Computer Terminology

When calling someone for tech support, it is helpful to know some basic terminology, so here are some common terms you should know.

CPU: Central Processing Unit. This is the main "chip" or so-called "brains" of the computer. Sometimes the word CPU is used to refer to the computer tower, or box. Motherboard: This is the main circuit board, which various components, including the CPU, memory, and disk drives, and peripheral devices are plugged into. Everything inside the computer box is connected to this board, in some way.

Monitor/ Display: What used to be called a computer monitor, is now commonly called a display. When you press the power button on your display, you are not turning off the computer, just the display.

Expansion card: This is a card that goes inside the computer that extends the functionality. Common examples are graphics, or video cards, sound cards, network cards, and wireless network cards.

Hard Disk Drive: This is a type of memory that is used to store computer data, and it is a permanent memory. There are two different types: Spinning discs and Solid state. Solid state is much faster, but are more expensive.

RAM: Random Access Memory is a type of computer memory  that stores programs and data while the computer running, and is much faster than the hard drive. The data on this memory is erased when the computer is turned off. Generally, if your computer is slow, adding more memory can speed it up.

Peripheral device: Anything that connects to the computer, such as a keyboard, mouse, joystick, printer, scanner, or even speakers.

Modem: A modem is what connects your computer or other devices to the internet. It's a box that is connected to a cable or phone line. Then another cable is connected to your computer.

Optical Disk Drive: This is the drive that a CD, DVD or Blu-ray disc is loaded into. These days, most everything that can be put on a optical disc can be downloaded, or streamed over the internet, so most computers are forgoing these drives to save space and money. Especially on laptops.