Jargon Buster!

We understand that not every customer is technology savvy, so we have compiled this basic Jargon Buster for you. This is a working progress and if you don’t see a term you would like to know please email our admin team at admin@kt-tek.com we will email you back with the term ‘Busted’ and it will be added to the Buster.


It says… It means…
AGP (Advanced Graphics Port) A special slot on the PC motherboardfor graphics cards, and the format of the cards themselves. Standard on new PCs from 1998. “AGP x 2″ runs at twice the speed of the original AGP, AGP x 4 at four times the speed etc. Now being replaced by PCI Express.
always-on An internet connection which remains on 24/7 such as ADSL orcable, rather than only connecting on demand like a dialup.
AMD The second largest maker of personal computer microprocessors after Intel. Famous for the AMD FX and APU Processors.
Architecture The basic design of a computer’s hardware. Computers with different architecture, such as the PC and the Mac, cannot run each others’ programs.
Attachment A file sent by email is “attached” to the email. An attachment can be a picture, a document, a program or any other type of file. You should never open an attachment if you are not sure what it is, because someviruses propagate as email attachments; but they can’t infect your machine if you don’t open the attachment.
AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) A document setting out what an Internet Service Provider deems an acceptable use of their services, usually published on their website. Typically it will forbid the publication of obscene or defamatory material, and sending email or newsgroupspam. If you violate your ISP’s AUP, they will usually close your account down immediately.
Avatar A picture or figure representing a person in an online environment.
Backup, back up A backup is an extra copy of your work, eg documents, pictures etc, saved onto a removable storage medium such as CD, DVD or magnetic tape, so that if your computer is stolen or breaks down you don’t lose everything. Backup is a noun, back up is a verb.
Backwards-compatible A program (or system) designed to work with data generated by earlier versions of itself, even though the format may since have changed completely.
bandwidth A measure of total amount of data transferred over a period of time, often used to measure how busy a website is. A webhost will usually base its charges on the bandwidth a website uses, ie how much data per month is requested from it.
biometric A system that examines biological things like fingerprints or retinas, usually for security purposes.
BIOS (Basic Input/Output System; pr. “by-oss”) A program built into every PC for setting up very basic things, like how many hard and floppy disks you have and what type they are; the first thing that loads when you start your PC. You usually only need to access the BIOS if you are upgrading your hardware, eg adding more RAM or an extra disk drive, or setting a power-on password. BIOS settings are stored in a special type of memory called CMOS.
Bit The smallest unit of information in a computer, can either equal 0 or 1. Eight bits equal one byte.
Bluetooth A short range wireless data communication system for smartphones and other computing devices. However Bluetooth devices from different manufacturers wouldn’t always communicate with each other reliably, so it hasn’t really taken off as the industry had hoped, and it is now under threat from faster wireless technologies (see Wi-Fi).
Boot, boot up Usually used to mean “start up the computer”. Literally, the process of loading up the operating system and getting the computer ready for use. See Reboot. A “boot password” is a password you have to give to start up the computer.
Boot disk A CD or DVD which holds a copy of the operating system, or enough of it to start the computer, useful if the computer won’t start up properly from the hard disk.
bps (Bits Per Second) A measure of how quickly information is being transferred, usually via a modem or network. Divide by ten to get an approximation of the number of characters per second (cps). See alsoKbps, Mbps.
Broadband Internet access over a connection much faster than an ordinary modem, such as ADSL or cable.
Burn Create a CD or DVD.
Byte A basic unit of measurement for pieces of information; the space required to store one character. See also Bit, Kilobyte, Megabyte,Gigabyte, Terabyte.
Cable 1) Any insulated wiring used to connect computer equipment together.2) An always-on high speed internet connection similar to ADSL but using cable TV technology instead of a phoneline.
CD Burner A CD drive that can create (“burn”) CDs.
CD-ROM, CD-R (Compact Disk-Read Only Memory) A misnomer, as strictly speaking it is not memory but storage. Identical to standard music CDs. A popular medium for releasing programs. Now being replaced by DVD, which has a much higher capacity.
CD-RW (Compact Disk-ReWriter) A CD drive which can create CDs, either audio or data, using special rewriteable CDs which are also often called CD-RWs. A CD-RW drive can also create ordinary CDs, though not rewrite them.
Chip A silicon wafer with millions of tiny circuits engraved on it – what computers are made of.
Clipboard A temporary storage area in Windows. When you cut (Ctrl-X) or copy (Ctrl-C) highlighted text, documents or whatever in Windows they are sent to the clipboard; when you paste (Ctrl-V) they are copied from the clipboard to the cursor position. Sending something to the clipboard automatically overwrites its previous contents.
CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor; pr. “see-moss”) A special type of memory which retains its data when the PC is switched off, used to store settings for things like what type of hard disk you have, and how much memory. The settings are accessed via theBIOS.
Compatible Compatible pieces of equipment can work together; incompatible ones can’t.
Cookie A small data file stored on your computer by a website, in theory to allow it to “remember” your preferences, but in practise mostly used to track which adverts you have seen. You can set most browsers to reject all cookies, or to ask your permission before storing them, but this can generate multiple error messages on some websites and is generally more hassle than it’s worth – they are pretty harmless.
CPU (Central Processing Unit) The nerve centre of the computer : everything flows through it. Often just called “the processor”. The best known PC processors are Intel’s Pentium and AMD’s Athlon.
Data Any information created by a user, such as documents, pictures or sound recordings.
Database A program used for organising any kind of information on a computer into a searchable form, anything from a list of contacts to a complex stock control and accounts system.
DDR (Double Data Rate) A fast type of RAM for a PC. DDR2 and DDR3 are much faster versions.
Desktop 1). A computer designed to sit on a desk (as opposed to a laptop). In Windows2). The screen you see when you aren’t running any programs, with “My Computer”, the Recycle Bin and so on.
Dialup An early kind of internet connection, using a phone line and a modem. Much slower than broadband, it has to make a phone call to the server and establish a connection before you can use it.
Digital Literally “to do with numbers”. Often used to describe a device using computer technology to replace older, traditional technologies. For example, a digital camera is one that stores images electronically rather than on chemical film.
DIMM (Dual In-line Memory Module; or. “dim”) A module of RAM(memory) for a PC, replacing the older SIMM specification.
Directory An area on a disk for storing files, particularly in DOS. Usually called a folder in Windows.
Disk Generic term for a type of storage device, such as a hard disk or afloppy disk (diskette). So called because the important part, where the information is actually stored, is circular, although you can’t see it because it is hidden away inside a protective shell.
Diskette Also known as a floppy disk. Now obsolete. Called a diskette because it was smaller than the original huge floppy disks.
DNS (Domain Name Service/System) An internet service that converts a human web address such as www.jonstorm.com into the numeric address that computers use, called the IP address. “Can’t resolve DNS” usually means that this conversion has failed and therefore the website can’t be found.
Domain An internet address owned by a company, organisation or individual, such as jonstorm.com, nasa.gov or bbc.co.uk. See also TLD, How web addresses work.
Dongle A small hardware device used for copy protection with some software. The dongle must be plugged into a port on the computer, often the printer port or the software won’t function. They are unpopular with users because if the dongle gets lost or broken, the software won’t function.
DOS (Disk Operating System; or. “doss”) Usually refers to MS-DOS, which was the standard operating system for PCs until Windows 95came out, now pretty much obsolete. Controlled by typing in text commands and has several serious limitations, but requires a much less powerful computer than Windows 95.
DoS (Denial of Service) A form of attack on (usually) an internet service, which aims to prevent the service from operating properly, often by bombarding it with more information than it can process. See alsoMailbomb.
Download To transfer information (files) from a network (such as the Internet) onto a user’s PC. See also upload.
dpi (Dots Per Inch) A measure of picture quality, often used to measure printer capabilities. The higher the number, the better the quality.
Dreamweaver A superb graphical editor for websites, widely used by professional web designers.
Driver A small program used by the operating system to control hardware such as a sound or video card. Often downloading the latest driver for a device from the manufacturer’s website will improve its functionality.
DRM (Digital Rights Management) Software intended to prevent the unauthorised duplication of copyrighted audio, video or software. Unpopular with users because if there is ever a problem with it, such as the rights management company folding, your legally-purchased content becomes unplayable. Following a lot of problems of this kind it has largely been abandoned by the music industry.
Dual core, dual-core PC processors which have two complete processors on the same chip, allowing computers to handle multiple tasks faster. See alsoquad-core.
Dual layer A technology allowing two layers of data to be written to a DVD instead of the usual one, thus increasing its capacity.
DVD (Digital Versatile Disk) A more advanced version of the standard CD which can hold far more information, now standard on most PCs. Widely used for high-quality digital movies and software. DVD drives can also read ordinary CDs.
DVD RW, DVD Writer (Digital Versatile Disk ReWriter) A DVD drive that can create (“write”) rewriteable DVDs. There are several competing formats at the moment, but most recent drives support more than one format. It is likely that one of these formats will become standard in time, but at the moment it is not clear which. To add to the confusion, they tend to have very similar names : for example DVD+RW and DVD-RW are completely different formats, and incompatible with each other.
DVI (Direct Video Interface) A special type of connector for computer monitors, particularly flat panels.
E-commerce Conducting business over the internet, and particularly the World Wide Web.
Email (or e-mail) (Electronic mail; or. “ee-mail”) A way to send messages between computers, or more to the point their users, either over a network or the Internet. E-mail is usually just text but can have pictures or other files attached. See Attachment.
Ethernet The system used to connect computers to a network or the internet with a physical cable, including most broadband internet connections. Usually much faster than a wireless connection.
Expansion card (or board) A circuit board which can be plugged in to an expansion slot on the PC’s motherboard, to give the PC extra capabilities. A lot of the features originally provided by expansion cards, like sound, graphics and network connections, are now built in.
FDD (Fixed Disk Drive, Floppy Disk Drive). The slot on the PC which accepts floppy disks almost always referred to as “Drive A:” by the computer. Now obsolete.
Firewire A standard for very fast data transfer, popular for applications that use very large files, particularly video editing. Requires special hardware generally added to a computer as an expansion card.
Flash drive A removable data storage device, usually thumb sized and plugged into a PC’s USB port.
GB See Gigabyte.
GHz Gigahertz – billions of cycles per second. Often used as a measurement of a PC processor chip’s speed and power, with bigger numbers meaning a bit more speed, and a higher price. 1000 MHz = 1.0 GigaHertz. See also MHz.
Gigabyte (or Gig) Unit of measurement for pieces of information : approximately 1 billion bytes, 1 million kilobytes, or 1000 megabytes. Hard disk sizes are usually measured in gigabytes. Often shortened to “GB”, “Gig” or just G.
Graphics A catch-all term for anything involving drawing images on a PC screen. A game with great graphics is one that is visually spectacular.
Hard disk A computer’s main (and fastest and most convenient) storage for programs and data. Originally named to distinguish it from floppy disks. All PCs are fitted with hard disks, sometimes more than one. The first (or only) hard disk is usually called C: by the computer. The most popular hard disk formats are currently EIDE and SCSI.
Hardware The physical parts of a computer.
HD, HDD (Hard Disk Drive) The main data storage unit in a computer. See hard disk.
Hub A basic device for connecting computers together to form a network. See Router.
Intel The Intel Corporation is the leading manufacturer of processor chips for PCs, most famously the Pentium.
ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network ) An early high speed (for its time) internet connection system mainly aimed at business, now largely obsolete. Requires a special type of modem called a Terminal Adaptor.
Kbps (KiloBits Per Second) A measure of speed of information flow, usually over a modem. A Kilobit is a thousand bits. See also bps,Mbps.
Kilobyte Unit of measurement for pieces of information : actually 1024 Bytes (characters), but in practice almost always rounded down to 1000. Often written as just K, eg 250 K is 250 Kilobytes (250,000 bytes/characters – well not exactly, but close enough). See alsoMegabyte, Gigabyte, Terabyte.
LAN (Local Area Network; pr.”lan”) A network of computers connected together, usually in a single department or building. See also WAN.
Laptop A portable PC, with system unit, screen and keyboard crammed into one package. They can do pretty much everything a desktop PC can do, but are more expensive because of the extra miniaturisation required. Also called a notebook.
Laser printer, laserprinter A high-speed printer intended mainly for office use, usually better for text than graphics, especially in colour.
LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) A type of computer screen, originally used only on laptops but now increasingly used for desktop PCs and even televisions.
Mbps (MegaBits Per Second) A measure of speed of information flow over a network (and if it’s measured in Mbps, it’s reasonably quick.) A Megabit is one million bits. See also bps, Kbps.
Megabyte Unit of measurement for pieces of information: approximately 1 million bytes or a thousand kilobytes. Often shortened to Meg or just M. See also Gigabyte, Kilobyte, Byte.
MegaHertz See MHz.
Memory Also known as RAM. Where the computer holds whatever you are currently working on. The contents of memory are lost when the computer is switched off.
MHz (Megahertz). Millions of cycles per second. Most often used as a measurement of a PC processor chip’s speed and power, with bigger numbers meaning more speed and a higher price. See also GHz.
Modem (MOdulator/DEModulator) A device for allowing computers to communicate over a phone line.
Monitor The screen of a PC.
Motherboard The main circuit board in the computer – all the other bits and pieces are plugged into it.
Mouse A device used to move a pointer around on the computer screen. Essential to get the most out of Windows, though it is not quite impossible to use Windows without one.
Netbook A smaller version of the popular laptop computer format.
Network A way of linking several computers together so that their users can share resources such as printers and documents, often via a central computer called a server. See also LAN, WAN, Ethernet.
NIC (Network Interface Card) An Expansion card which lets a PC communicate with a network or use a broadband internet connection. Almost all modern NICs are Ethernet cards.
Notebook A portable PC, with system unit, screen and keyboard in one portable package. Also called a laptop.
OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) A company that actually builds computers, as opposed to just retailing them. “OEM software” is ordinary software bought in bulk at a discount by the OEM and pre-installed on a new machines, usually without printed manuals. OEM software cannot legally be sold separately from a computer, so when offered for sale at huge discounts is either pirated, or not what it claims to be.
Operating System Every computer has an operating system, which is a sort of master program that runs automatically when you switch the computer on, and continues running till you switch off. It is responsible for the many routine tasks required to keep a computer running : moving the pointer when you move the mouse, providing icons and menus, running other programs such as a word processor or a game which you may request, controlling the various disk drives, the screen and so on. The most widely used PC operating system is Microsoft Windows.
Parallel Port A special socket for plugging a printer into a computer. The computer usually refers to the parallel port as LPT1.
PC (Personal Computer) Originally just short for “personal computer”, PC is now an industry standard, partly evolved in the marketplace, partly agreed by a committee of the major players in the computer industry.
PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) A standard for PCexpansion cards, currently the most popular in desktop PCs. A “PCI slot” is a socket on the motherboard for such cards.
PCI Express A special type of PCI slot for graphics cards, replacing AGP in most new computers.
PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) A type of PC expansion card, the size of an ordinary credit card, mainly intended for use with notebooks.
Pentium The best-known PC processor (or CPU), manufactured by Intel.
Peripheral Anything that plugs into the computer, such as a keyboard, printer etc.
Plasma A type of very large screen, either TV or computer monitor.
Plug’n’play (Plug and Play) A system where Windows automatically detects any new hardware that is plugged into the PC and adjusts to it without human intervention.
Port A socket on the back (usually) of a computer which allows you to plug in extra hardware such as a printer or modem.
Processor The nerve centre of the computer : everything flows through it. Also called the CPU. The best known is Intel’s Pentium series. The most important single specification on any PC is the speed of its processor, usually measured in megahertz (MHz), or latterly gigahertz (GHz).
PS/2 The type of connector used to plug in mouse and keyboard on most modern PCs, now gradually being superseded by USB. PS/2 was originally the name of a PC from IBM with a number of innovative but non-standard features, including special connectors for mouse and keyboard. The PC didn’t catch on particularly well, mainly because its unusual architecture meant that it could not accept standard expansion cards, but its mouse and keyboard connectors proved popular and were widely adopted.PS2 (without the /) is often used to refer to Sony’s PlayStation 2, a popular games console.
Quad-core PC processors which have four complete processors on the same chip, allowing computers to handle multiple tasks faster. See alsodual-core.
RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks; pr. “raid”) A way of connecting multiple hard disks together so that a computer sees them as one very large, very fast disk instead of many smaller ones, or to add redundancy so that if any disk in the array is physically damaged, the others have a copy of all the data and nothing is lost. Often called a “RAID array”, even though the acronym already contains the word array. Mostly used on network servers.
RAM (Random Access Memory; pr. “ram”) The computer’s main memory, which it uses to hold whatever you are currently working on. The contents of RAM are lost when the computer is switched off. Adding more RAM is often the most cost-effective upgrade for an ageing computer.
Read-only A read-only file has been set so that it cannot be altered or deleted. Also called write-protected. You can make a file read-only in Windows by right-clicking on it and checking the “read-only” box under attributes. Floppy disks can be write-protected by moving a small plastic square in the top left corner. Files on CD ROM are always read-only because you can’t change the contents of a CD ROM.
Rewriteable A special type of reuseable CD or DVD which you can write to, delete the contents, and write to again, theoretically forever. (A conventional CD or DVD’s contents can’t be changed once they have been written). However, rewriteable CDs are less reliable and more expensive than write-once CDs, and there are presently several different incompatible formats for rewriteable DVDs.
ROM (Read Only Memory; or. “rom”) Memory whose contents are preset and cannot (usually) be changed by the user. See also CD-ROM.
Router A device used to connect networks together, for example, so that several PCs can share one internet connection. A relative of the hub, but more powerful.
SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) A high-speed standard for connecting hard disks to your computer, replacing EIDE on most new computers.
S/B Compatible (SoundBlaster compatible) A common Soundcard format, now obsolete. In practice, anything which is described as “S/B compatible” should work with almost all sound cards.
Scanner A device which makes high-resolution copies of printed images and text to use on a computer.
SCSI (Small Computer Systems Interface; pr. “scuzzy”) A fast system for controlling hard disks, tape drives, and various other add-ons. Sometimes used for a PC’s main hard disk, but more often the main hard disk is controlled by an EIDE controller built into the motherboard. A SCSI controller would usually be installed as an expansion board. SCSI is a bit faster than EIDE, but more expensive.
Serial ATA See SATA.
Serial Port A socket for plugging devices into the computer now replaced byUSB.
SIMM (Single In-line Memory Module; or. ”sim”) A largely obsolete type ofRAM for older PCs. Replaced by DIMM.
Smartphone A computer in a cellphone. As well as a phone, typically it will include both stills and movie cameras, music player, enough computing power to run sophisticated programs such as office sofware and games, satellite navigation, and gigabytes of storage. The most famous is Apple’s iPhone, but all the major manufacturers make them and they are where the IT industry is mostly focussed at the moment. Some think that they will completely replace most personal computers.
Soundcard Originally an expansion card to enable the PC to make sounds more sophisticated than a simple “beep!”. Now usually built into the motherboard.
SSD (Solid State Drive) A technology that replaces the conventional hard disk, particularly in laptops, with a device that behaves exactly like a hard disk but uses memory instead of magnetic storage. It is very much faster than even the fastest hard disks and is now standard on high-end laptops and notebooks, and often retrofitted into PCs as well.
Storage The generic term for any method of storing information which is not lost when the computer is switched off; the most common types are hard disks, CDs, and DVDs.
System unit The unit with the disk drives which the keyboard, monitor etc are plugged into on a desktop computer. In other words, the actual computer.
Tablet A portable computer which consists only of a screen, usually with no keyboard. It is controlled using a touchscreen. The most popular is Apple’s iPad, but all the major manufacturers are producing them.
Terabyte Unit of measurement for pieces of information: approximately 1 trillion bytes, 1 billion kilobytes, 1 million megabytes or 1000 gigabytes. That’s a lot of data.
Thumb drive A computer storage device about the size of a man’s thumb, often carried on a keyring, which plugs into a PC USB port and is seen by the PC as an extra drive – a very convenient way to carry large amounts of data around.
Touchscreen A computer screen which is touch-sensitive used to control tablet computers and most smartphones. They are also widely used for specialised applications such as supermarket self-checkouts and public information devices.
Touchpad A pressure-sensitive pad which replaces the mouse on most laptop and netbook computers.
TWAIN (Technology Without An Interesting Name, according to legend) A standard “language” or protocol which computers use to communicate with scanners.
USB (Universal Serial Bus) A standard type of connection port, used to attach extra devices such as a scanner to a computer. Standard on new PCs from around 1998. USB 2.0 and 3.0 are faster versions of the same thing. Many PCs now use USB to connect the mouse and keyboard.
VGA (Video Graphics Array) An early colour graphics standard for PCs, now used as a sort of lowest common denominator which all monitors and graphics cards understand.
Webcam (WEB CAMera) a kind of cheap TV camera which you can use for videoconferencing over the internet, or just showing off. They are very popular for making video calls over the internet.
Wi-Fi, WiFi (WIreless FIdelity) A method of connecting computers to a network without cables, using small radio transmitter/receivers built in to most portable devices and broadband modems. Many hotels and other public locations now offer free WiFi if you have a suitable device, such as a laptop, tablet or smartphone.
Wireless network A computer network which uses radio transmitters (usually) to move information between computers without the need for physical cables. See Wi-Fi.
Zip drive A special drive for removable data cartridges, often used for makingbackups as the cartridges can hold a lot more data than a floppy disk. Now pretty much obsolete, as almost all PCs have CD or DVD writers fitted as standard.