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Tech Tip: What Does All That Computer Terminology Mean?

DictionaryThanksgiving is approaching, and with that comes Black Friday. After the turkey and stuffing, people across the country camp outside of major electronics stores to get the best deals the second the doors open. Many people use Black Friday to look for a new computer, and with good reason. It doesn't take much effort to find a great deal on a new desktop or laptop. However, talking with a computer salesman may seem like a foreign language to you. Let us breakdown the most common computer terms so you will be more prepared when you go out looking for that great deal on a new computer.



  • (Also known as the CPU). The part of the computer that interprets and executes instructions. Think of it as the brain of the computer. There are currently two main brands of processors: AMD and Intel. Any new computer you purchase will more than likely have one of these two processor brands.
  • The next thing you need to determine is how many cores the processor has (dual core vs. quad core). The more cores a processor has, the more data and transactions it can handle at once. The everyday user will probably only need a dual core processor while video editors and gamers may require a quad core processor.

Processor Speed

  • Processor Speed refers to how fast a computer processor carries out instructions. In general, faster is better (and also more expensive). However, if you are just a recreational computer user (i.e. no games or video editing) then you can save the extra cash and go with a slower processor.

Hard Drive Size

  • Capacity for storing programs, photos, video, music and other electronic information. Hard drive capacities range from a few gigabytes to several hundred. The greater the capacity of the hard drive, the more information you can store. It is not uncommon to see a 1 terabyte (1000 gigabyte) hard drive. For a reference, you can store about 180 songs or roughly 220 pictures per gigabyte.

System Memory (RAM)

  • The memory a computer uses to run its operating system, applications and active data files. Greater amounts of RAM improve speed and enable more applications to run at once.

Graphics Card

  • Type of graphics (video) adapter (usually built into the motherboard), identified by manufacturer and model. Typical models include Nvidia, Gigabyte, and EVGA. Graphics cards are especially important if you plan to watch/edit movies or play games on your computer.

Cache Memory

  • A small segment of memory that stores frequently used information for fast access by the processor, improving response time. Example: If you visit the SHSU homepage every day, the URL will be stored in cache memory for quick access.


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