If you haven't used computers before, or at least haven't used them very much, they can be intimidating. Faced with many options and controls it's hard to decide what you need to know first and where to find what you need to know.
This chapter can help you get started. It provides a brief introduction to personal computers, describes the basic operation of your computer, and introduces you to some of the features in Windows. It also provides an overview of the printed and online documentation to help you easily locate the information you need.
This chapter doesn't tell you all the options available to you (there are hundreds), nor does it tell you everything about each of the concepts and skills discussed. Sources for more extensive information are listed at the end of this chapter.
What is a personal computer?
A personal computer (PC) is merely an appliance like a TV or VCR that you use to do various things such as write letters, send electronic mail, play games, and play CDs. Of course, a PC is much more complicated than a TV or VCR, but it's still just an appliance, a machine that does work for you or that entertains you.
Hardware is the parts that you can touch. Examples of hardware are the computer and the parts inside it, the monitor, keyboard, and mouse, and any optional devices you might attach to your computer such as a printer, joystick, and scanner.
Software is programs, which are nothing more than sets of electronic instructions that run the computer and help you use it. Games, drawing programs, and word processing applications are examples of software. So is the program that runs the computer itself, the operating system. (You may hear other people talk about applications. An application is merely a program--one that lets you do something.)
Starting and turning off your computer
Starting your computer
To start the computer:
The first time you start your computer, you will see several setup screens. Follow the instructions on the screens to finish the initial setup of your computer. You should not see the setup screens again after the first startup. When the computer is finished starting, you'll see the Windows desktop.
After the desktop starts, you will see a Windows Tutorial program. The tutorial has interactive training tools to help you become more familiar with using Windows. Try out the training. If you don't have time now, it's available to go back to later.
If your computer is running, but you haven't used it for some time, it may enter Standby mode. If this happens, the screen will be dark and the indicator lights on the computer and monitor will be amber. To reactivate the computer, simply move the mouse or press any key on the keyboard. For more information about customizing and using the standby mode see Using Standby mode.
Turning off your computer
Unlike other appliances in your home, you normally won't turn your computer off by just pressing the power button. This is because the computer needs to do some "housekeeping" to make sure your system is okay and ensure that it runs correctly the next time you start it up.
To turn off the computer:
Using your mouse
use the mouse, you need to know how to move the pointer, click, double-click,
right-click, and drag. Move
the mouse around on the mouse pad and the pointer (arrow) on the
screen moves in the direction the mouse is moving. If you run
out of space on your mouse pad and need to move the pointer farther,
just pick up the mouse, move it to the middle of the mouse pad,
then set it down and continue moving the pointer. Move
the pointer over an item on the desktop, then press and hold down
the left mouse button and move the mouse. The object on the desktop
gets "dragged" to where you move it. When you release the button,
the item stays where you dragged it.
Move the mouse around on the mouse pad and the pointer (arrow) on the screen moves in the direction the mouse is moving. If you run out of space on your mouse pad and need to move the pointer farther, just pick up the mouse, move it to the middle of the mouse pad, then set it down and continue moving the pointer.
Move the pointer over an item on the desktop, then press and hold down the left mouse button and move the mouse. The object on the desktop gets "dragged" to where you move it. When you release the button, the item stays where you dragged it.
In addition to the two buttons on the mouse, you may have a mouse wheel. The wheel provides easier and quicker ways to do things than moving the mouse or clicking its buttons. How the mouse wheel works depends on the program you are using, so check the program's documentation for information. In general, using the mouse wheel in most programs scrolls (moves) up and down the document.
If the mouse pointer skips and jumps when you move the mouse, chances are your mouse is not on an smooth surface. If you've been using your mouse very long, it might also be dirty. See "Cleaning your mouse" on page 86 for instructions about cleaning your mouse.
About the desktop
Once you have your system running and have completed all the setup screens, you see a screen known as the desktop. The desktop is like the top of a real desk. You put things you are working with on it, such as file folders and files, and you probably have tools on your desktop such as pens, a stapler, a pencil sharpener, and a letter opener. There are also tools on the Windows desktop that open programs and perform other tasks.
There are a few differences between a real desktop and the computer desktop, though. Besides files, folders, and basic tools, the desktop also has a taskbar, a Start button, a task tray, and one or more buttons on the taskbar.
An icon is a small picture that represents a program, file, folder, or tool. For example, the Recycle Bin is an icon on your desktop that represents where you "throw away" files that you no longer need. Double-click on an icon to open the associated program file, folder, or tool.
A button (such as Start button) is like an icon, except that it is usually used to give commands to the operating system or programs. Think of a button as something you push to start something such as your television or CD player, except that a button on the desktop or in a program starts a process or makes something happen. For example, the Start button opens a list of programs and files on your computer. Other buttons in the programs you use may print a document, save a file, or start another program. Single-click to activate buttons.
The taskbar is a place where you can see what programs are running. Which buttons you see on the taskbar depend on which programs are currently running. Single-click on a taskbar button to bring that program window up on the desktop.
The task tray is part of the task bar. It contains icons for programs that begin running automatically when you start your computer. The icons you see in the task tray depend on the software you have on your computer. The most common icon, though, is the System Clock icon, which shows you the local time and lets you open a calendar and set the clock. Double-click on the task tray icons to launch (start) them or right-click on them to bring up associated menus.
When you double-click on a file or program, a window opens on the desktop. The window is the space where you work in a program or on a file. Every program's windows looks a little different because each has its own special menus, icons, and controls, but they all work pretty much the same way.
You can have multiple windows open on your desktop. In fact, often you'll have windows on top of windows, but all you have to do to bring the one you want to the front is to click on any part of it or click on its button on the taskbar.
You can move windows around on the desktop by moving your pointer over the window's title bar (see below for more about the title bar), clicking and holding down the left mouse button while you drag the window where you want it to be, then releasing the mouse button.
You can close a window, shrink a window (minimize), make a window cover part of the desktop, or expand a window (maximize) to cover the full desktop by clicking one of the buttons on the top right corner of the window.
About the Start menu
To open a Start menu item, first click Start. The start menu pops up, showing you the first level of Start menu items. When you move the pointer over any menu item that has an arrow next to it, another menu (a submenu) opens revealing related files, programs, or commands.
About dialog boxes
They can be as simple as the Shut Down Windows box, which has four options to choose from, or as complicated as the Microsoft Word's Options dialog box, which contains many options of different types arranged on multiple tabs. (Tabs in dialog boxes are much like the tabs in a 3-ring binder. When you click on a tab, you open a "page" of the dialog box containing more information and options.
The My Computer icon represents drives and other things such as computer controls on your computer. When you double-click My Computer, drives on your computer appear in a new window. When you double-click a drive icon, a window displays the folders contained on that drive. Double-click the drive icon, for example the System (C:\), to see the files and folders on that drive.
The My Documents folder is your folder to store your personal files in. You can create other folders to save files in, but My Documents is a folder that is easy to find and is accessible from the desktop.
The Recycle Bin is where files, folders and programs that you delete are stored until you empty it. You must empty the Recycle Bin to permanently delete these items from your computer. Double-click to open the Recycle Bin and follow the instructions on the left of the window to do various file maintenance activities.
About files, folders, and drives
Files are very much like paper documents--letters, spread sheets, and instructions (in this case, programs on your computer)--that you keep in your computer. In fact, all information on a PC is stored in files.
To create a new folder:
Drives are like filing cabinets because they hold many files and folders. A PC almost always has more than one drive. Each drive has a letter, usually System (C:\) for the main drive and 3½ Floppy (A:) for the diskette drive. Depending on your system, you may also have more drives and drive types such as CD/DVD or Zip drives. Each drive has its own letter.
Browsing and searching
Just as in a filing cabinet, a file that you might need is rarely right on top. It's usually inside a folder and sometimes even inside a folder inside a folder. Windows drives, folders, and files are the same way: they may have many levels (usually many more levels than a filing cabinet, in fact) so you usually will have to search through levels of folders to find the file you need. This is called browsing.
To browse for a file:
To find a file using the Find program:
Copying, moving, and deleting files
When you copy and paste a selection, you place a copy of the file you selected on the Windows Clipboard, which stores it. Then, when you decide what folder you want the copy to go in, you paste it there.
It's important to remember that the Clipboard stores whatever you cut or copy until you cut or copy again. Then the clipboard contains the new information only. Therefore, you can paste copies of a file into more than one place, but as soon as you copy or cut a file again, the old file is deleted from the Clipboard.
To copy a file to another folder:
To move a file to another folder:
For more information . . .
Microsoft Windows manual
This manual addresses many questions about Windows for beginner and advanced users. Use this manual to find detailed information about using the operating system, getting help, using applications, organizing your files, troubleshooting, maintaining your computer, and learning about advanced features such as connecting to a network.
Welcome to Windows
Use the interactive Windows tutorial to become more familiar with Windows features and learn more about using and getting the most out of your computer. The tutorial opens when you first start Windows. If you want to use the tutorial later click Start, then Programs, Accessories, System Tools, then click Welcome to Windows.
Microsoft Office assistants
Gateway Web site
Improving monitor legibility and reducing eye strain
Setting up your computer table and chair
When you are setting up your computer table and chair, make sure that you use a computer table that is the appropriate height and use a chair that helps you maintain good posture, distributes your weight evenly, and keeps your body relaxed.
Setting up your computer and computer accessories
Sitting at your computer
Avoiding discomfort and injury from repetitive strain