Last modified on 17 December 2014, at 02:50

Basic Computing Using Windows/Computers and Peripherals

What is a computer?Edit

A computer is an automatic, electronic, data-processing machine that takes in facts and figures known as data, and then processes or organizes it in some useful way. Afterwards it outputs, or displays, the results for you to see as information. Keep in mind that data is not information. Rather, information is the knowledge that you, the end-user, derive from accurate data that are entered into a computer. Only after processing, is data transformed into information which is then used for decision making. (Almost) each part of a computer can be classified as either hardware or software.


Hardware refers to all of the physical components of a computer. These parts may include:

  • A display component (commonly a monitor)
  • A keyboard
  • A pointing device, usually a mouse or trackpad
  • Any cables or wiring
  • Any buttons found on the computer, such as a power button
  • Internal components such as a processor, memory, mass storage and a motherboard
  • A printer

The displayEdit

Many people mistakenly think that the part of the computer that normally displays pictures and text is the computer. This is usually not true. That part is called the monitor or display. With a standard desktop computer, the part that does the actual computing is often in a separate box. With a laptop or a netbook, the computing is done in the hardware under the keyboard. Also, you may call the whole assembly of all the hardware (the computer and the monitor, for example) the computer. Occasionally though, the computer and monitor are built together, in which case they are commonly referred to as All-in-One Desktop Computers.

There are different types of monitors. One of these is the one already shown. It is called a CRT monitor, which is similar to a old television. It uses more electrical power than the other popular kind, called LCDs . However, CRT monitors work faster, which makes them better for fast games because the movement will blur less , but LCD's have already caught up. LCDs are thinner than CRTs, but they are generally more expensive. As of now , CRT screens are no longer sold. Some monitorsuse touchscreens, where you can interace with the monitor by touch.

Monitors are only one way the computer can output information for you to see.

Printers and scannersEdit

Another popular output device is called a printer . Printers are used to put data on paper. This is called hard copy; what monitors show is called soft copy. There are different types of printers , like Xerox , laser and deskjet , with the last one being the cheapest of the three. There are also printers which can also scan/fax , they are called All-in-one.
Scanners are devices which scan the input for viewing on the computer.

Input devicesEdit

There are also different kinds of input hardware. The two most important of which are the mouse and the keyboard. A mouse is used to move the cursor (or arrow) around the screen (monitor display). A keyboard is used to enter (type) letters, numbers, and other symbols into a computer.


Software is all of the instructions and programming that a computer uses to do what you ask it to do. Packages of software are often called programs, and an operating system is a collection of programs that help all the other programs run. Think of software as the power behind the hardware. Without software, your computer doesn't do anything. Without hardware, the software can't exist. Computers do not think for themselves, so they need software, which is made to manipulate the computer's hardware in such a way that you, the user, can understand.

As an example, a calculator is a very simple computer. It is not as complex or versatile as your net book, laptop, or desktop computer though. You input information as series of key presses, and the calculator computes the result which is displayed as output on a small screen. Since calculators are faster than humans this creates utility in the form of time saved. Calculators can also repeat calculations much more easily than humans can.

Computers store all data in binary code, which is a number system that only uses ones and zeros. One digit in binary code is called a bit, eight bits is called a byte. A byte is the amount of space one letter takes up. One thing to bear in mind is that all the extra detail about how the letter looks must also be stored in binary code and so word processor documents use more space than one byte per letter.

Types of computersEdit

There are many different kinds of computers. The ones that most people use are called Personal Computers (PCs). Desktop PCs are computers that you don't move around; they generally are a box with a monitor attached. Smaller, portable, computers that are about the size of a briefcase are called laptops or notebooks. There are also computers that are around the same size, but they have a special screen: Text (letters and numbers) is written directly on the screen, these are called Tablet PCs. They also do not require a mouse; the mouse gestures and clicks are done by tapping directly on the screen with your finger or with a Stylus. Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) are computers so small that you can hold them in one hand. They generally also have a Touch Screen, like the Tablets. Notebooks, PDAs, and most Tablets have batteries so that you can use them without plugging into a wall outlet. These batteries generally last for about three to 8 hours , with some reaching 12 hours and beyond before needing to be recharged, although smaller devices may last longer. They use LCD screens because LCDs are thinner and take less power, so the batteries will last longer, and so that they are not, say, a foot thick. There are also much more powerful computers called servers that can be as big as a room or a house! This is what, say, Google and Wikimedia run their websites off of.

Turning the computer onEdit

In a desktop , to start the computer first make sure that the power supply is connected , and then press the switch which is usually on the front of the computer. On laptops and tablets , simply locate the power button and press it. If it comes up, and it is like this one, you must type the correct login name and password in the respective boxes. If you get a picture(Windows 8+) , then simply click it from the top. Then press the enter key, or click on (put the cursor on top of and push the left button on the mouse) the OK button if there is one. If the box does not come up, do not worry, nothing is wrong. That just means the computer is set not to have a password. We will learn more about this later. If this box did not come up, but instead a screen with pictures and names of the user accounts , click the picture with the correct user name beside it, type in the password (if there is one), and press(or tap) on your keyboard(or virtual) that says ‘Enter’.

Turning off the computerEdit

To turn the computer off:

Windows version Method 1 Method 2 Method 3
Windows XP (or earlier) Open the Start menu, then click Turn off Computer, then click Shut Down. Open the Start menu by clicking on Start or the Start orb located on the taskbar, then click Shut Down, then select Shut Down, then click OK. Press Alt+F4, then select Shut Down, then tap or click OK.
Windows Vista Open the Start menu, then click the power icon.
Windows 7 Open the Start menu, then click Shut Down.
Windows 8 Open the Charms menu by either pressing Windows+C, moving the pointer to the upper or lower-right corner or swiping in from the right side of the screen. Tap or click Settings, then Power, then Shut Down.
Windows 8.1 Right-click or long-tap on the Start logo located on the taskbar, then tap or click Shut Down.

Other methods include:

  1. Windows 8.1 Update 1: Open Start, then tap or click on the power icon located in the upper-right corner, then tap or click Shut Down. This method may not work on all devices.
  2. All Windows versions: Open Command Prompt as an administrator. Type shutdown.exe /s and press Enter to run the command. This command can be used to shut down the computer after a specified time. To do so, type shutdown.exe /s /t x where x is the time to delay shutting down the computer in seconds. In Windows Vista or earlier, the maximum delay is 10 minutes. In Windows 7 or later, the maximum delay is 10 years.