“Your NTFS MBR on your SSD is broken. That will be $99 thanks.”
Hmm? If you can’t understand your computer guy, you’re not alone and you need to read this.
I work in the computer industry and help lots of people on a daily basis with their various computer issues. We explain what the problem was and how we fixed it in way that can be understood by a normal human being. Unfortunately in my industry this “explaining” bit is something that often doesn’t seem to happen very well and, unfortunately, computer people LOVE acronyms! We have like literally thousands of them. By learning a few common acronyms, you may feel more confident and comfortable interacting with computer people. As an added bonus, you may even pop over to visit those super nerdy friends that you have been avoiding for the past few years, and go to see them even if your PC isn’t broken.
It is my hope that by the end of this series of articles, you will be able to go toe-to-toe with the geekiest of the geeky nerd and hold your own, even in an Officially Sanctioned IT Acronym Street Battle. By the way, OSITASBs are typically held outside internet cafes at 2am if you’re ever keen to get involved – BYO pocket protector and nerd glasses – you will need them.
Today we will try to clear up some of the murky waters of computer tech acronyms and in the next installments you can look forward to demystifying Internet Acronyms and Internet Slang. If you find this article so fascinating that you simply can’t wait to read the next installment, early releases may be available soon in the tips and news section of our website.
RAM: Random Access Memory. This is your computer’s short term memory. When you do stuff on the computer, the computer loads the files, pictures, programs, and so on, that you are working on into its RAM. When the RAM is full, the computer starts using your hard drive as a virtual (i.e. pretend) RAM. RAM is very fast memory, so things in the RAM work super quickly. The hard drive, not so much. More RAM will often help the computer run a bit quicker. Everyone should have at least 4 GB of RAM.
HDD: Hard Drive. This is a part that stores all your stuff. It is your computer’s long term memory. Your programs, photos, documents and emails all live on your hard drive. Hard drives can also be external (connected via USB) which are referred to, rather unimaginatively, as “external hard drives”. They all die if banged or bumped too much, especially if they are on at the time.
SSD: Solid State Drive. It’s a hard drive. But faster. MUCH faster. Normal hard drives have spinning disks and heads that read the data that is magnetically encoded on the disks (like a record player). SSDs use flash memory and have no moving parts. This makes them at LEAST 500% faster than a normal HDD and they don’t die if they are bumped or banged around.
USB: Universal Serial Bus. A connection standard. A “USB” is not a physical thing. The little dongle thingy you have on your key ring which you put photos on sometimes to “back them up” is NOT a “USB” but is a Flash Drive that happens to connect via USB to your computer. Most devices at the moment connect via USB to computers. Printers, external HDDs, smart phones and even headphones all can connect to computers via USB.
USB-C: The USB-C is a new type of USB that is much faster. Although USB-C is currently only used by a few hipsters sipping chai lattes out of avocado skins down on the Cappuccino strip, it will become the new Universal standard of connecting everything to everything in the next few years. Apple, in their infinite wisdom, have removed all normal USB ports from their newer MacBook computers, which now only ship with USB-C. When you buy your new MacBook, don’t forget to purchase at least 17 different USB-C to “various other device” convertor cables, just in case you want to do something weird, like … um, print a document.
Bytes, Bits, Megabytes, etc.: Measurement of file size. A bit (b) is a single 0 or 1. A byte (B) is made up of 8 bits and can be, for example, a single letter or character. A megabyte (MB) is 1,024 bytes. Gigabyte (GB) is 1,024 MB. So a one gig (GB) text file would contain 1,073,741,824 characters.
OS: Operating System. This is the program on your computer that make the other programs all work. On a Personal Computer (PC) this is usually Windows 10 or 7, on a Mac, it could be some kind of cat (mountain lion, snow leopard, etc/) or a mountain (Yosemite, Sierra, etc.). Without an OS, your computer is much less entertaining, unless you really enjoy staring into the void of a black screen.
MB: Motherboard or Mainboard. The big circuit board that everything plugs into. I have never been sure why this is called a “mother” board, I suppose it’s sort of responsible for making sure everything else is doing what it is supposed to be doing, so that kinda makes sense.
CPU: Central Processing Unit. The brain of the computer. Faster CPU = Faster computer. Most CPUs have more than one “core”, meaning they can think about more than one thing at a time. More cores = more tasks can be done at the same time.
Super Geek Bonus Section
MBR: Master Boot Record. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? The MBR is simply the first little section on the hard drive that tells Windows how to boot up properly. I guess “Little Booty Bit” simply didn’t have the same ring to it.
FS: File System. A standard, or way of organizing files on a hard drive. All drives must have a file system in order to store files on them.
NFTS: NT File System. NT (New Technology) was an OS made by Microsoft (MS) in the early 90s. Mainly used in corporate environments, NT was very stable, secure and robust, but not very user friendly. Subsequent versions of Windows (2000, XP, 7, 8 and 10) all use the NT File System to organise files on the hard drive due to its stability and security features. NTFS is the normal file system for PCs today and hard drives formatted in NTFS can be READ (but not written to) by Apple computers.
FAT/FAT32: File Allocation Table (32 bit). This is an older file system which works really well, but has several constraints. The biggest one is that it can only store files up to 2 GB in size. Fine for documents and songs and stuff, but try to save a high resolution 4k movie file on a FAT32 drive and it just isn’t going to happen. It is very popular for flash drives and external HDDs as it can be read and written to by both PC and Mac computers. Isn’t it nice when they get along?
HFS+: Hierarchical File System (Plus). Apple’s file system of choice (replaced by APFS in the latest OS, High Sierra). Just another file system really. It can be read and written to on a Mac, but PCs can’t see it at all. No reading, no writing without third party utilities. Totally ghosted*. This is why your mates PC can’t access your copy of the latest “Neutral Milk Hotel – hipster remix” you downloaded from your MacBook Pro to your USB-C flash drive.
APFS: Apple File System. Apple’s latest and newest FS because, you know, there simply weren’t enough file systems around. At this stage it is very new and doesn’t really get along well with anyone (PCs, other Macs, graphics calculators, etc.)
*ghosted: completely ignored (see upcoming internet slang article for more detail)