Beginners Computer Guide

Your computer has a short-term storage device called "memory" or "RAM" inside it. This is used to store data temporarily for fast access. When you switch your computer off, the data is completely lost from the "memory". (Most computers will accept a larger capacity "RAM", which will speed up some operations.)

Your computer has a long-term storage facility called a "Hard Drive". This holds your Operating System software, Application software and all the files that you save, such as photographic images and text documents, music and videos. This data is still safe when your computer is switched off. (Most computers will accept a larger capacity Hard Drive, which will let you store more information before it fills up.)

The "Hard drive" contains a spinning disc which uses magnetised particles to store data. It is relatively slow in operation, which is why you may have to wait a few seconds when you load or save a file.

Typical life of a "Hard Drive" is 3 to 5 years, after which it is likely to fail and lose some or all of your data. For this reason, it should be replaced every three to five years.

Because a Hard Drive is prone to failure, an important part of your computer system is your External Hard Drive. All of your irreplaceable files should be copied onto this so that, if the internal Hard Drive fails, you still have a copy of your precious photos etc. You can install "backup software" that will automatically put copies of your files onto the external drive.

For convenience, you may also have a "Pocket Hard Drive" and/or a "Memory Stick". These are useful for carrying copies of files from one computer to another, and as an additional (temporary) backup for copies of important files.

(A "Memory Stick" may also be called a "USB Flash Drive" or "Pen Drive".)

A blank optical disc (CD or DVD) can also be used to store copies of files. However, optical discs are very prone to failure. Even simply leaving them in a hot room can erase them.

If you store a lot of photos, movies or music, you may need additional storage space. You may be able to fit a larger capacity Hard Drive inside, or you may need to connect an additional External Hard Drive or two.

If you don't use an external drive for storing backup copies of your important files, you are in immediate danger of losing precious photos, music, videos or documents!

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