Classes / Computers102

Computer Classes: One Step Beyond The Basics


You have a handle on using the mouse, you can check your email, and printing out a letter doesn't cause you to break out in a cold sweat. However, there are times when you just can't figure out how to get a program or some other function to work. Don't worry! Our first computer class will cover one step beyond the basics: keeping your computer organized, making changes to your preferences, doing basic maintenance, and how to ask for help most effectively. If we have time, we will also cover how to assess what you do and don't need. This class will be for both PC and Mac users and will take about 3 hours. If you have a laptop, please feel free to bring it. Handouts will be provided.


  • Introduction and who runs what
    • Briefly introduce course
    • Confirm OSs
  • Organization
    • Operating Systems and Directory Structure
      • What is an Operating System? An operating system is an interface between hardware and software in a computer system. Draw picture.
      • Which operating systems are out there? UNIX (Linux), Windows, MacOS, MS-DOS
      • What is a directory? A directory (aka folder) is a virtual container within a digital file system, in which groups of files and other directories can be kept and organized.
      • How are directories organized on a computer? Like a family tree, a computer has a single directory from which all other directories descend. Draw pictures for Mac (starting with personal home directory) and PC (starting with C:). On Macs and PCs this is often represented by "My Computer".
    • Don't Be Afraid to Customize and Create New Directories
      • While this setup is great and modern operating systems offer some help in organization by creating a "Documents" or "My Documents" directory (and similar ones for perhaps music or photos), there comes a time when you have too many files in one directory and can't find anything. The solution isn't that difficult, but does require a little bit of planning. Talk about individualized needs (a huge photos directory for a photographer, which could go under "Hobbies" for someone else). Give some examples and talk about how I organize my directories. Give some examples of benefits (searching, virus scanning, moving to another drive, burning to CD).
    • Multiple Users on One Computer: Users
      • If there are multiple people using a computer, consider setting up individual accounts. Why? Because of preferences and also because of ease in organizing files.
    • Clean vs. Messy Desktop
      • It is easy for a desktop to become messy. In addition to files and directories, there are shortcuts (especially on Windows), programs that have automatically started that put icons in the task bar or menu bar. It is easy for this to turn into a mess. There are two things that will help: 1) clean up your computer's desktop regularly. If you have a place for those files to go, this will be easier (if you look at what is on your desktop, it might help give you a clue as to what directories you need). 2) turn on some auto-organizing in preferences.
  • Preferences
    • Desktop and Display Resolution
      • The easiest and most noticeable changes that can be made are to the desktop.
      • Themes: fun but it is easy to go too far and have them make it difficult for you to work
      • Why a high resolution is better: more pixels means a clearer image
    • Settings that are easy on the eyes
      • Working on a computer can cause a lot of eye strain
      • Bigger font
      • Get rid of white backgrounds
      • Make sure there is enough contrast in the text so that it is easy to read but not so much that it burns out your eyes
    • Turning on and off sounds
      • Sounds are very easy to customize
      • Start sounds (explain Mac bootup sound issue), shut down sounds, especially error noises
    • Preferences within programs
      • If you use a program often, it is totally worth it to go through the preferences. On Macs, this is usually under the name of the program on the menu bar. On PCs, it is often located under Tools, but this can vary. Give examples, specifically web browsers.
  • Basic Maintenance
    • Clean Up, Back Up, Throw Out
      • Don't be afraid to uninstall programs you don't use. If you are really concerned about losing something important, look up the program online and bookmark it. (Note that you can organize your bookmarks in the same way as your computer.)
      • Backing up old data and then deleting it from your computer is a good way to go.
      • Compressing files makes them easier to store.
    • Start Menu, Dock Organization
      • If you don't use something, it isn't necessary to have it in your dock/at the top of your start menu.
    • Viruses, Spyware, and Things that Slow Your Computer Down
      • Lots of stuff gets started when your computer boots, especially on a PC, and a lot of it you don't need.
    • Defrag and Scandisk
      • Done automatically for Mac
    • Software and Security Updates
      • It should be done automatically. Upgrades can be really helpful.
  • Asking for Help
    • Finding the Info for your machine
    • Finding the Info for the program
    • Coming up with a clear description
    • Check Google first
  • What Do You Need
    • Preinstalled Software
    • MS Office and Other Expensive Programs
      • Check for free alternatives
    • Operating Systems
    • When in doubt, look it up
Page last modified on July 24, 2016, at 12:41 AM