Computer Terms Study Guide

Updated on Jul 15, 2011

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Computer Terms Practice Exercises

Okay, it's time to admit it. Even though most of us can run our fingers across a keyboard at lightning speed, create instant messages and e-mail in our sleep, surf the net like pros, and write research papers on white, empty screens, the truth is that a lot of us have no idea how we're able to do this. Our computers are a mystery to us (evidenced by how quickly we go into a meltdown when they don't work right). We may use them every single day and find it difficult to imagine life without them, but most of us haven't a clue as to how they really work.

Where is cyberspace anyway? When you hit the send button, where do your words go—and how do they know how to get there? This lesson will at least give you a working knowledge of some of the most basic computer terms. Maybe they'll help you figure out what to do the next time your computer freezes or the Internet goes down. Maybe they'll just make it easier to explain to that person at tech support just what kind of technical problem you're having. Either way, good luck.


  • bandwidth   how much data you can send through a network or modem connection, usually measured in bits per second
  • binary   a two-digit numerical system used by computers to store data and perform functions
  • browser   the program people use to access the web

[Not a window shopper. . . .]

  • cursor   an arrow on the screen that indicates either where your mouse pointer is or where the next character typed will be entered in a line of text
  • defragment   to use a simple process that cleans up all of the fragmented pieces of files left scattered on your computer's hard drive; doing this will help your computer work faster and smoother
  • domain   a group of computers that can be accessed and administered with a common set of rules
  • emoticons   text-based faces and objects that represent the writer's emotions, commonly used in e-mails and online chatting
  • firewall   limits the data that can get through and protects your computer from damage by unauthorized users; can be hardware- or software-based
  • firmware   a semipermanent software program or set of instructions programmed on a hardware device
  • font   a style and size of computer type, including elements such as bold or italics
  • gigabyte   a unit of data storage that equals 2 to the 30th power; a common measurement used with data storage
  • hypertext   text that links to other information, such as a URL on a site that takes you to another location
  • malware   an abbreviated term for malicious software, including viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and spyware, designed to damage a computer system
  • modem   a shortened version of modulator/demodulator; an internal or external communications device that allows one computer to connect with another and send data over telephone lines
  • netiquette   good manners used on the Internet, such as respecting other people's privacy
  • server   stores and shares information with all the computers that connect to it; can be used to access programs, files, and other information
  • spam   named after a famous meat-ish product, it refers to junk or unsolicited e-mail or other meaningless postings
  • template   a file that acts as a starting point for a new document; preformatted
  • tutorial   an interactive software program used as a learning tool to learn new skills in a step-by-step process
  • webmaster   the person in charge of maintaining a website

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Computer Terms Practice Exercises

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