It would be fair to say that IT people have a way with words… albeit confusing one at best. In this post which I will be dubbing the Tech Talk Dictionary I will list the main components of a computer and how a member of the IT world may refer to them.
Confusingly many use the term “Memory” to refer interchangeably to different things. To an IT person it refers to the RAM (Random Access Memory). RAM is different from the storage space on your device. A general rule of thumb is that RAM is the smaller value on the specification list of your device and we measure it in “GB” (gigabytes). Most modern computers will have 2, 4 or 8 GB. We use RAM as a super-fast cache for programs and your operating system. RAM is unlike where your files are stored in the fact that it is “volatile memory” which means it loses all data stored on it when power is lost.
Hard Drive, HDD, SSD, Data Drive
These terms all refer to a physical box not too indifferent to the size of a large match box. They can of course and do vary in size. No matter what size, shape or colour they all serve the same purpose – to store your data. The hard drive is where your operating system (Windows for example) is stored along with all your files and pictures.
I would say that the Motherboard is the most important part however a device wouldn’t work without a lot of parts. We use the Motherboard to connect all of the components in a device. The motherboard is full of connectors of varying shapes and sizes designed to allow Hard Drives, CPU’s, RAM and all other components to interface with it. We use these connectors to provide power and data transmission between all the components.
Now we’re onto the power supply and it’s probably obvious what this one does. The Power Supply is what provides power for a device. In the case of a desktop computer it converts 240 volt mains supply into the 12, 5 and 3 volts needed to power the components.
The CPU or Processor is the brains of the computer; it is what actually does the processing or thinking. It is highly unlikely for one of these to develop a fault. Although it is common for the CPU to not be capable of processing enough. In other words – not powerful enough.
Graphics Card, GPU
Finally, we have the Graphics Card, this can also be called the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). The GPU provides the pictures/graphics which you see on the screen. The GPU is commonly integrated into the CPU in laptops and many lower end desktop computers.
The BIOS or Basic Input Output System is what displays “Toshiba” or “Acer” to list a couple of examples when you turn your computer on. It allows the computer to turn on and provides a logical interface between hardware and software. UEFI (User Extensible Firmware Interface) is a newer type of BIOS which allows for better security and underlying functionality. They both ultimately serve the same purpose.
In conclusion, tech speak can confuse all of us. Many terms are acronyms and acronyms can have multiple meanings just to make life that little bit trickier. This guide is nowhere near comprehensive but I have listed what I see as the most common terms as they generally cause the most confusion.