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|Frequently Asked Questions|
What is RAM?
RAM stands for Random Access Memory and is the primary area where the computer stores information as it is processed. Upgrading your RAM is one of the easiest upgrades to do on your computer. For new computers, many experts recommend at least 2 GB of RAM. If you plan to use a lot of video or game applications you should have as much RAM as possible. Once the computer uses all the physical RAM in the computer, it uses "virtual" RAM – free space on your hard disk. Virtual RAM is much slower than physical RAM since the computer needs to write and read information from the hard disk.
What is a hard disk?
The hard disk is an internal storage device which holds programs and data used by your computer. It consists of magnetic platters with read/write heads that float above the platters to record and play back data. In many respects, it is similar to a phonograph turntable. It is susceptible to strong jarring, which could cause the heads to physically damage the disk. The disk is enclosed in an airtight casing to keep it dust-free. The minimum hard disk size that you should get on a new computer is 160 GB. Solid-state drives are starting to become more affordable. They have no moving parts making them extremely reliable. SSDs will eventually replace hard disks.
What kinds of keyboards are there?
The standard microcomputer keyboard consists of 104 keys arranged in the standard typewriter or QWERTY layout. A separate numeric keypad is at the right side of the keyboard and can be toggled on or off by pressing the "Num Lock" key. When on, the keys act like the keys of an adding machine or calculator; when off, the keys act like the arrow keys for moving the cursor around the screen. Special ergonomic keyboards are available (sometimes referred to as "Natural" keyboards) where the keyboard is split in the middle and the keys are rotated outward to reduce the risk of repetitive stress injury caused by prolonged keyboarding. Some keyboards include touchpads to remove the need of a separate mouse. If you do not like wires, try purchasing a wireless keyboard.
What is a mouse?
A mouse is a handheld device for moving the pointer around the screen. It is a primary component of the Windows GUI (pronounced "goo-ey" – Graphical User Interface) environment. The use of the mouse in Windows allows the user to point at and click on various icons for programs and data files rather than having to type in commands to copy files, open programs, etc. as in the older DOS. If you do not like wires, try purchasing a wireless mouse.
How can I protect my computer from power surges?
One of the best things that you can do for your computer is to purchase a surge protector. This is different than a power strip. While both may offer a single on-off switch and multiple electrical outlets, only the surge protector will help protect your computer from lightning or fluctuations in the electrical current in your home. A power strip will only shut off if the circuit is overloaded. If you have a modem, purchase a surge protector that includes outlets for phone plugs. If a bolt of lightning hits your phone line and the phone jack is not protected, you could lose your modem. For a little extra money, you can purchase a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) which will keep your computer running long enough in case of a power outage so that you can save data and properly shut down the computer.
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