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Whether you're new to computing or out shopping for your very first machine, there are words you should acquaint yourself with. Understanding the definition of basic terms will allow you to troubleshoot your way to error free computing, and help you find a personal or business computer that fits you and your needs.

Install: Installing is a means of adding something to your computer. Installation is the process you must take to move a program from its host (usually a CD or floppy disc) to your computer.

Floppy Disc: Floppy discs are 3.5 inches in size and are a magnetic media that can house up to 1.44 megabytes of data. Floppy discs are used to store information.

Software: Software is a portable medium that you can install on your machine. Software is transported by floppy disc, compact disc and is downloadable from the Internet. Once installed, the program will run independently of the disc or CD.

Operating System Software: Your Operating System is the overall program that your machine uses to function, catalogue information and connect you to programs, fonts and system resources.

Hardware: Hardware is a concrete piece of your computer that you can actually see. Hardware comes in many forms. The most common pieces of hardware are:

CD Drives: Compac discs are magnetic, round discs that transport and store data. Each compact disc is capable of holding up to 640 megabytes, and is inserted into a CD drive to function.

CD-R Drive: CD-R stands for Compact Disc Recordable. CD-R's allow you to record onto compact discs.

DVD Drive: DVD's are similar to compact discs, with the exception that they are double sided, unlike traditional CD's. This means they can store twice as much data.

Hard Drive: Your hard drive is located inside your computer. It is responsible for stockpiling information that you input and storing programs that are installed.

Keyboard: A keyboard is what you use to type information. It is similar to the typewriter. Shortcut keys on your keyboard help to speed you through programs and your operating system with tremendous ease. Standard keyboards have 104 keys. Some keyboards come with added features and buttons and many are ergonomically designed for comfort.

Modem: The sole purpose of a modem is to connect your computer to the outside world. A modem is hooked up through your phone line and is capable of dialing another computer, connecting to the Internet or making phone calls.

Monitor: Monitors look like small TV screens and provide a viewing space.

Mouse: There are many different types of mice, but all have the same responsibility: to give you added functionality to navigate through your computer. A mouse sits on your desktop and is guided by either a wheel or light sensor. Moving the mouse around and clicking its buttons will move you in and out of programs without the need for your keyboard.

Motherboard: The main circuit board of your computer is called the motherboard. On personal computers, the motherboard contains valuable system information and data, such as your BUS, CPU and chips. Without the motherboard, your machine would not function.

PCI: Peripheral Component Interconnects give you high-speed connections between your CPU and its devices.

RAM: RAM stands for "random access memory." RAM is responsible for storing information while your computer is on.

SCSI: Small Computer System Interface is a means to connect other components to your computer. Often called "scuzzy," these are ports (much like electrical outlets) that allow you to use devices like printers, scanners and the like.

ZIP: A Zip Drive is a removable media that stores data. Zip discs hold up to 100 megabytes of data.

Processor: Your processor is what gives your computer its speed. There are many different types of processor chips, but all work to give power to your applications. Processor speeds are measured by megahertz.

Sound Card: Sound cards are adding to your hard drive and allow you to hear sounds associated with programs.

Serial Ports: Serial ports are spaces in the back of your computer that connect printers, webcams and other pieces of hardware.

USB: USB ports connect hardware to your computer. They are faster than traditional serial ports, and take up less memory.

Internet Terms: While knowing what your hardware and computer can and will do is most important, there are other words you should familiarize yourself with to get the most out of your computing experience.

Internet: Often referred to as "The World Wide Web," the Internet connects millions of computers together, allowing you to chat with fellow users, download software, read news and entertainment and more.

ISP: You must have some sort of Internet Service Provider in order to access the Internet. ISP's allow you to dial into one location, which then provides you with a link to the Internet.

The easiest and fastest way to learn more about your computer is to read the manual that came with your machine. Your manual will give you specific details about your machine, its operating system and more. The more you know, the more you can do.