Basic Computer Knowledge for Beginners

By Alex Cosper

Jumping on a computer for the first time can be fun and easy as long as you keep in mind that computers were designed to make life easier, not more complex. Unlike technology of the past, which was based on the all-in-one concept, PC systems usually come in parts, divided into hardware and software, although Mac systems are all-in-one. Hardware makes up the physical elements of the computer, such as the hard drive, whereas software provides the operating system and the programs that allow you to create computer files.

Multiple Brands

Since the 1990s, the most popular operating system has been Microsoft Windows, which appeals to the business community, while Apple MacIntosh (aka "Mac") has been a favorite among graphic artists, musicians and other high-end media users. Windows and its offspring (XP, Vista) run on a PC, which has come to mean any personal computer besides a Mac. Both Macs and PCs are powered by a chip known as the central processing unit or CPU. Intel and AMD are leading manufacturers of computer chips. Other popular PC brands include Hewlett Packard and Dell.

Files and Folders

The most basic product that can be created on a computer is a file. A file can be a letter, a report, a photo, a song, a video and anything else that can be produced digitally. A file is expressed by its file name followed by a dot and an extension. The extension makes it easy to recognize what type of file it is. For example, many documents are saved with the ".doc" extension, so "calendar.doc" would be an example of a file named "calendar" saved as a Word document. There are many different file extensions. You can organize files by putting them in folders, just like how a filing cabinet is a storage unit for folders filled with files. You can also store folders within folders.

Creating Files

Creating a computer file is a very simple procedure. It involves a few clicks. At the top of every program is usually an option called "File." Click "File" and then you'll see a drop-down menu that includes choices such as "New," "Open" and "Save." By clicking "New" you can start a new file. When you click "Open" you'll be able to open an existing file. "Save" is what you click as soon as you decide you want to archive the file for later use. Once you know how to create and store files you will want to learn more about specific software programs that will speed up your work. Microsoft Office is a suite of programs commonly used for general office functions.