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Level 1

Component 01/Section 01 - Components of a Computer


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accumulator
The part of the ALU that stores the intermediate results when doing a calculation.
ALU
The part of the CPU that carries out mathematical and Boolean operations.
ALU (acronym)
Arithmetic and Logic Unit
application
A piece of software written to help users do various tasks, often through a graphical user interface with menus and toolbars.
architecture
Describes how the CPU works and interacts with the other parts of the computer system.
backup utilities
Software which can automatically create a copy of the files and settings on your computer at a given time. This will allows the users to restore work in the event of an error or issue.
BIOS
Software stored in ROM responsible for booting up a computer system
BIOS (acronym)
Basic Input Output System
cache (CPU)
Quick access memory inside the CPU.
clock speed
The number of instructions a processor can carry out each second. Measured in Hertz (Hz).
command-line interface
A text-based user interface where the user types in commands.
compression
The process of making the size of a file smaller.
control unit (CU)
The part of the CPU that controls the flow of data.
core (CPU)
A processing unit found inside the CPU.
CPU (acronym)
Central Processing Unit
CPU (or processor)
The part of the computer system that processes the data.
CPU performance
Ways in which the speed at which the CPU process instructions can be affected (e.g. improving the clock speed, increasing the number of cores or adding more cache memory)
CU (acronym)
Control Unit
dedicated system
A computer system designed to carry out a specific task.
defragmentation
Reorganising data on a hard drive to put broken up files back together and collect up the free space.
device driver
A piece of software that allows applications to communicate with a piece of hardware.
disk management
Organisation and maintenance of the hard disk.
embedded system
A computer built into another device, e.g. a SmartTV.
encryption
Coding ('encrypting') data so that it can only be decoded ('decrypted') with the correct key.
fetch-decode-execute cycle
The process that the CPU uses to retrieve and execute instructions.
file management
The organisation, movement and deletion of files.
firmware
Permanent software stored on ROM, used to control hardware or embedded systems.
flash memory
Solid state non-volatile data storage.
GPU
A circuit for handling the processing of graphics and images.
GPU (acronym)
Graphics Processing Unit
graphics card
A piece of hardware containing a GPU.
GUI
Allows the user to interact with the computer in a visual and intuitive way.
GUI (acronym)
Graphical User Interface
hard disk drive
Traditional internal storage for PCs and laptops that stores data magnetically.
hardware
The physical parts of a computer system.
Harvard
A type of CPU architecture which uses physically separate memory locations and busses to store and transport both instructions and data
HDD (acronym)
Hard disk drive
heat sink
Pulls heat away from the CPU to help maintain its temperature.
incremental backup
A record of all the changes since the last incremental backup.
Linux
An open source operating system.
magnetic storage
Hard disk drives and magnetic tapes that hold data as magnetised patterns.
main CPU components
The control unit, ALU and cache.
mainframe (or supercomputer)
An extremely powerful (and expensive and reliable) computer for specialist applications.
MAR
A CPU register that holds memory addresses (locations) for data and instructions that the CPU needs.
MAR (acronym)
memory address register
MDR
A CPU register that holds data and instructions.
MDR (acronym)
memory data register
memory
Hardware used to store data that a CPU needs access to.
motherboard
The main circuit board in a computer that other hardware connects to.
multi-tasking (OS)
When an operating system runs multiple programs and applications at the same time.
multi-user (OS)
When an operating system allows multiple users at the same time.
non-volatile memory
Memory that retains its contents when it has no power.
open source (software)
Software that can be modified and shared by anyone.
optical disc
CD, DVD or Blu-Ray disc that is read from/written to with lasers.
optical drive
Device used to read and write to optical discs.
OS
A piece of software responsible for running the computer, managing hardware, applications, users and resources.
OS (acronym)
Operating System
overclocking
Running a CPU at a higher clock speed than was intended.
password
A string of characters that allows access to certain parts of a computer or program.
PC (CPU)
Holds the memory address of the next CPU instruction.
PC (CPU) (acronym)
program counter
peripherals
External hardware connected to a computer. e.g. Mouse, Keyboard, Projector.
platform (OS)
A computer system that other applications can run on.
power supply
A piece of hardware that gives the other pieces of hardware the energy they need to run.
primary storage
Memory that can be accessed directly by the CPU.
processing
The execution of program instructions by the CPU.
proprietary software
Software where modifying and sharing is not permitted.
RAM
The main memory of a computer.
RAM (acronym)
Random Access Memory
register
A temporary data store inside a CPU.
ROM
Memory that can be read but not written to.
ROM (acronym)
Read Only Memory
script
A simple program, often run on command-line interfaces to automate tasks.
secondary storage
External data storage used to store data so that the computer can be switched off.
single-user (OS)
When an operating system only allows one user to use it at any one time.
software
Programs or applications that can be run on a computer system.
software licence
A legal agreement that states how software can be used and distributed.
source code
The actual written code of a program.
SSD
Alternative to a traditional magnetic hard disk drive that uses flash memory and has no moving parts
SSD (acronym)
solid state drive
storage device
A device used to read and write data to a storage medium.
storage medium
A thing that holds data. It can be part of the storage device (e.g. magnetic disks inside a hard drive) or separate (like a CD).
system software
Software designed to run or maintain a computer system.
tertiary storage
High-capacity external storage used mainly for back ups.
user account
An account which is used to control the access rights to files or networks for an individual
user interface
Provides a way for the user to interact with the computer.
utility software
Software designed to help maintain a computer system.
virtual memory
Area of secondary storage used by the OS as extra RAM.
volatile memory
Memory that loses its contents when it has no power.
Von Neumann
A type of CPU architecture which uses common memory locations and busses to store and transport both instructions and data
Von Neumann bottleneck
A limitation of the computer architecture where the CPU is idle whilst waiting for data to be fetched from memory
WIMP
A GUI based on windows, icons, menus and pointers.