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A card set of CompTIA A+ glossary terms from Mike Myer's "CompTIA A+ Certification Exam Guide - 7th Edition" (2010) Covers glossary terms starting with A - D


Ethernet LAN designed to run UTP cabling. This runs at 10 megabits per second. The maximum length for the cabling between the NIC and the hub (or switch, repeater, etc.) is 100 meters. It uses baseband signaling. No industry standard spelling exists.


Generic term for an Ethernet cabling system designed to run at 100 megabits per second on UTP cabling. It uses baseband signaling. No industry standard spelling exists.


Gigabit Ethernet on UTP


Speaker setup consisting of two stereo speakers combined with a subwoofer.

3.5-inch floppy drive

All modern floppy drives are of this size; the format was introduced in 1986 and is one of the longest surviving pieces of computer hardware.

34-pin ribbon cable

Type of cable used by floppy disk drives

3-D graphics

Video technology that attempts to create images with the same depth and texture as objects seen in the real world

40-pin ribbon cable

PATA cable used to attach EIDE devices (such as hard drives or ATAPI devices (such as optical drives) to a system.

5.1 speaker system

Four satellite speakers plus a center speaker and a subwoofer

8.3 naming system

File-naming convention that specified a maximum of eight characters for a filename, followed by a 3-character file extension. Has been replaced by LFN (long filename) support

80-wire ribbon cable

PATA cable used to attach fast EIDE devices (such as ATA/100 hard drives) or ATAPI devices (such as optical drives) to system


Wireless networking standard that operates in the 5-GHz band with theoretical maximum throughput of 54 Mbps


Wireless networking standard that operates in the 2.4-GHz band with a theoretical maximum throughput of 11 Mbps


Wireless networking standard that operates in the 2.4-GHz band with a theoretical maximum throughput of 54 Mbps and is backward compatible with 802.11b


Wireless networking standard that can operate in both the 2.4-GHZ and 5-GHz bands and uses MIMO to achieve a theoretical maximum throughput of 100+ Mbps

A/V sync

Process of synchronizing audio and video

AC (alternating current)

Type of electricity in which the flow electrons alternates direction, back and forth, in a circuit


Sound card standard for lower-end audio devices; created when most folks listened to stereo sound at best

access control

Security concept using physical security, authentication, users and groups, and security policies.

ACPI (advanced configuration and power interface)

Power management specification that far surpasses its predecessor, APM, by providing support for hot-swappable devices and better control of power modes.


Process of confirming that an installed copy of a Microsoft product (most commonly Windows or a Microsoft Office application) is legitimate. Usually done at the end of software installation.

active matrix

Type of liquid crystal display that replaced the passive matrix technology used in most portable computer displays. Also called TFT (thin film transistor)

active partition

On a hard drive, primary partition that contains on operating system

active PFC (power factor correction)

Circuitry built into PC power supplies to reduce harmonics

ad hoc mode

Decentralized wireless network mode, otherwise known as peer-to-peer mode, where each wireless node is in meshed contact with every other node

Add or Remove Programs

Applet allowing users to manually add or remove a program for the system

address bus

Wires leading from the CPU to the memory controller chip (usually the Northbridge) taht enable the CPU to address RAM. Also used by the CPU for I/O addressing. An internal electronic channel from the microprocessor to random access memory, along which the addresses of memory storage locations are transmitted. Like a post office box, each memory location has a distinct number or address; this thing provides the means by which the microprocessor can access every location in memory.

address space

Total amount of memory addresses that an address bus can contain

administrative shares

Administrator tool to give local admins access to hard drives and system root folders.

Administrative Tools

Group of Control Panel applets, including Computer Management, Event Viewer, and Reliability and Performance Monitor

Administrator account

user account, created when the OS is first installed, that is allowed complete, unfettered access to the system without restriction.

Administrators group

List of members with complete administrator privileges.

ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line)

Fully digital, dedicated connection to the telephone system that provides average download speeds of 7 Mbps and upload speed of 512 Kbps

Advanced Startup Options menu

Menu that can be reached during the boot process that offers advanced OS startup options, such as boot in Safe mode or boot into Last Known Good Configuration


Type of malicious program that downloads ads to a user's computer, generating undesirable network traffic


The Windows Vista desktop environment. This thing adds some interesting aesthetic effect such as window transparency and Flip 3D

AGP (accelerated graphics port)

32/64-bit expansion slot designed by Intel specifically for video that runs at 66 MHz and yields a throughput of at least 254 Mbps. Later versions (2x, 4x, 8x) give substantially higher throughput


Set of rules for solving a problem in a given number of steps

ALU (arithmetic logic unit)

CPU logic circuits that perform basic arithmetic (add, subtract, multiply, divide)

AMD (Advanced Micro Devices)

CPU and chipset manufacturer that competes with Intel. Produces the popular Phenom, Ahtlon, Sempron, Turion, and Duron microprecessors; also produces video card processors under it ATI brand

AMI (American Megatrends, Inc)

Major producer of BIOS software for motherboards, as well as many other computer-related components and software

amperes (amps or A)

Unit of measure for amperage, or electrical current


Loudness of a sound card

AMR (audio/modem riser)

Proprietary slot used on some motherboards to provide a sound inference-free connection for modems, sound cards, and NICs


Type of device that uses a physical quantity, such as length or voltage, to represent the value of a number. By contrast, digital storage relies on a coding system of numeric units


In computer imaging, blending effect that smooths sharp contrasts between two regions - e.g., jagged lines or different colors. Reduces jagged edges of text or objects. In voice signal processing, process of removing or smoothing out spurious frequencies from waveforms produced by converting digital signals back to analog.

anti-static bag

Bag made of anti-static plastic into which electronics are placed for temporary or long-term storage. Used to protect components from electrostatic discharge.

anti-static mat

Special surface on which to lay electronics. These mats come with a grounding connection designed to equalize electrical potential between a workbench and one or more electronic devices. Used to prevent electrostatic discharge.

anti-static wrist strap

Special device worn around the wrist with a grounding connection designed to equalize electrical potential between a technician and an electronic device. Used to prevent electrostatic discharge.

antivirus program

Software designed to combat viruses by either seeking out and destroying them or passively guarding against them.

API (application programming interface)

Software definition that describes operating system calls for application software; conventions defining how a service is invoked.

APIPA (Automatic Private IP Addressing)

Feature of Windows that automatically assigns an IP address to the system when the client cannot obtain an IP address automatically.

APM (advanced power management)

BIOS routines that enable the CPU to turn on and off selected peripherals


Generic term for a program in the Windows Control Panel


To copy programs and data onto a relatively inexpensive storage medium (disk, tape, etc.) for longterm retention.

archive attribute

Attribute of a file that shows whether the file has been backed up since the last change. Each time a file is opened, changed, or saved, the archive bit is turned on. Some types of backups turn off this archive bit to indicate that a good backup of the file exists on tape.

ARP (Address Resolution Protocol)

Protocol in the TCP/IP suite used with the command-line utility of the same name to determine the MAC address that corresponds to a particular IP address.

ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange)

Industry-standard 8-bit characters used to define text characters, consisting of 96 upper- and lowercase letters, plus 32 non-printing control characters, each of which is numbered. These numbers were designed to achieve uniformity among computer devices for printing and the exchange of simple text documents

aspect ratio

Ratio of width to height of an object. Standard television is 4:3

ASR (Automated System Recovery)

Windows XP tool designed to recover a badly corrupted Windows system; similar to ERD

assertive communication

Means of communication that is not pushy or bossy but is also not soft. Useful in dealing with upset customers as it both defuses their anger and gives them confidence that you know what you're doing.

AT (advance technology)

Model name of the second- generation, 80286-based IBM computer. Many aspects of this, such as the BIOS, CMOS, and expansion bus, have become defacto standards in the PC industry. The physical organization of the components on the motherboard is called the AT form factor

ATA (AT attachment)

Type of hard drive and controller designed to replace the earlier ST506 and ESDI drives without requiring replacement of the AT BIOS—hence. These drives are more popularly known as IDE drives. (See IDE.) The ATA/33 standard has drive transfer speeds up to 33 MBps; the ATA/66 up to 66 MBps; the ATA/100 up to 100 MBps; and the ATA/133 up to 133 MBps. (See Ultra DMA.)


Also known as ATA-6 or "Big Drive." Replaced the INT13 extensions and allowed for hard drives as large as 144 petabytes (144 million GBs).

ATAPI (ATA packet interface)

Series of standards that enable mass storage devices other than hard drives to use the IDE/ATA controllers. Popular with optical drives. (See EIDE.)


Devices that utilize the ATAPI standards (See ATAPI)


Name used for a popular series of CPUs manufactured by AMD


Command used to view the specific properties of a file; can also be used to modify or remove file properties, such as read-only, system, or archive.


Values in a file that determine the hidden, read-only, system, and archive status of the file.

ATX (AT eXtended)

Popular motherboard form factor that generally replaced the AT form factor.


Any method a computer used to determine who can access it.


Any method a computer uses to determine what a specific user can do.


Process through which new disks are automatically recognized by the BIOS.

Automatic Updates

Feature allowing updates to Windows to be retrieved automatically over the Internet.


Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7 setting, along with autorun.inf, enabling Windows to automatically detect media files and begin using them. (See AUTORUN.INF.)


File included on some media that automatically launches a program or installation routine when the media is inserted/attached to a system.


Better quality sound cards use autosensing to detect a device plugged into a port and to adapt the features of that port.

auto-switching power supply

Type of power supply able to detect the voltage of a particular outlet and adjust accordingly.

Award Software

Major producer of BIOS software for motherboards.


One of three main components used in LCDs to illuminate an image

backside bus

Set of wires that connect the CPU to Level 2 cache. First appearing in the Pentium Pro, all modern CPUs have a backside bus. Some buses run at the full speed of the CPU, whereas others run at a fraction. Earlier Pentium IIs, for example, had backside buses running at half the speed of the processor. (See also frontside bus and external data bus.)

Backup or Restore Wizard

Utility contained within Windows that allows users to create system backups and set system restore points.

ball mouse

Input device that enables users to manipulate a cursor on the screen by using a ball and sensors that detect the movement and direction of the ball.


Piece of the spectrum occupied by some form of signal, such as television, voice, fax data. Signals require a certain size and location of bandwidth to be transmitted. The higher the bandwidth, the faster the signal transmission, allowing for a more complex signal such as audio or video. Because bandwidth is a limited space, when one user is occupying it, others must wait their turn. Bandwidth is also the capacity of a network to transmit a given amount of data during a given period.


Total number of SIMMs or DIMMs that can be accessed simultaneously by the chipset. The "width" of the external data bus divided by the "width" of the SIMM or DIMM sticks. DIMM slots must be populated to activate dual- or triple-channel memory.

bar code reader

Tool to read Universal Product Code (UPC) bar codes

basic disks

Hard drive partitioned in the "classic" way with a master boot record (MBR) and partition table. (See also dynamic disks.)


One analog cycle on a telephone line. In the early days of telephone data transmission, the baud rate was often analogous to bits per second. Due to advanced modulation of baud cycles as well as data compression, this is no longer true.

BD-RE (Blu-ray Disc-REwritable)

Blu-ray Disc equivalent of the rewritable DVD, allows writing and rewriting several times on the same BD. (See Blu-ray Disc.)


Blu-ray equivalent of DVD-ROM or CD-ROM (see Blu-ray Disc)


Term used to describe transferring data from one PDA to another by means of IrDA.

beep codes

Series of audible tones produced by a motherboard during the POST. These tones identify whether the POST has completed successfully or whether some piece of system hardware is not working properly. Consult the manual for your particular motherboard for a specific list of beep codes.

binary numbers

Number system with a base of 2, unlike the number systems most of us use that have bases of 10 (decimal numbers), 12 (measurement in feet and inches), and 60 (time). Binary numbers are preferred for computers for precision and economy. An electronic circuit that can detect the difference between two states (on-off, 0-1) is easier and more inexpensive to build than one that could detect the differences among ten states (0-9).

biometric device

Hardware device used to support authentication; works by scanning and remembering unique aspects of a user's various body parts (e.g., retina, iris, face, or fingerprint) by using some form of
sensing device such as a retinal scanner.

BIOS (basic input/output system)

Classically, soft-ware routines burned onto the system ROM of a PC. More commonly seen as any software that directly controls a particular piece of hardware. A set of programs encoded in read-only memory (ROM) on computers.


Single binary digit. Also, any device that can be in an on or off state.

BitLocker Drive Encryption

Drive encryption software offered in Windows Vista/7 Ultimate and Enterprise editions. BitLocker requires a special ship to validate hardware status and to ensure that the computer hasn't been hacked.

bit depth

Number of colors a video card is capable of producing. Common bit depths are 16-bit and 32-bit, representing 65, 536 colors and 16.7 million colors, respectively


Wireless technology designed to create small wireless networks pre-configured to do specific jobs, but not meant to replace full-function networks or Wi-Fi

Blu-ray Disc (BD)

Optical disc format that stores 25 or 50 GB of data, designed to be the replacement media for DVD. Competed with HD DVD


To initiate an automatic routine that clears the memory, loads the operating system, and prepares the computer for use. Term is derived from "pull yourself up by the bootstraps". PCs must do that because RAM doesn't retain program instructions when power is turned off. A cold boot occurs when the PC is physically switched on. A warm boot loads a fresh OS without turning off the computer, lessening the strain on the electronic circuitry. To do a warm boot, press the CTRL-ALT-DELETE keys twice in rapid succession (the three finger salute)

boot sector

First sector on a PC hard drive or floppy disk, track 0. The boot-up software in ROM tells the computer to load whatever program is found there. If a system disk is read, the program in the boot record di- rects the computer to the root directory to load the operating system.


Text file used during the boot process that provides a list of all OSs currently installed and available for NTLDR. Also tells where each OS is located on the system. Used in Windows XP and earlier Microsoft operating systems

bootable disk

Disk that contains a functional operat-ing system; can also be a floppy disk, USB thumb drive, or optical disc.

bootstrap loader

Segment of code in a system's BIOS that scans for an operating system, looks specifically for a valid boot sector, and, when one is found, hands control over to the boot sector; then the bootstrap loader removes itself from memory.

bps (bits per second)

Measurement of how fast data is moved from one place to another. A 56K modem can move ~56,000 bits per second.


Commonly understood as a reference to high-speed, always-on communication links that can move large files much more quickly than a regular phone line.


Program specifically designed to retrieve, interpret, and display Web pages.

BSoD (Blue Screen of Death)

Infamous error screen that appears when Windows encounters an unrecoverable error.

BTX (Balanced Technology eXtended)

Motherboard form factor designed as an improvement over ATX.

buffered/registered DRAM

Usually seen in motherboards supporting more than four sticks of RAM, it is required to address interference issues caused by the additional sticks.

buffer underrun

Inability of a source device to pro-vide a CD-burner with a constant stream of data while burning a CD-R or CD-RW.


Programming error that causes a program or a computer system to perform erratically, produce incorrect results, or crash. The term was coined when a real bug was found in one of the circuits of one of the first ENIAC computers.


Process of writing data to a writable optical disc, such as a DVD-R

burn-in failure

Critical failure usually associated with manufacturing defects


Series of wires connecting two or more separate electronic devices, enabling those devices to communicate.

bus mastering

Circuitry allowing devices to avoid conflicts on the external data bus.

bus topology

Network configuration wherein all computers connect to the network via a central bus cable.


Unit of eight bits; fundamental data unit of personal computers. Storing the equivalent of one character, this is also the basic unit of measurement for computer storage.

CAB files

These files are compressed and most commonly used during OS installation to store many smaller files, such as device drivers. Short for cabinet files.

cache (disk)

Special area of RAM that stores the data most frequently accessed from the hard drive. Can optimize the use of your systems.

cache (L1, L2, L3, etc.)

Special section of fast memory, usually built into the CPU, used by the on board logic to store information most frequently accessed by the CPU.


Process of matching the print output of a printer to the visual output of a monitor.

card reader

Device with which you can read data from one of several types of flash memory.

card services

Uppermost level of PCMCIA services. This level recognizes the function of a particular PC Card and provides the specialized drivers necessary to make the card work. (See also socket services.)


32-bit PC cards that can support up to eight devices on each card. Electrically incompatible with earlier PC cards (3.3 V versus 5 V).


A wire category; TIA/EIA standard for UTP wiring that can operate up to 100 megabits per second.

CAT 5e

A wire category; TIA/EIA standard for UTP wiring that can operate up to 1 gigabit per second.


A wire category; TIA/EIA standard for UTP wiring that can operate up to 10 gigabits per second.

catastrophic failure

Occurs when a component or whole system will not boot; usually related to a manufacturing defect of a component. Could also be caused by overheating and physical damage to computer components.

CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent lamp)

Light technology used in LCDs and flatbed scanners. These things use relatively little power for the amount of light they provide.


DOS shorthand for "Change Directory." Allows you to change the focus of the command prompt from one directory to another.

CD (compact disc)

Originally designed as the re-placement for vinyl records, these have become the primary method of long-term storage of music and data.

CD quality

Audio quality that has a sample rate of 44.4 KHz and bit rate of 128 bits

CD-DA (CD-digital audio)

Special format used for early CD-ROMs and all audio CDs; divides data into variable length tracks. A good format to use for audio tracks but terrible for data because of lack of error checking.

CD-R (compact disc recordable)

Recording media technology that accepts a single "burn" but cannot be erased after that one burn.

CD-ROM (compact disc/read only memory)

Read-only compact storage disk for audio or video data.

CD-RW (compact disc rewritable)

CD technology that accepts multiple reads/writes like a hard drive.


Lower-cost brand of Intel CPUs

Cellular WAN

Technology that allows laptops and other mobile devices to access the Internet over a cell phone network.

cellular wireless networks

Networks that enable cell phones, PDAs, and other mobile devices to connect to the Internet.


Marketing name for an Intel laptop solution including the mobile processor, support chips and wireless networking.

Centronics connector

Connector used with older printers.


License that demonstrate competency in specialized skill

Cetified Cisco Network Associate (CCNA)

One of the certifications demonstrating a knowledge of Cisco net- working products.

CHAP (Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol)

Common remote access protocol; serving system challenges, or solicits, the remote client, usually by means of asking for a password.

chassis intrusion detection

Feature offered in some chassis (case) that trips a switch when the chassis is opened.


Electronic chips, specially designed to work together, that handle all of the low-level functions of a PC. In the original PC, this consisted of close to 30 different chips; today, they usually consist of one, two, or three separate chips embedded into a motherboard.

CHKDSK (Checkdisk)

Hard drive error detection and, to a certain extent, correction utility in Windows. Originally a DOS command (CHKDSK.EXE); also the executable for the graphical Error-checking tool.

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