A Tour of Windows
Hardware is one thing, and software is another. The software is those programs that tell the hardware what to do for you. But, the programs do not talk directly to the hardware. For instance, Microsoft Office does not sit there and say, “Okay, now you, CPU, do this.” No, this is the operating system’s job.
The operating system is that software that is used to directly run the computer. It deals with all the nitty-gritty hardware crap and lets you get real work done. There are a lot of different operating systems out there, including Linux, OS/2, and BeOS, all by different companies. But, by far, the most common operating system is Windows, by Microsoft. Windows comes in many flavors, from the old 3.x version to Windows 95 and 98, to the more heavy-duty Windows NT and 2000. Windows 98 is the most commonly used one, and, more than likely, your PC is using it.
Windows is a pretty easy operating system (OS) to get around in. The main screen is called the “desktop”. All of those little pictures on the desktop are called “icons”. Each icon serves as a shortcut to start a program, and double-clicking on a particular icon will launch a program. On the bottom of the desktop is the “taskbar”. It is a small gray strip on the bottom of the screen. As you will see, all open programs are shown listed in the taskbar. To the right is the “system tray”. In there is the time and some smaller icons, each indicating a currently running program. To the left is the “Start Menu”. Hitting the “Start” button will bring up a menu. This menu serves as the launching point for anything on the PC.
Looking into the Start Menu, at the top is Programs. Scrolling your cursor over “Programs” will drag out sideways a list of programs on your PC. Clicking one will start the program. “Documents” displays a list of recently run or edited documents on your PC show that you can quickly return and edit them again. “Settings” allows you to access those sections of Windows where you can change how the computer runs. Then you have “Search” where you can search for certain files on your PC. “Help” allows you to access Microsoft Help on Windows. “Run” allows you to manually enter a program name by its filename and run it. And, last, is “Shut Down” which you will use to turn the computer off.
The Control Panel is the main window where you can access the different control areas of Windows. Accessible via Start Menu / Settings, the Control Panel is a window, itself containing icons, that will allow you to change the way Windows operates. Each icon is labeled either by what it does or that piece of hardware it controls. Feel free to look around the Control Panel and get familar with it. You may not know everything that it does now, but it will be nice to know the basics of it in case you need to use it later.
To access the different files on your computer, you will use Windows Explorer. This is gotten through the Start Menu. This will give you a view of what is stored on your PC. This brings me to a basic explanation of the file structure on your computer.
Your computer’s storage is broken up into different drive letters. Each letter signifies a separate area of storage on the PC, either a different section of the hard drive or a different drive all by itself. The letters A and B always signify your floppy diskette drive. “A” always comes first. “C” refers to your main hard drive space which contains your operating system files. After C may come a series of other drive letters, each referring either to other sections of the hard drive or possibly CD-ROM drives or other removable storage drives. Clicking on any of these drive letters in Windows Explorer will display a list of the files or directories on that drive. A “directory” is a division of a drive that holds certain files. Some directories are created automatically by other software to hold themselves, or you can create your own directories to organize your files. Clicking on a directory folder will show all the files in that directory. Directories can be nested, meaning that directories can exist within other directories.
To give you the picture, take this analogy. You have a file cabinet. This file cabinet signifies the storage on your computer. Each drawer is assigned a letter, A, C, on up. Inside each drawer are a bunch of file folders. These file folders signify the directories in each drive. In each file folder can be a whole bunch of individual papers, these representing the individual files on your PC. Get the picture?
Feel free to poke around your computer’s files in Explorer. Don’t delete anything unless you know what it is. Keep in mind that it shows every file, even those files which are the operating system itself. Of course, that is conveniently stored in the “WINDOWS” directory. Duh.
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