This may or may not appeal to you. Computer manufacturers just like car manufacturers try to blend the technology into the background so that your experience is seamless and non-technical. However, if you’re curious as to what’s under the hood in your computer this may just be an article for you. Besides, it’s good to know how to talk about your computer when communicating with technicians or others when something goes wrong with your computer.

We’ll just cover the basics here that will help you be ready for your online college classes. You’ll know just enough to be dangerous, but that’s a fun place to be so let’s get started.


Your processor is what takes commands from you in the form of keystrokes, clicks or voice commands and translates them into the desired result, written words, a picture or audio file. Processor requirements are given in terms of how fast it can run processes or programs. The speed is measured in gigahertz (GHz). The more complex task you ask your computer to do, the longer it will take the processor to give you the desired request. If your online courses include more complex processes, like streaming audio or video files to your computer, you’re going to need more speed, more gigahertz.

New computers should have no problem with most requirements from major online universities. However if your computer is older than 2 to 3 years, you will want to check to make sure your processor is up to par. Here’s how to check the specifics of your computer’s basic information, including memory and hard drive space, which we’ll talk about in a bit.

For Macs it’s pretty easy to find this information. Simply click on the Apple in the top left of your menu bar and then click on About This Mac. You’ll see a summary of your computer’s processor speed, memory and the version of the Mac your computer’s running.

If you’re running Windows this process is similar but not quite as intuitive. Left click on your start menu, then right-click on computer and select properties at the bottom of the pop-up list.

While different versions of operating systems may have slightly different methods of finding your computer’s basic system information you should be able to find it in a similar way as described above.

Memory (RAM)

Your computer’s memory or RAM (random access memory) is like your brain’s short-term memory. Its role is to store important information temporarily so that your processor can access it quicker. The more advanced the software you are using, the more memory will be needed to run it. RAM is measured in gigabytes (GB) and like your processor if your computer is new, is most likely sufficient for most college courses. Unlike your processor however, it’s easier to upgrade to a larger amount of memory if the online college you’re attending requires a higher amount of memory. You can ask at any computer store or even look up online how-to upgrade your computer’s memory. You’ll just need to know your computer’s brand and model number to get the right type of RAM.

Hard Drive

Your computer’s hard drive is also often referred to as memory, but to continue the brain analogy, if your RAM is like a your computers short-term or working memory, the hard drive is more like long-term memory. It’s easy to just imagine the hard drive as a filing cabinet. It’s how you keep things organized. It’s where you save files on your computer. It’s often called physical memory.

So, to recap, your computer’s processor, its memory and hard drive space are three of its most basic components. If these are not up-to-date you’re not going to be taking any online classes. So it’s essential to make sure you meet your institution’s requirements for these three basic hardware components. Next time we’ll discuss the monitor, your speakers and microphone, as well as your WebCam.

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