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Computer Hardware and Software Concepts Handout

A basic computer system is defined as a device that accepts input, processes data, stores data, and produces output. A personal computer system includes a computer, storage devices input / output devices and operating system like Windows XP. The following diagram illustrates the fundamental computer functions and components that help the computer accomplish its tasks.

Figure 1 Basic Computer Functions

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Computer Hardware

Computer hardware refers to the physical components of a computer system. Hardware appears both inside and outside the computer. Peripheral devices are equipment used with a computer to enhance its functionality. They are devices that are outside of or in addition to, the computer (i.e. printer, scanner, and modem). The following diagram displays the hardware devices found on most personal computer systems.

Figure 2: Hardware Devices

System Unit, Central Processing Unit, and Random Access Memory

The system unit is the cabinet that contains many of the computers working components. One of the most important of these components is the central processing unit (normally referred to as the CPU). The CPU, a small electronic circuit chip and is the device that allows the machine to perform its complex mathematical and logic functions. The CPU is considered the brain of the computer system. Although it is not important to know how the CPU works in order to be able to use the personal computer, it is important to know that it is a major part of the machine.

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As you work on the computer, the programs used to run the computer and the information you enter is stored in a temporary area of the computers memory referred to as RAM or random access memory. The amount of RAM in a computer depends on the size and number of RAM chips the computer contains. As RAM increases, more information and programs can be used at one time. RAM is measured in bytes; you can think of each byte as being equivalent to one character. RAM chips are measured in megabytes (mega means a million; abbreviated MB). Lesspowerful computers come with 512 MB RAM; newer, more powerful computers come with 1GB or more RAM. Many newer programs operate more efficiently with increasing amounts of RAM. Windows XP requires a minimum of 64 MB and computers with 128 MB or more of memory is preferred. Fortunately, it is easy to add additional memory to most personal computers. The most important thing to remember about RAM is that it is volatile; that is, whatever is in RAM exists only while the computer is on. As soon as you turn off the computer or exit the program with which you are working, the information is lost. In addition, if the computer is accidentally shut off - such as with a power failure, lightening storm, or the plug coming out - everything is lost. There is, however, a way to save your program and information by storing it on disks.

Data Storage Devices

Since RAM is volatile and everything is lost when you turn off your computer, you need a way to store the information you enter and the documents you create. A fairly permanent way to store information is to use one or more data storage devices, found both internally and externally on most personal computer systems. Examples of storage devices include hard disk drives, floppy disk drives, CD-writers, DVD drives and USB flash drives. Each storage device (except for the hard drive) also requires a storage medium that actually holds the data. These storage medium devices include floppy disks, CDs, DVDs, USB flash drive, and tapes. (We say the storage is

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The main storage device on a personal computer system is the internal hard drive. It holds both data and program files. Hard drives come in different sizes, measured in megabytes or gigabytes (billions of bytes). Sample sizes of hard drives include 40GB, 80GB and 100GB. The hard drive is generally referred to as drive C:

A CD (compact disk) provides 650-700 MB of storage. A DVD (digital video disk or digital versatile disk) has a capacity of 4.7 GB. CDs and DVDs are durable storage and have a higher tolerance for temperature fluctuations then hard disk, floppy disks, and tapes. They are unaffected by magnetic fields and dust and dirt can be cleaned off easily. The biggest threat is scratches. CDs and DVDs come in several varieties: Read only (ROM) - permanent data stored during manufacturing Recordable (R) - A writable drive can store data but it cant be changed Rewritable (RW) - can be changed many times, much like a hard drive but much slower

A USB flash drive is a popular portable storage device. It is about the size of a highlighter pen and is very durable. It plugs into a USB port at the back of the computer and provides fast access to data. The advantages of the USB flash drive are: It is very durable You can open, edit, delete, and run files just as if they were on hard drive It plugs into USB port Provides fast access to data and uses little power

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Basic Input Devices

Keyboard The keyboard is the standard device used to enter information into the computers memory. It looks and operates much like a standard typewriter keyboard and includes the 26 letters of the alphabet, the 10 digits used for numbers, and some special characters. In addition to these standard keys, the keyboard also has special sets of keys. On the right-hand side of the keyboard is the numeric keypad. To the left of the numeric keypad are the arrow keys, Home, End, Pg Up, and Pg Down keys, which allow movement around the computer screen. At the top or left-hand side of the keyboard are keys labeled F1, F2, F3,..,F12. They are referred to as function keys. These keys perform special functions depending on the program you are working in. Other special keys you will use include: Shift: Alt: Ctrl: Esc: Enter: Tab: The Shift key works like the familiar shift key on a typewriter. The Alternate (Alt) key is used in combination with other keys to send special commands to computer programs. The Control (Crtl) key works like the Alt key. It is always used in combination with some other key. The Escape (Esc) key is used to escape or leave some function you have selected. The Escape key is always used by itself. The Enter key is typically used to end a paragraph when working in most application programs or to execute a command. The Tab key is typically used to move the insertion point across the screen to the next tab stop, in the same manner as a tab key on a typewriter. The Backspace key, located directly above the Enter key, deletes the character to the left of the insertion point. The Delete key, located to the right of the Enter key, deletes the character to the right of the insertion point.

Backspace: Delete:

All the keys on the keyboard are auto-repeat keys. This means that if you hold the key down, the character or function that the key performs will be repeated as long as the key is held down.

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The Mouse A mouse is a special pointing device that helps you manipulate objects and select menu and toolbar options. The bottom of the mouse contains a small ball that rolls when you move the mouse. As the ball rolls, it causes a special signal to be sent to the computer, moving the mouse pointer in the direction you are moving the mouse. The PC mouse contains two buttons - with right mouse button used primarily for shortcuts.

Basic Output Devices

Video Monitor The video monitor (also called the screen or display) serves as the standard output device for the computer system. Most monitors are full-color monitors and are available in different resolution levels, or clarity. Monitors are also available in different sizes such as 15, 17, or 20 screens. Flat-panel monitors which use LCD (liquid crystal technology) are much thinner than CRT monitors and range in depth from one to four inches Printers A printer is used to produce a hard or printed copy of the information stored in the computer system. A laser printer provides superb quality print and is capable of printing most any graphic. They are more expensive than dot matrix printers, but their quiet, high-quality print provides the best output possible, especially when you are printing charts or other types of graphics. Laser printers can print an entire page at a time and are usually faster than dot matrix printers. These are the printers you would like to use when you want the best print quality possible.

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Computer Software Concepts

The term software refers to the programs or instructions that enable the computer to perform its tasks. There are basically two types of software programs that the computer uses of which you need to be aware: the operating system programs and the application system programs.

Operating System
An operating system controls the resources and components of the computer. It consists of many specialized programs, each of which performs a special task. One task controlled by the operating system is the allocation of the computers RAM to application programs.

Applications Software
Application software refers to the programs written to perform useful functions. most popular application programs are described below: The

Word processing software, such as Microsoft Word, is used for producing reports, letters, papers, and manuscripts. Spreadsheet software, such as Microsoft Excel, helps you create worksheets to perform calculations, create what-if analyses, and graph data. Presentation software, such as Microsoft PowerPoint, helps you to combine text, graphics, animation, and sound into a series of electronic slides. E-mail software, such as Microsoft Outlook, helps you to send and receive e-mail messages over the Internet.

Disk and File Concepts

When you store information on a disk, you store it as a file. A file is a collection of information saved under one name.

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Loading and Saving Files

To use a file on disk, you must load the file into memory. This process creates a second copy of the file in random access memory (RAM). The copy that is on the disk remains there and is not changed until you save your work.

When you make changes to the copy of the file on the screen, only the copy of the file in RAM, not the copy of the file on the disk, is altered. No changes are made to the copy of the file on the disk until you instruct the computer to save it to the disk.

After you have been working with a computer for a while, you will probably have many files. The computer provides a way for you to organize your files so you can retrieve them quickly and easily. You can create folders using Windows XP that let you organize files that are related under some topic or area. Each folder can contain documents, programs, graphics, or other related material.

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Computer Virus
A computer virus is a program that attaches itself to a file, reproduces itself, and spreads to other files A virus can perform a trigger event: - Corrupt and/or destroy data - Display an irritating message Key characteristic is their ability to lurk in a computer for days or months quietly replicating themselves

Viruses are spread through e-mails as well Macro viruses are usually found in MS Word and MS Excel files (.doc and .xls) To keep safe, you can disable macros on files you do not trust Symptoms of a Virus

Antivirus software is a set of utility programs that looks for and eradicates viruses When should I use antivirus software: All the time Most antivirus software allows you to specify what to check and when. Norton Antivirus McAfee Antivirus

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