

Just one of the many types of desktop computers

Any desktop computer that you purchase will have the same basic elements: a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse and a central processing unit, or CPU. Each of these components are easily locatable and should be within easy access at all times. The monitor is the screen with which you can view games, business documents, the Internet and more. The keyboard is much like a typewriter and can be used for word processing. The mouse is a small, hand-held pointing device that is used to guide the digital cursor across the monitor screen. The CPU is the most important, as it is essentially the "brains" of your computer.


A standard flat-screen monitor

The monitor of your desktop computer is fundamental in that it allows you to see what your computer is doing. It can be turned on with the push of a button, which is usually located in the lower right- or left-hand corner of the monitor itself. Screen size and shape can vary depending on what type of computer you have. It is much like a television set, but you control the outcome using the other components of your computer--the mouse and keyboard. Play games, reply to emails and even watch videos using your monitor.


A basic keyboard

The keyboard is an arrangement of buttons--or keys--that allow you to input words and commands. Set up much like a typewriter, the keyboard uses the modern QWERTY key configuration including letters and numbers. There are also command keys such as the Enter/Return, Backspace, Shift and Cntrl.


A standard mouse with two buttons

A computer mouse is usually a small plastic tool with one or two buttons; this serves as a pointing device that appears on your monitor screen. When you move the mouse, a cursor appears--usually as a small arrow--on your screen. Double-clicking the left mouse button allows you to open programs and files. When the right mouse button is clicked, a menu appears that allows you to choose other options for the program/file you want to access.

Central Processing Unit (CPU)

The CPU, which houses the hard drive, CD/DVD and USB drives

The CPU is the most essential part of your workstation. It carries out the calculations your computer needs to perform effectively. It is attached to a motherboard, which is the "body" of your computer. There are many other components to your CPU, such as the hard drive, power supply and removable media. The hard drive is the internal memory; everything you save (such as photos and documents) is stored on your hard drive. The power supply is what keeps your computer running, and is plugged into an electrical wall socket or power strip. A fan keeps the power supply cool while it is running. The removable media components can include--but aren't limited to--the CD/DVD and USB drives. Files from your computer can also be stored using removable media.

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