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Glossary of computer terms

Glossary of computer terms

Adapter card or expansion card

This is an electronic circuit board which slots in to the system board slots. The function of an adapter is to connect peripherals (video, sound, network) to the system board expanding the functionality of your system. This card can be referred to as the expansion or interface card.

Active directory (AD)

This is a central directory used by windows 2000 containing all information regarding all items on the network. This directory is continuously updating with the use of the DNS servers and is shared among the domain controllers on the network.

   Access method or Contention method

The set of rules used by the network in communication. The main access methods are CSMA/CD, CSMA/CA, Token ring etc.

ADC(Analogue to Digital Converter)

A chip used inside modems and sound cards responsible for converting analogue signal to digital signals to be used by the computer.

AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port )

This is a single fast expansion slot on most ATX boards designed exclusively for the video adapters.


A software program designed to facilitate a particular task on your computer e.g. Brower, MS office.

ARP (Address Resolution Protocol)

ARP is hardware broadcast table of information generated on each machine in a TCPIP LAN network containing the system IP address and its physical card hardware address.

Anti-Virus program

   A program designed to detect and exterminate computer viruses. Examples of anti virus programs include. Norton anti virus, McAfee, etc.

ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange)

A universal standard defining all characters used on a computer with numbers.

AT commands

A universal standard of commands designed by Hayes to configure modems.


There are four separate configurable attributes that are read only, Hidden, System, and Archive used by the FAT filling system of DOS and windows.

AT and ATX Motherboard

AT is the older 286 to Pentium motherboard standard. ATX is designed for Pentium II motherboards and above. AT stands for Advanced Technology and ATX stands for Advanced Technology extended.


This is the batch file automatically loaded during the boot process.

Audio Codes

A set of coded messages that your system will sound if it cannot boot-up or show a visual response.


The login process before accessing the resources of the network.


To duplicate your current files to a backup medium, e.g. tape, CD, Zip.

Backward compatible

The program or hardware is compatible with the older versions of the same product.

Baud rate

It is the number of bits of data transmitted per second  (bps) by modems. e.g. 56Kb/s

BDC (Backup Domain Controller)

Used on a Windows NT domain network. The BDC is designed to help the PDC in the authentication process and sharing the load on the network. There can exist an unlimited number of  BDCís on a domain receiving a read only copy of the SAM Security Accounts Manager from the PDC every 5 minutes. 


The numbering system used by computer that is dealing with base 2 using the numbers bits 1 and 0.

BIOS (Basic Input Output System)

Contains all the limitations of your computer. The BIOS contains a firmware of the POST, boot instructions etc.

Bootable floppy

Contains boot files that enable the disk to boot up from the floppy. Usually used to recover a failed system.


A program designed to navigate the internet and to translate and view the HTML coded site pages.


A buffer can be thought of as regions in memory reserved for frequently used data. The buffer command is used in the config.sys file reducing hard drive interaction and increasing system performance.


It is a group of wires acting as a communication highway connecting the whole computers together.

Bus mastering

Devices that have this feature are intelligent and can take momentary control of the system busses effectively bypassing the processor when communicating to the memory.

Bus Topology

The network layout where all the computers are connected together on a single backbone cable.


A byte contains 8 bits of data which is 1 and 0ís.


It is very fast Static RAM used inside the processor L1 and outside the processor L2.


CD or CD-ROM stands for Compact disk that can store up to 700MB of data. CD-ROM stands for Compact Disk-Read-Only Memory. CDís are read only and require a CD-ROM drive to access the data stored on the CD.


Allows for one tome recording on a CD ROM


Allows for re writing on a re-Writable CD ROM


The Intel processor for the cheaper market. This processor contains less cache.


A standard set by different manufacturers to the system motherboard defining its properties and limitations. The different chipsets include VIA, Intel, SIS etc

CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computing)

The standard processor for IBM compatible PC executing large instructions slowly. The other processor standard is the RISC processor.


The smallest unit of data storage on a hard drive containing sectors.

CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semi-conductor)

Contains all system current setting including time and date. CMOS requires a battery to hold data.

Cold boot

When the system is restarted using the power on button.

COM port

Allows for serial slow communication between the computer and other devices such as the mouse and modem.


The file contains all your current hardware configurable setting such as memory. I is loaded during the boot process.

Contiguous blocks

A term used for writing data on a the hard drive which means placing data next to each other .

Conventional memory

The region between 0K and 640K used by DOS for running all programs.

CPU (Central Processing Unit)

This is the central component of the processor designed for handling all processing tasks.

CRT (Cathode Ray Tube)

This is the tube within a monitor responsible for producing a display.

CSMA/CD(Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection)

The standard access method used in Ethernet networks such as bus and star topologies.


A series of tracks placed on each plate inside the hard drive.

Data path

The quantity of data that the processor can process on each clock beat. The size of the data path is determined by the processor.

Dedicated lines

This line requires no dialing because it provides your computer an exclusive route to the Internet which is up all the time.

DAC (Digital to analogue Converter)

A chip used in modem and soundcards to convert the systems digital signals to analogue data ready for transmission

Default gateway

This is the route used by your LAN to access the WAN. This is the LAN router.


Places related data in contagious block improving hard drive performance.

Device driver

This is the software which enables the operating system to communicate with a hardware. E.g. printer, modem.

Device Manager

A component of the control panel which allow you to view the current system configuration and change it.

DDR( Double data rate)

A special RAM module used un Pentium 4 systems supported by VIA

DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration protocol)

Used by server to allocate a number to all computer in a LAN from a pool of numbers.

DUN (Dial-up Networking)

This is software to dial up and facilitate the communication of two computers using your telephone line and modem. DUN is generally used to access your ISP to connect to the internet.

DIMM (Dual In-line Memory Module)

Memory modules containing many RAM chip. DIMM come in sizes up to 256MB and can communicate using a 64bits data bus.

DIP Switch (Dual in-line Packet Switch)

A switch which is used on system boards and expansion cards to configure the device.

Disk Quota

A new feature added to windows 2000 that limits the users disk space usage.

DLL (dynamic link library)

A series of simple programs inside windows that  interact with each other activating a larger program.

DMA Channel (Direct Memory Access)

A direct line of communication between the interface device and RAM without the involvement of the CPU.  Devices supporting DMA are generally much faster and expensive.

DNS (Domain Name System)

The DNS server contains a database of computer names and IP addresses.


The groping of servers and clients in the Microsoft client/server networking environment containing a centralized Security Accounts Management (SAM).

Dot-matrix printer

A printer that uses impacting pins to generate the image on the paper. comes in 9pin, 18 pin and 24 pin designs.

DPI (Dot Per Inch)

A measure of the resolution of a peripheral which is the number of dots that can be fitted in to a square inch. Usually used as a measure on printers an monitors.

DSL (Digital Serial line)

A dedicated line which can transmit data at very high rate, now available for home use.

Dynamic RAM (DRAM)

The memory type that requires a refresh pulse and is slower and cheaper then SRAM.

Dynamic Disk

A new feature added to windows 2000 making the hard drive more secure and redundant.


A new storage medium which can store up to 18 GB of data and is primarily used for films.

EISA (Extended Standard Industry Architecture)

The rival expansion slot to MCA providing 32bit data transfer at 20Mhz.


A program that simulates expanded memory used in the memory optimization process.


An environment of communication using the CSMA/CD (Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection) contention/access method within a bus or star topology.

EMI (Electro Magnetic Interference)

An interference created by a magnetic field which can cause data loss on a hard drive and other problems which is recoverable.

ERD (Emergency Repair Disk)

A disk that needs to be created within windows NT/2000 used in the operating systems recovery.

ESD (Electro Static Discharge)

A static discharge which can cause a non recoverable hardware failure.

Extended Partition

The second partition created by the hard drive that contains logical drives.

Event Viewer

A component within the administrative tools which logs all system information used by windows NT/2000.

Expansion slot

The slots located in the system motherboard acting as a medium between the CPU and the expansion cards. They include ISA, EISA, MCA, AGP,VESA, and PCI.

ECC (Error Checking and Correction)

An advanced for of error checking that can correct errors used in the system memory.


A fast design of RAM SIMMs usually used on 486 and Pentium Isystems

FAT (File Allocation Table)

The typical filing system used by DOS.


The typical filling system used by windows 98 that is efficient and can extend to terabytes in size.

Fault tolerance

An option made available to recover your system incase of a hardware failure.


This is a file used in DOS to create and remove partitions.

File extension

The 3-character extension of a file defines the file type. E.g. exe, bat, dat.


This name defines the file and is set by the user.


It is a device which act as a medium between your internal LAN and the internet.


It is the 1394 fast communication for used for transferring video information.


A software installed on a ROM chip, e.g. BIOS

Fiber Optics

A new communication medium that uses flexible class to transmit light signals in a network.

Flash ROM

A replacement chip for the ROM that can be overwritten.

Floppy disk/drive

A storage medium and drive used primarily for transferring data which can store 1.44MB of data.


A container for files and other folder on your storage medium.

FPU (Floating Point Unit)

These are special calculations that require a math co-processor.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

A TCP/IP protocol that is used for transferring files and folders.

GB Gigabyte. 

Equivalent to 1024MG.

GUI (Graphical User Interface).

The intelligent usage of the mouse and display that makes working on computers intuitive.


A networking device that can overcome networking barriers such as topology and access method.


A number of used which perform similar task and require similar security access to the system can be placed in a group.

Hard drive

The primary storage device used to store the system operating system and application.

Hexadecimal numbering system

The base 16 numbering system used by us not to mistake between the one and zeroís in the binary system.

HMA (High memory area)

The first 64 KB above 1M in the memory map.


The file that makes the memory above 1M available which are extended memory.

HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language)

This is the special language used to generate web pages that can be interpreted by a browser.

HTTP  (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol)

The method used to transfer web pages from the internet server to your browser.

HCL (Hardware Compatibility List)

A list of hardware tested and support by Microsoft.

Heat Sink

A block of metal fin used to cool down the chips within the computer.

Hot Swappable

A device that can be installed on the computer without rebooting the system e.g. USB devices.


A device used in the Star topology to connect all the networked computers.

IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) 

The standard setup for storage devices which places two drive on one cable. The first drive is master and the other is the slave.

IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers)

A body that oversees any improvements made in the computing industry.

IIS (Internet Information Server)

A server used by windows NT to host a web site.

Instruction set

The standard instruction set used by CPU. There are two main instruction sets RISC and CISC.


When the monitor cannot repaint a screen in one burst but draws it is section which may apper as flickers.

Internal DOS commands

The most commonly used commands of DOS inside the file .

Internal clock

The speed of the clock in the processor.


A worlds larges WAN sometimes referred to as the WEB


An internal web site used within the boundaries of a company for private use only.

I/O Addresses

A location in memory where data can be transferred between an interface device and the CPU.

IP (Internet Protocol)

Provides an identification number for all the nodes with a TCP/IP network.

IP Address

Sometimes called the dotted quad, an IP address is a 32-bit address consisting of 4 sections called octets that are separated by dots.  For example:

IPX (Internet work Packet Exchange)

The communication protocol used by Novell networks 

IRQ (Interrupt ReQuest)

A unique identification number issued to different devices on a network.

ISA (Industry Standard Architecture)

An interface for cards with a 8bit or 16bit communication path.

ISP (Internet Service Provider)

The organization providing you with a means of connecting to the internet.


A fast digital communication line used in the Internet.

KB or K or kilobyte

Defines 1000 bytes of data.


The core component of an operating system


 A new authentication protocol used in windows 2000

L1 or Internal cache

Very fast SRAM used inside the processor.

L2 or External cache

Very fast SRAM used external to the CPU

LAN (Local Area Network)

A bunch of computer networked together within the same location.

LBA Large Block Access

An efficient way of utilizing the space on the sectors of the hard drive.

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display)

The new expensive technology using a mesh grid and liquid crystal with a display system. This technology is used predominantly on notebook display because of its light weight.

Last Known Good Configuration

The last time the system booted up without any problems.


Old hardware that new systems must accommodate because of backwards compatibility.

LFN (Long File names)

The ability of windows 9x to store files with names as long as 255 characters using VFAT.

LPT Port

The 25-pin bi-directional parallel communication port usually used for printing

Local profile

The default desktop profile stored on your local computer.

Mandatory Profile

A profile that is force by the system administrator for all network users.

MAU (Multistation Access Unit)

The Hub used in the ring topology.

MB or megabyte

Equivalent to 1024 KB

MBR (Master Boot Record)

The location on the hard drive which stores the boot files windows 9x.

MCA (Micro Channel Architecture)

A16/32bit expansion medium designed by IBM

Megahertz (MHz)                                               

Defines 1 million Hz frequency which is the unit of measuring processor speed.

Mirror Set (RAID level 1)

A redundancy method used by windows NT/2000 that allows for a duplicate drive to exist of the original drive.

Memory Modules

The miniature circuit boards that have the memory chips soldered on them.

Member server

The application server within a windows NT domain.


The program used by DOS to optimize the memory

MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions)

The uniform format of passing data between different applications


A device used to communicate on the internet through the telephone line by using sound.


The conversion process of digital data to analogue data.


A display device connected to the VGA card on your Computer.


The electronic board on the system where the system CPU and memory is located. This board is sometimes referred to as the planer board, system board.


A pointing device that is used to maneuver around a GUI environment, which allows icons to be selected by just clicking on the buttons.

MMC (Microsoft Management Console)

A new tool inside windows 2000 that eases administrative tasks.


This is the primitive DOS anti virus program


This is the Microsoft backup program used for backing up data on your computer.


Provides a route for to access the CD-ROM drive.

MS-DOS or DOS (Disk Operating System)

The first command based operating system produced by Microsoft.


A components of the DOS Kernel which controls access to the hard drive.


This environment allows for multiple applications to be active simultaneously.


The hardware components of your system which contribute the graphical and audio environment.


A device used to measure current , voltage and resistance.

NetBEUI (NetBIOS Extended User Interface)

The communication protocol used for small networks that is non-routable.


This is a communication protocol used on small LANs by applications.


The process of connecting two or more computers together by some media (a physical cable or a wireless connection) running specialized software, which allows the computers to communicate with each other.


A internet feature which act as a bulletin board


The display technology that redraws the screen in one burst.


The new secure filing system used by windows NT/2000


This is the initial boot file of windows NT

OSI Model (Open System Interconnection)

Contains 7 layers that provide a framework for communication of dissimilar networking systems.

Outlook Express

The Microsoft user tool for creating and view emails.


To increase the system clock speed beyond its design specifications.

Page file

The use of the hard drive as RAM sometimes referred to as virtual memory.

Page frame

This is a 64kb region in the UMB used by the device ROM chips called shadow RAM.

Parallel port

A 25 pin female port located at the back of your PC which is usually connected to a printer.


A use of a bit of data for checking 1 bit errors in a byte of data. The are two forms of parity , odd and even parity.


A region defined on the hard dive for placing within.


The route or map to a directory through the tree structure of directories and sub directories.

PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnection)

A white 32/64bit universal expansion slot used on Pentium and above systems.

PCMCIA card (Personal Computer Memory Card Industry Association)

 A standard of expansion used on laptop and notebook systems which has 3 types, Type I,II,III.

PDC (Primary Domain Controller)

The first server active in a windows NT domain that contains the original editable Security Accounts Manager (SAM).

Peer-to-peer network

A LAN environment with no dedicated server. The peer to peer environment of Microsoft include windows 95/98/NT/2000.


The new line of processors that was produced after the 486 processor. These processors include Pentium 1ŗPentium 4.


A device connected to computers that performs a dedicated task and interacts with the user. These devices include keyboard, mouse, monitor, printer etc.

PGA (Pin Grid Array)

A new standard of chip design which has an array of pins beneath it.

Plug and Play or PnP

Plug and play is the interaction of computer hardware, operating system, and BIOS that enables devices to be detected and configured automatically.

POP3 Post Office Protocol

This is the protocol used to download e-mails through the Internet from an email server supporting pop3. The client side tools which support pop3 protocol include Ms outlook, outlook express Eudora etc.


A communication source on a computer which allows interaction with a peripheral.


A Mobile system such as laptop and notebook computers.

POST (Power On Self Test)

A diagnostic program designed to test all system hardware located on the BIOS ROM chip

Power supply unit PSU

A device that convert the AC mains power supply to the DC power required by you computer.

PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol)

An internet protocol providing limited security from your home to the ISP


An output device producing a copy of the data on paper.

Protected mode

This mode was introduced for the AT system using memory above 1MB.


A set of communication rules used on a network sometimes referred as the language of communication.

PWS (Personal Web Server)

A Internet server software designed for testing purposes to be used on a client system.

RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks)

A technology that involves using multiple disks containing the same information, which can be used in the recovery of data, incase of a hardware problem.

RAS (Remote Access Service)

A method of using a modems to connect to and from a windows NT computer.

RAM (Random Access Memory)

RAM is fast memory that can be used as work space. All data is lost from the RAM when the power is switched off.


A new memory design for the P4 processors backed by Intell.

Refresh rate

The time required to redraw the image on the screen of a monitor. If the refresh rate is too slow the screen will seem to be flickering.


A program used in Windows NT to create the ERD


The registry editor of windows  that can be used to view and edit the active system registry. Regedit can be used by windows 95/98/NT/2000. Regedt32 can only be used by windows NT/2000.

Registry checker

A tool used in windows98 to automatically backup the registry and restore the backed up registry in case of corruption.


A command of DOS generally used in a batch file. This command is a remark and tells the system to ignore the rest of the text on the line.


This is a measure of the quality of an image which is the number of dot that can be fitted in a square inch.

Ring Topology

A network of computers connected together in a loop using an MAU (Multi access unit). This topology employs the token ring access method.

RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing)

This is a standard processor design that performs small instructions very quickly. This processor design is generally used by non-IBM compatible systems that are CISC.

Roaming user profile

The changeable user profile that exists on the server in a Windows NT domain


The information on a ROM chip is burnt in the factory and not lost when the power is switched off.

Root directory

The highest level on the directory structure which is the drive letter. C:, D:, E:, etc

RIS (Remote installation server)

A mass installation server which installs only windows professional


This program scans the hard drive for bad sectors and either fixes the bad sector or marks it as bad so that there is no data loss.


A platform universal standard of intelligent peripherals that follow a set group of rules called the skuzzy rules.

Search engine

A site on the internet which contains a database of all known internet site making the users search on the internet far easier.


A region that divides your hard drive plates containing data.

Serial port

A port on the computer responsible for transmitting asynchronous data. These ports are 9 pin male ports referred to as COM1, COM2, COM3, COM4.


The server is the computer on network providing centralized access to data and security.

Shadow RAM

the copying of the ROM chips of various installed hardware in the RAM between 640K and 1024K.


this is a icon which is linked to a program or file

SIMM (Single In-line Memory Module)

The memory module containing RAM chips for the older AT PCís. there are two types of SIMMS, 30pin and 72 pin ranging from 1MB to 64MB per module.

Simple Volume

A new concept in logical storage which is different from partitions.


This is the method of making information available on a network.

Service Pack

A mini upgrade or a fix to Microsoft product.

SLIP (Serial Line Internet Protocol)

The older modem communication protocol.


It is software to improve the performance of your hard drive by utilizing your RAM

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol)

A protocol for transferring mail from dissimilar operating systems. Usually used to send the email from your computer to the email server using outlook express..

SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol)

A TCP/IP protocol for monitoring your network traffic.

Spanned Volume

A method of extending an simple volume beyond one drive.

SPD Serial Presence Detect

The method memory modules identifying themselves to the system when installed.

Star Topology

This topology uses a hub to connect all the computers on the network. The access method on this popular topology is CSMA/CD.

Static RAM (SRAM)

This is very fast RAM usually used for cache.

Strip set with parity

A method of improving storage speed and redundancy by implementing many drives with identical information.


This is a directory within a directory.

Subnet mask

.This is a 32bit number that is used by routers to separate that network and host portions of an TCP/IP address.

Surge suppressor

This is a device that is the interface between your computer and the mains and protects your system against power surges.


This is a network segmentation device by using identification number on the network cards.


The order and format of typing commands.


A method of mass installation using a third party cloning software.


This is the file that contains the current system registry

TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol)

The protocol is the standard protocol of the Internet that was created by the military. This protocol is a routable which identifies all communicating computers with a unique 32 bit address and also contains a number of sub protocols such as HTTP, FTP, SMNP, SMTP, etc.

Task Manager

A program that allows us to manage all current active tasks.

Token ring

This is a topology, which generates a ring of computers connected together using an MAU employing the token ring access method.


A physical layout for a network.

Thicknet and Thinnet

Coaxial medium used in the BUS topology.

TSR (Terminate Stay Resident)  

A TSR command will remain in memory after it has been activated until the system is rebooted.


A component of TCP/IP which provides for no graphics bu just commands.


A TCP/IP diagnostic tool used to trace the route of a data packet.

Twisted Pair

The medium used in the star topology which incorporates twisted pairs of wires.

UART (Universal Asynchronous Receiver-Transmitter)  

A chip that converts the synchronous data on the system to asynchronous data before the data transmission.

UDP (User Datagram Protocol)

This is a TCP/IP protocol that is defined as a connectionless protocol. The protocol does not guarantee data delivery.

UNC (Universal Naming Convention)

An method of linking to a network share by suing the computer name and share name\\computername\sharename.

UMB (Upper memory block)

The sub sections of free memory which can be utilized for TSRís between 640KB and 1024KB.

UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply)

This is a battery pack designed to avoid a  system  switch off in a power outage. This power pack allows the system to shut down gracefully.

URL (universal Resource locator)

A method of finding and linking to a web page on the Internet.

USB (Universal Serial Bus)

This is a serial communication device designed to communicate with up to 127 USB devices. These USB devices include scanners, mouse, external storage etc.

User Manager

This is an option within the administrative tools of windows NT designed to create users and groups and assign their individual permissions.

User profile

This is a profile for the user that saves the users personal desktop settings.


This file contains the user components of the registry.

VESA (Video Electronics Systems Association)

A 32bit expansion slot designed by a collaboration of companies.

Virtual memory

The use of the hard drive as potential RAM


This is a program designed to propagate and also cause havoc on a computer.


A primitive DOS anti virus program which sits in RAM and monitors the system for intruding viruses.

VPN (virtual private network)

A network that uses the Internet as a medium

VGA (Video Graphics Adapter)

The adapter used to produce the graphical images on the screen.

WAN (Wide Are Network)

This is a network of networks. A WAN separates these LANís by routers.

Warm boot

This is the process of restarting your computer without switching it off. You must press the Alt+Ctrl+ Del buttons simultaneously to perform a warm boot.

WDM (Windows Driver Model)

A standard for driver compatibility set in windows98/ME/2000


You can use the * as a wildcard to select multiple files.

Windows Explorer

This is the Microsoft browser.

WINS Server (Windows Internet Naming Service)

This is a server that contains a database of NetBIOS names and IP addresses.

Workgroup model

This is the peer the peer environment of Microsoft windows environment.


This is the client side machine in a Windows NT environment.

WWW (World Wide Web)

Another word for the Internet.

XT Motherboard (Extended Technology)

The original IBM design for PCís which used the 8088 processor and 1MB of RAM

ZIF Socket (Zero Insertion Force Socket)

This is a processor socket which makes the installation of the processor easy.

Zone Bit Recording (LBR)

Enabling larger hard drive capacity on the same physical size hard drive by placing more data on the outer sectors.


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