TnT's Tektionary - explaining common computer terms
Welcome to TnT's Tektionary.

Here we will explain common computer terms to make it easier to understand articles and topic replies here at TnT.

Just click one of the buttons above to read about different computer terms.

Most of the images can be enlarged simply by clicking them.

AGP = Accelerated Graphics Port
The Accelerated Graphics Port is an interface used exclusively for graphics cards.

AGP was superseded by PCI-E in 2004.

There are 4 different AGP "speeds" - 1x, 2x, 4x and 8x.

The "speeds" also use different voltages:
1x and 2x use 3.3V, 4x uses 1.5V and 8x uses 0.8V.

This means that you cannot, for example, install an 8x card in a 4x motherboard slot - the card will be ruined!

You can enlarge the image to the left by clicking it.

BBcode = Bulletin Board Code
Bulletin Board Code, or BBcode, is used by internet forums to format messages.

Here at TnT you can, for example, use BBcode to make text bold, post program code or include a Youtube video in your post.

The BBCode is "translated" to HTML code by the forum software so that your browser can understand and display the message correctly.
BIOS = Basic Input/Output System
Test - Basic Input/Output System is a part of your computer that identifies and initializes system hardware e.g., video card, HDD and floppy disk etc.

The most common instance where a user would want to access the BIOS setup utility would be to change the boot order so that the system can be booted from a CD/DVD in order to reinstall or repair the operating system.

Users should be warned though, to be wary of changing things in BIOS setup if they are unfamiliar with the expected consequences.

Your BIOS setup screen may look like the one to the left, but there are others which may differ slightly depending on your computer manufacturer.
A software programme that allows you to view websites on the Internet. Popular browsers include Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome. The image used for this example demonstrates Internet Explorer 10

Central Processing Unit = "Processor". The CPU can be described as the brain in a PC.

Most CPUs are made by Intel or AMD.

More information:

CRT = Cathode Ray Tube
Cathode Ray Tube is an older monitor standard you seldom see nowadays.

See also TFT

Cascading Style Sheets is a programming language used to style pages written in HTML and XHTML etc.

There are three different kinds of CSS:

Inline CSS is embedded in a line of HTML code.
Internal CSS is defined in the "head" section of an HTML page.
External CSS is imported to an HTML page from a separate (external) CSS file. - See also HTML and XHTML

The "front page" of an operating system on the computer screen, which contains icons such as "My Computer", "Documents" and shortcuts to programs. The desktop featured is a typical desktop from Windows 7

Dual In-line Memory Modules are the actual memory "sticks" (RAM).

There are different kinds of DIMMs - EDO, SDRAM, DDR SDRAM and so on...

More information - see RAM and/or Wikipedia

A driver is a software programme that determines how the computer communicates with hardware devices, such as the mouse or sound card.

Corrupt, incorrect or outdated drivers often cause system crashes.

Electronic Mail is a system of electronic communication, allowing one person to send a message to another person or persons via computer. Email can be viewed by the means of a client (installed software) or by online access using a browser.

The word "ethernet" covers quite a complex subject but for the average computer user, you may be asked to connect your ethernet cable.

To the left is an image of the cable which connects your modem or router to the ethernet card in your computer.

For a more detailed explanation see Wikipedia

See also NIC

= File Allocation Table, is a file system for computers used to control how files are stored.

There are three different standards: FAT12, FAT16 and FAT32.
FAT12 and FAT16 are old file systems mostly used for storage on floppy disks etc and not recommended for hard drives.
FAT32 is more versatile, but cannot handle files larger than 4GB.

Most Windows versions can read all three FAT versions. See also NTFS
= Graphics Processing Unit is a chip dedicated to rendering graphics.

It can be located on the motherboard or on a separate graphics card.

Most GPUs are made by nVidia, ATI and Intel.

For a more detailed explanation see Wikipedia

Graphics card
The graphics card (or video card) is a piece of hardware which allows you to see what is on your monitor screen.

It also helps with graphical 3D rendering, thereby relieving the CPU (main processor).

You would find the card in a slot on your motherboard, typically a PCI-E slot, although in an older pc it may be in an AGP or PCI slot.

If you don't see a graphics card in your computer it means that you have onboard graphics integrated into a chip on the motherboard.

For a more detailed explanation see Wikipedia

= Hard Disk Drive. A common misconception by the novice computer user is the idea that HDD (Hard Disk Drive) is another name for the pc tower.

You can read an easy to understand explanation of this and also a little information about RAM (Random Access Memory) at ezine articles.

Heatsinks are used to absorb and dissipate heat, thereby cooling CPUs, other ICs etc.

They are metal profiles, usually made of aluminium and/or copper - some times equipped with a fan.

To ensure optimal cooling you should always apply thermal paste between the heatsink and the component to be cooled.

= Hyper Text Markup Language, is the markup programming language mainly used for web pages.

See also CSS, XHTML and XML.

= HyperText Transfer Protocol, the protocol used by the Internet.

HTTP defines how messages are formatted and transmitted, and what actions Web servers and browsers should take in response to various commands.

When you enter a URL in your browser, it sends an HTTP command to the web server directing it to fetch and transmit the requested Web page.

= Integrated Circuit. Also called chip, microchip etc.

A miniaturized electronic circuit, for example the BIOS chip.

A small visual display (often a picture) that represents a programme, file, command or a device on a computer operating system.

= Integrated Drive Electronics interface. See PATA
A collection of software programmes developed by Sun Microsystems that together provide a means for developing other programmes that will run on a wide variety of Operating Systems and Platforms.
A small metal "clip" covered with plastic. Jumpers are used to change hardware parameters by closing an electrical circuit between two pins.

Motherboards, hard drives etc can be configured by changing the jumper settings.

Logical drive
Logical drives are subdivisions of a hard disk drive's secondary partitions(s).
If the CPU is the "Brain" of a PC, then the Motherboard (mobo) is the "Nervous System".

It connects all the hardware (CPU, RAM, HDD, CD/DVD drive, sound card, graphics card - not to mention the networking chips or USB sockets to connect you to your modem.

It also has a battery onboard, usually Lithium for long life - this powers the BIOS chip, so it can remember the hardware settings and Date/Time etc.

The choice of motherboard can be more important than the choice of CPU - a cheap-quality mobo will drag the fastest processor down to a crawl.

Get a good "branded" mobo (Asus, Gigabyte - to name just two), that is suited to your needs and your PC will scream along.

= Networking Interface Controller.

A NIC is a piece of hardware used to connect computers over a network.

It can be a chip on the motherboard, a separate expansion card, a router etc.

To the left is a picture of a network expansion card.

See also Ethernet
= New Technology File System - standard file system for data storage in NT based Windows versions.

Windows 95, 98 and ME cannot read NTFS partitions.

See also FAT
Parallel port
The parallel port is an old standard - almost exclusively used to connect printers to a PC.

To the left is a picture of parallel port connectors.

See also USB and serial port.

A partition is, in computer terms, a part of a hard disk drive (HDD).

A HDD used for Windows can contain four partitions - one of them must be "primary".

Most hard disks in brand computers have one or two partitions - C: (where Windows is installed) and often a hidden recovery partition. In Windows explorer (My computer) you will see partitions as separate drives.

One reason for splitting a HDD in partitions is that you can reinstall Windows without erasing everything on the HDD.

A secondary partition can be further split into logical drives. See also Logical drive.
= Parallel AT Attachment (or Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment) is an interface to connect hard disks and CD/DVD drives inside a computer.

Also called IDE or EIDE.

The connectors have 40 "pins" - see image to the left.

See also SATA and SCSI.
= Peripheral Component Interconnect is a computer bus used when attaching peripheral devices (expansion cards) to the motherboard.

Examples of devices using PCI are sound cards, network cards, TV tuner cards, hard disk controllers etc.

The PCI bus is slow and not suitable for video cards. It should not be confused with the much faster PCI-E x16 bus.

See also PCI-E and AGP

More information: Wikipedia

= Peripheral Component Interconnect Express is an interface used for PC expansion cards.

It was designed to replace the PCI and AGP interfaces.

There are different kinds of PCI-E slots:
PCI-E x1, PCI-E x16 and the rarely used PCI-E x4.
(Click the image to see what they look like.)

See also AGP and PCI.

More information: Wikipedia

= Power Supply Unit. It is the unit converting the AC power from the wall into "rails" with 3.3, 5 and 12 volts DC which the diffenrent computer parts use.

The PSU is usually placed at the top of the tower and looks something like the picture on the left.

Some good manufacturers are:
PC Power & Cooling

Random-Access Memory (usually known by its acronym, RAM) is a type of computer data storage.

Today it takes the form of integrated circuits that allow the stored data to be accessed in any order, i.e. at random.

More information: Wikipedia

See also DIMM.
A database that stores information about your computer's Operating System, including the software installed, user preferences and the system hardware.

A set of software tools designed to take control of a system, without the users consent or knowledge, and hide its existence in order to evade detection.
= Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary is a way to keep people updated on active web pages by using "feeds" to send summarized texts etc to subscribed users.
= Serial Advanced Technology Attachment. An interface to connect hard disks and optical drives (CD/DVD) inside a PC.

SATA I (1.5 Gbit/s) is the older standard - SATA II is faster (3.0 Gbit/s).
Some older motherboards can't handle SATA II drives.

See also PATA and SCSI.

= Small Computer System Interface. A standard to connect peripheral devices, e.g. hard disks and tape drives, to a computer.

SCSI is more versatile than PATA and SATA - for example can up to 16 devices be connected to a single bus.

The SCSI standard is typically used in servers.

See also PATA and SATA.
Serial port
The serial port is a rather old standard - most new home PCs do not have one.

The interface is typically used to connect modems, routers and switches.

Windows refer to serial ports as COM ports - COM1, COM2 etc.

See also parallel port and USB.
= Service Set Identifier is a "packet" broadcasted by wireless access points - it's also the wireless network's name.

SSID broadcasting should be disabled to make a wireless network less vulnerable.

See also WAP and the TnT article: Making your wireless network more secure
= Thin Film Transistor. The term is used when talking about TFT-LCD (thin film transistor liquid crystal display) monitors.

Such "thin" displays are used in TV sets, computers, mobile phones etc.

Most computer displays sold nowadays are TFT-LCD. Older computers (except for laptops) often have a CRT monitor. See also CRT
= A file or programme that will claim to perform some kind of helpful task, but will actually perform one or more harmful tasks, usually without the consent or knowledge of the user.
= Uniform Resource Locator, the address of documents and other resources.

The first part of the address is called a protocol identifier and it indicates what protocol to use, and the second part is called a resource name and it specifies the IP address or the domain name where the resource is located.

The protocol identifier and the resource name are separated by a colon and two forward slashes - e.g.
= Universal Serial Bus is a standard used to connect peripheral devices to a computer, for example external hard drives, cameras, printers, keyboards, mice etc.

USB 1.0 was introduced in 1994, USB 2.0 in 2000 and USB 3.0 in 2008.

USB 2.0 is about 40 times faster than USB 1.0 - USB 3.0 is up to 10 times faster than USB 2.0.

See also parallel port and serial port
= A small software programme that can spread to other computers and can corrupt data on your system as well as interfering with normal operations.

Virtual machine
Virtual Machine (VM) - A computer simulation that runs inside the main computer system.

It is completely separate and isolated from the main system and allows testing of other software or malware, without causing any damage to the main system.

= Wireless Access Point or Wireless Application Protocol.

In hardware terms a WAP is a wireless router, access point etc used to connect wireless devices - such as laptops or printers - to a network. In software terms WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) is a standard to connect mobile phones, PDAs etc to internet. See also NIC

= Wired Equivalent Privacy is a deprecated encryption standard to secure wireless networks.

Using WEP is not recommended - upgrade to WPA. See also WPA

= Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA and WPA2) is an encryption standard used to secure wireless networks.

WPA is more secure than WEP.

See also WEP

= Extensible Hypertext Markup Language, is a group of XML languages and can be described as an extension of HTML.

See also CSS, HTML and XML.

= Extensible Markup Language, is a set of defined rules to code and format documents.

A lot of applications use XML - e.g Microsoft Office, Open Office and RSS.

See also CSS, HTML and XHTML. © 2013