Author:- Stephen Harrison, B.Sc., M.Sc., MBCS, CITP, MInstM
Sharing over 20 years of IT experience with you 
More about me here

An Introduction To
Basic Computer Learning

Basic computer learning is about understanding how computers work. Whether you have a traditional desktop computer, laptop or mobile device such as Apple iPad, the basics of how they all work is very similar.

Modern society is built on information technology and it influences every aspect of daily life. This trend is set to continue, and increase, as more devices are developed with inbuilt intelligence; commonly termed the Internet of Things (IoT).

More intelligent devices means more scope for things going wrong. I'm sure we have all experienced some sort of technical issues that required troubleshooting. Did you fix the issue yourself or ask a friend? Did you know how you fixed the issue or was it by chance?

To troubleshoot technology properly, whether it be the latest device or something more traditional that has served you well over the years, I strongly recommend you follow the basic computer learning process presented here.

One you understand computing fundamentals, you are able to understand how most technology works, which in turn enables you to efficiently troubleshoot your devices without leaving anything to chance.


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Basic Computer Learning
The First Principles Of Using Computers

The Computer Introduction article (Opens New Window) is the only place to start, if you know nothing or very little about computers.

Even if you are an experienced home computer user or a seasoned professional, it is reading this article as a reminder, or aide memoir, about basic computer information.

As an IT Professional I always find it useful to go back to basics. It clears the mind and can both put things into perspective and create new ideas/approaches for the task in hand.

Desktop computer in a state of repairBasic Computer Learning
Inside A Desktop Computer

This article discusses what computers are and how their integration into society is changing the way we live our daily lives.

We look at the different types of computers in existence today and the benefits they bring e.g. PC's, Laptops, Tablets and Embedded Devices such as those found in fire panels.

Embedded Devices drive modern health and transport systemsBasic Computer Learning
Embedded Devices Drive Modern Health and Transport Systems Courtesy of

We also look at what software is and the functions different types of programs perform to make the best use of various hardware platforms. 

You also lean how to troubleshoot computers. The standard 5-step approach detailed in this article applies to all computer problems. It is a tried and tested framework that is used in the IT Industry on a daily basis. The steps are:

  1. Determine the Issue or Problem
  2. Determine Probable Cause(s)
  3. Test Your Potential Fix
  4. Verify the Issue is Resolved
  5. Documentation

If you follow these steps as part of your basic computer learning process, you are ahead of most people when it comes to fixing computer issues, whether they are hardware or software related.

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What Is Inside Your Computer?

The next step in your basic computer learning process is to understand the Computer Hardware Components (Opens New Window) inside your machine. What are they? What do they do? How do they all work together?

Hardware Components Inside of a Traditional Computer, but Present in Most Other Modern DevicesHardware Components Inside of a Traditional Computer but Present in Most Other Modern Devices
Courtesy of

The components inside your PC are explained in a way that makes sense. For example:

  • CPU: Central Processing Unit - The brains of your machine

  • RAM: Random Access Memory - The short term memory of your machine

  • PCI: Peripheral Component Interconnect - Slots on the Motherboard that allow you to extend or upgrade your device e.g. upgrade to a better Sound card

Modern Graphics Card With 2 Cooling FansModern Graphics Card With 2 Cooling Fans

Computer components also cover computer ports and how they are important for connecting the widening variety of peripherals that exist today.

Most modern devices connect using Universal Serial Bus, or USB ports. This type of port is covered in detail, but the article also acknowledges other types of ports that still exist today.

Peripherals are the items that plug in to your computer. Well known peripherals such as keyboards, mice and monitors are covered. However, it is also acknowledged that lots of other types of peripherals exist.

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How The Internet works

The internet is a fascinating creation. It is a series on interconnected wires and other hardware components, that forms the backbone supporting the World Wide Web that we all use today.

I think understanding how the Internet works (Opens New Window) is a basic computer learning building block. It gives you context and perspective for when you are making use of the Internet.

When driving a car I think it is a good idea to understand the basics of how it works, to give you a better chance of using the car correctly. Computers are no different.

Map of Worldwide Internet CablesBasic Computer Learning
Map of Worldwide Internet Cables

The article describes what the Internet is and discusses some of the hardware components that make up the Internet. The cabling that runs across oceans is something to behold, and the video of the shark biting the cable is fascinating.

We then look at what happens when you connect to a typical website, such as There is a lot of power and activity that takes place in the background to display a web page on your screen. There is a good video embedded in this article that explains this process too, and explains it very well. Take a look.

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Fibre Broadband

Modern computing mandates all of us to know how to connect to the Internet. Online services are the norm, but having a basic understanding of what fast Internet connectivity is, and how it works, sets the context for ensuring you are in a better position to subscribe to, and setup, the best broadband service for your home that you can.

I believe this is critical to your basic computer learning journey. As yourself: what is fibre broadband? (Opens New Window). Can you answer?

Do you know the journey that has brought us to the fast and instance Internet services we enjoy today? Do you know the different types of broadband connectivity that exists today?

This article is my take on answering the question. I've always thought most other answers online are either incomplete or too vague. This was my motivation behind this article.

Fibre Broadband Past - Present - Future ConnectivityBasic computer Learning
Fibre Broadband Past - Present - Future Connectivity

Once you have an appreciation of what fibre broadband is, I think you are in much better position than most to establish your home broadband setup (Opens New Window) like a professional.

In this article we review the steps needed to connect your wireless router to your home telephone line, such as micro filters and subscription to an Internet Service Provider (ISP).

We then look at the options for securing your connection. This is important because of many types of malware (Opens New Window) that exists online. Security is important for which I hope are obvious reasons.

Typical Wireless Fibre Broadband Router PortsBasic Computer Learning
Typical Wireless Fibre Broadband Router Ports

We then look at how to improve the wireless coverage in your home. It is very frustrating when  a single broadband router that is sucked away in the corner of your home, cannot reach the attic bedroom or your garden in the summer months.

There are a few easy options we review, such as using the 2.4GHz broadband spectrum. All is straightforward and explained in the article.

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How To Search The Internet

It is imperative that all of us understand how to search the Internet (Opens New Window) in the modern day. Search engines are our portal to the Internet and without them the online world would be very different to the one we now know.

Internet searching is a basic computer learning skill you must acquire. In the how to search the Internet article we look at how search engines work. Understanding the basic principles gives you a solid platform on which to build your search knowledge and skills.

How Search Engines WorkHow Search Engines Work

We also take a look at the options Google have available to refine your search without having to understand some of the more difficult (but still basic) search techniques.

However, understanding some of the more difficult search tips and tricks can be invaluable to you and your future search endeavours. I strongly urge you to take a look at the article and try out some techniques yourself. You just might be surprised at how easy they are to understand and use.

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The Basics of Cloud Computing

Everyone is talking about cloud computing. You read it magazines and see the adverts on the TV. It may therefore come as a bit of a surprise to you, to learn, that you likely use cloud computing every time you use the Internet. The cloud is not just for business.

As we knowingly or unknowingly become avid users of cloud technology, I think it is important that everyone understands what cloud computing is and how it works. This is especially true as the use of cloud services picks up pace.

With this in mind, I've written an article on the basics of cloud computing (Opens New Window)

Examples of Cloud ServicesExamples of Cloud Services

The cloud is changing the way we work, play and interact. The ability to access services on demand, from anywhere, and at anytime, is quite powerful.

Also, having the option to store all of our personal, and potentially sensitive data files somewhere else other than our own computer, safe in our own homes, requires a fundamental mind set change, and lots of reassurance, to feel comfortable with this new reality.

I think the more you know about cloud computing, the more control you will have when it comes to making choices about the types of services you want to subscribe to and use. To do this I think it is important to understand the benefits and concerns associated with cloud technology.

This article attempts to address these questions and more, in easy to understand language, and is another cornerstone to your basic computer learning experience. 

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A Well Structured File Management System

We are creating more digital files now more than ever. With the convenience of mobile phones we are taking more and more photographs, to 'capture the moment'.

Storage is always incensing in capacity, and is becoming cheaper all the time. We can therefore store all these new files we are creating without much thought about running out of space ant time soon.

However, with so many files, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the file you need. This is especially the case when you don't have a well-structured file management system, and your file names do not describe what the file is about (which default naming conventions rarely do).

Tips To Organise Your Digital FilesBasic Computer Learning
Tips To Organise Your Digital Files

The well-structured file management system (Opens New Window) article is a basic introduction to improving the management of your files by designing a robust folder structure, and an informative file naming convention, which makes searching for files much easier.

I find it frustrating when I need to locate a document quickly, but I'm unable to do so because I don't know which folder it is in, or the name of the file.

This article attempts to teach what file management is and why it is important. We then look at good and bad file management practices. I then share personal file management approach with you, from how I structure my folders, to naming my files, and processing my unorganised data.

My approach is simple and easy to learn, and it has served me well over the years. It may not be to your liking, but you just might pick up some hints and tips that will help you design your own file structure.

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Backup Files and Folders Quickly and Easily

Once you have your folders properly structured, and your files organised with good naming conventions, the next step is to understand how to back up files and folders quickly and easily (Opens New Window).

This article describes the 3-2-1 backup rule and suggested methods for applying this approach, including local and cloud based solutions. I think this is an essential basic computer learning exercise. Do not skip it.

The 3 1 Backup RuleBasic Computer Learning
The 3 1 Backup Rule

The article also describes the importance of backing up your data. The files we hold change over time as we add new photographs, and delete old files that are not needed any more. These changes need to be captured otherwise you run the risk of losing them when you least expect it.

We also discuss some ideas for the type of data you should consider backing up. Personal files such as photos, music and home videos are a given, but there are other file types to potentially backup that you may not have considered e.g. web browser favourites or bookmarks. 

It is entirely up to you what data files you back up, and where you back them up to. The article looks at what your options are.

Too many people do not have backup plan in place for all of their important data files. Do not be a statistic for those who have encountered a hardware fault, or deleted files accidentally, and cannot retrieve their sentimental photographs, or legal documents any more. 

Don't Let This Be You - Backup Your Files TodayDon't Let This Be You - Backup Your Files Today

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Final Thoughts

The basic computer learning process is an important first step for everyone who has an interest in computers, and those who want to troubleshoot hardware and software themselves.

It is not always straightforward, but it is certainly not impossible. I believe if you know even a little about the thing you are trying to master and how it works, (computer devices in this case, but could be anything in life), it stands you in good stead to get the most out of it.

I believe this section helps you to achieve that understanding.

To learn more about computers take a look at the following link, both of which are excellent sources of information:-

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