PCs For Dummies

PCs For Dummies

by Dan Gookin
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PCs For Dummies by Dan Gookin

The all-time bestselling PC reference, fully updated for the newest technologies!

Previous editions of this fun and friendly PC guide have sold more than three million copies, making it the bestselling PC reference in the world. Dan Gookin, the author whose straightforward and entertaining style is the foundation of the For Dummies series, gives you the same easy-to-follow guidance in this edition, fully updated for Windows 8, using the cloud, and all the newest PC bells and whistles. It's perfect for the absolute beginner as well as for anyone switching to the latest hardware and software.

  • Updated with information on all the latest upgrades, this edition of a worldwide bestseller covers all the essentials of using a PC, and presents them in a fun, non-intimidating style
  • Popular technology author Dan Gookin starts at the beginning with all the basics that other books assume everyone knows
  • Covers setting up your PC, exploring the Windows 8 interface, using network hardware and software, getting online and browsing with the newest version of Internet Explorer, setting up an e-mail account, connecting to the cloud, and using cloud-based services
  • Shows you how to install and upgrade programs and manage files and folders
  • Explores working with digital photos, downloading music, watching movies, and participating in social media

PCs For Dummies, 12th Edition is the jargon-free, easy-to-use guide to everything you need to know about your PC.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781118197349
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 02/11/2013
Series: For Dummies Series
Edition description: New
Pages: 360
Product dimensions: 7.30(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Dan Gookin wrote the original For Dummies book, DOS For Dummies, in 1991 and launched a phenomenon. Since then, his list of bestsellers keeps growing. More than 12 million copies of Dan's books are in print, and his books have been translated into 32 languages. Dan welcomes visitors at his website, www.wambooli.com.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 4
The Big Red Switch

In This Chapter

  • How to turn the computer on
  • What happens after you flip the Big Red Switch
  • How to log in to the network
  • How to get the Windows tip-of-the-day
  • How to turn the computer off
  • Whether or not to leave your PC on all the time
  • How to reset or reboot your computer

Should turning something on or off be complicated? Of course not. But then again, a computer isn't known for being the most logical of devices. Heck, you'd think the computer would have several on and off switches just to make it tough on you. But no.

The truth is that there's just one Big Red Switch that makes the PC stop or go. Of course, the switch is often neither red nor big, but that's not a big deal. What is a big deal is when and how to throw the switch and all the stuff that happens in between. That's what'll make you pull your hair out in clumps or chant a mantra while clutching your New Age Power Crystal in one hand and flipping the power switch with the other.

Well, fret no more. This chapter covers the basics of turning a computer on, covers what happens just after that, and then doesn't neglect the important stuff about turning the computer off. A lot happens as Mr. PC begins his sunshiny day. Oh -- and this is definitely worth $6 of the cover price -- this chapter tells you the lowdown on whether or not you can let your computer run all day and all night without ever turning it off. (Yes, it can be done.)

Turning the Computer On

Turning a computer on is as easy as reaching for that big red switch and flipping it to the ON position. Some computers may have their big red switch in front, and some have the switch on the side. Still other computers may even paint their big red switch brown or fawn-white, or it may be one of those push-button jobbies.

  • In keeping with the international flavor of computing, computer companies have done away with the illogical, Western-culture-dominated habit of putting the words ON and OFF on their on/off switches. To be more politically correct, the PC's switch uses a bar for ON and a circle for OFF (go back and see Figure 1-3 to refresh your own memory banks).

  • If you can't see the screen, wait awhile. If nothing appears, turn the monitor on.

  • If the computer won't turn on, check to see whether it's plugged in. If it still doesn't come on, refer to Chapter 24, "When to Scream for Help."

  • Two nerdy terms for turning on a computer: Power-on and power-up.

  • If the computer does something unexpected or if you notice that it's being especially unfriendly, first panic. Then turn to Part VI of this book to figure out what went wrong.

  • Make sure that a disk isn't in drive A when you start the computer. If a disk is in floppy disk drive A, the computer won't start from the hard drive like it's supposed to. Keep drive A empty. (Some people keep a disk in drive A because it looks cool; don't be a fool. Just say no to disks in drive A when you boot the computer.)

  • See Chapter 7 for more information about drive A.

Technical stuff to ignore

Your computer has many plug-inable items attached to it. Each one of them has its own on/off switch. There is no specific order to follow when turning any equipment on or off, though an old adage was "Turn the computer box on last." Or was it first? I don't remember. But one way to save the hassle is to buy a power strip or one of the fancier computer power-control-center devices. You plug everything into it and then turn on the whole shebang with one switch.

"The manual tells me to boot my computer: Where do I kick it?"

Oh, don't be silly. Booting a computer has nothing to do with kicking it. Instead, booting simply refers to turning on a computer. To boot a computer means to turn it on. Rebooting a computer is the same as pressing the Reset button. It's all weird nerd talk.

Look! Up on the screen!

Heavenly choirs rejoice! Windows 95 is here!

Of course, you don't see Windows 95 right away. First comes some text. Then a few fragments and whatnot, a copyright notice, and maybe you'll catch the following -- Windows 95's only text screen message, bidding farewell to the way PCs used to work:

Starting Windows 95 . . .

After that, the PC goes graphical. You may see more bits of text fly by, like the closing credits of a movie (but don't bother looking for the Dolly Grip or Best Boy).

  • Starting the computer with the Big Red Switch is the mechanical part. What you're starting is the computer hardware, which is really nothing but a lot of heavy, cold, and calculating electronic junk that the cat likes to sleep on. Eventually, your computer's software actually brings the computer to life, allowing it to do something. With Windows 95, you see the "Windows in the clouds" scene, which is only meant to entertain you while Windows seemingly takes several weeks to get out of bed.

"My computer says 'Non-system disk.' What gives?"

This happens a lot, even to Bill Gates!

Non-system disk or disk error
Replace and strike any key when ready

Remove the floppy disk from drive A and press the Enter key. Your computer will then start normally.

The reason you see the message is that you or someone else has left a floppy disk in your PC's A drive. The computer has tried to start itself using software on that disk and -- whaddya know? -- no software is on that disk! The software (your PC's operating system) is really on your PC's hard drive, which can't be loaded until you remove that dern floppy disk from drive A and whack the Enter key.

And just who the heck are you?

Windows seems pretty easy to get into; it's doing all the work! But if your PC is shackled to a network, you'll be forced to show some ID before getting into the good stuff. Apparently, you can't buy liquor or drive a computer without proper identification.

The Enter Network Password dialog box, as shown in Figure 4-1, is Windows' way of gently asking, "Just who the heck are you?" You type in your special user name, press the Tab key, and then type your password. Click the OK button, and Windows lets you in.

If you type the wrong password, the security alarms sound, a metal gate drops over you and the PC, the hounds are released, and Windows dutifully erases the hard drive lest security be breached.

Just kidding! If you goof up, you get a second shot. If you goof up again, Windows lets you in anyway.

  • Windows probably already knows your user name and displays it proudly for you, as in Figure 4-1. Your job is merely to enter the proper password.

  • Press the Tab key to move between the User Name and Password text boxes.

  • Telling the network who you are is technically called logging in. It has nothing to do with timber.

  • Chapter 10 discusses computer networking if you want to go nuts about it.

  • If this whole password/login stuff annoys you, just press the Esc key on the keyboard to bypass the feeble security.

  • If they guarded the Crown Jewels as feebly as Windows guards its network, we'd all be wearing funny expensive hats.

Here's your tip of the day: Click the Close button and get to work

Microsoft must have felt they didn't make Windows easy enough. Every time you start, you'll see the cheesy Welcome to Windows dialog box. Ugh! Time for another valuable and heretofore unknown tip.

Click the Close button to rid the screen of that annoying dialog box.

  • If you don't know how to work a computer mouse or figure that point-and-click is what you do with a gun, refer to Chapter 14 (the latter half).

  • If you really never want to see the Welcome to Windows dialog box ever again, click the mouse in the box by Show this Welcome Screen next time you start Windows (see Figure 4-2). This action removes the little check mark from the box, and you'll never be bothered by it again.

  • Don't bother clicking on any button in the Welcome to Windows dialog box other than Close. If you do, you're on your own. (And you've been warned!)

Some "Did you know . . ." things you won't find in the Welcome dialog box

Did you know . . . Elvis used to take a .22 and shoot flashbulbs floating in his pool while he ate watermelon hearts.

Did you know . . . $10,000 of Microsoft stock purchased in 1986 would be worth over a quarter of a million dollars today?

Did you know . . . a chigger bite can itch like the devil.

Did you know . . . sausage was invented by the ancient Babylonians.

Did you know . . . the cheapest palmtop computer is a pad and pencil.

Did you know . . . steamed skim milk with two shots of espresso in a 16-ounce cup is a "double- tall-skinny latté."

Did you know . . . St. Nicholas is the patron saint of pawnbrokers.

Did you know . . . in 558 Chlotar, the son of Clovis, reunited the kingdom of France.

Did you know . . . West Quoddy Head, Maine, is the farthest eastern point in the continental United States.

Did you know . . . a whop bop a loo bop a bop bam boom.

Did you know . . . a porterhouse is a T-bone steak with a larger tenderloin side.

Did you know . . . Mad Magazine's Alfred E. Neuman was originally named Melvin Kosnowski.

Did you know . . . the tomato was legally declared a vegetable by the U.S. Supreme Court. (It's actually a fruit.)

It's about time this operating system showed up

After a time, and then times and half a time, Windows 95 presents itself on the screen in all its graphical goodness and glory (Figure 4-3). Windows is finally ready for you to use. Time to get to work.

  • Chapters 5 and 6 offer more information on Windows and getting to work.

  • Windows really does take a while to show up on the screen, so don't be discouraged; rumor has it Samuel Beckett was working on Waiting for Windot before he died.1

1This is a literary reference. Beckett wrote Waiting for Godot (Gah-do), who never shows up.

Getting Your Work Done

Between turning your computer on and off, you should do something. Get work done.

Alas, that's the subject of the next two chapters. This is just the starting and stopping your PC chapter.

Turning the Computer Off

Sure, turning the computer off is easy: just flip the big red switch. The power goes DINK, the fan softly warbles away, and the hard drive spins to a low hum and then stops. Unfortunately, that's just not polite enough for your computer. It's rude. Windows insists that you shut down properly, or it gets really, really sore.

Before you can feel the satisfaction of flipping that big red switch, heed these steps to properly furl Windows' sails:

  1. Pop up the Start menu.

    If you can see the Start button on the taskbar (look in the bottom-left corner of Figure 4-3), click on that button using your mouse.

    The best and most reliable way to make the Start menu appear is to press the Ctrl+Esc key combination. This works every time, whether you can see the Start button or not.

  2. Choose the Shut Down menu item.

    Click on it with the mouse or press the U key, since you can't yodel without the U sound.

    The Shut Down Windows dialog box appears (see Figure 4-4), filled with even more options for shutting down your PC.

  3. Click the Yes button.

    Ignore the options! The proper one you want, Shut down the computer, is already selected for you.

  4. Windows is outta here!


    • If you haven't saved any information in any programs, you'll be told about it. Go ahead and save everything.

    • If you've been running some older DOS programs, the whole operation stops. You must quit your DOS programs before you shut down Windows. (It's a sibling-rivalry thing.) Refer to your DOS program's manual or a proper ...For Dummies book near you.

    Eventually, after more disk commotion than seems necessary, you see a screen that tells you, and I quote, "It's now safe to turn off your computer." Look ma, no sparks!

  5. Flip the big red switch off.

    Click. You're done.

  • Yes, you shut down by first pressing the Start button. Such logic.

  • Keyboard shortcut to shutting down Windows 95: Ctrl+Esc, U, Enter. Ah, such lovely little keystrokes to quell the beast. But remember, Windows merely sleeps. It comes back to life again when you restart the computer.

  • Never turn off the computer when you're in the middle of something. Always quit your programs, and then shut down Windows properly. The only time you can safely turn off your PC is when the screen tells you that it's safe to do so. An exception to this is when your computer has gone totally AWOL. When that happens, refer to Part VI of this book.

  • If you are used to DOS (where you could shut down the computer anytime), be wary of seeing that friendly C:\> on the screen and thinking "Golly, it's OK to shut down the computer now." Not so with Windows 95! You must first quit DOS, which you do by typing the EXIT command:

    C> EXIT

    This makes your DOS prompt vanish, and, lo, you're back in Windows.

  • If Windows detects any unsaved programs as it quits, it will ask you to save them. For DOS programs, Windows will beg you to save them and actually refuse to quit: Go ahead and save your DOS stuff; then quit your DOS programs; then repeat the steps in this section before you flip the big red switch.

  • It's a good idea to wait at least 30 to 40 seconds before turning the computer on again. This gives the computer's hard drives time to slow down and stop. (Basically, it's just a bad idea to flip the PC's power switch rapidly from on to off to on again.)

  • If possible, try not to turn the computer off more than three times a day. My advice is to leave the machine on all day and, if you really want to turn it off, turn it off only at night. However, there is a school of thought that recommends leaving the computer on all the time. If that's your cup of java, refer to the next section.

"I want to leave my computer on all the time"

The great debate rages: should you leave your computer on all the time? Well, anyone who knows anything will tell you "Yes." Leave your computer on all the time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 14 days a week on the planet Mars. The only time you should really turn a system off is when it will be unused for longer than a weekend.

Computers like being on all the time. You leave your refrigerator on all night or when you're away on trips, so why not the PC? It won't raise your electrical bill much, either.

The only thing you should be careful about is turning the monitor off when you're away from the computer. Switching the monitor off avoids the perils of phosphor burn-in, or what happens when a computer is left on too long and retains an image of Lotus 1-2-3 (or whatever you use a lot) on the screen -- even when the system is off. Turning off the monitor while you're away solves this problem.

  • Screen-dimming programs (screen savers) can blank out your monitor after the PC has been idle for a given amount of time. Windows has one located in the Control Panel. From the Start menu, choose Settings-->Control Panel and then open the Display icon by double-clicking on it with the mouse. Click on the Screen Saver tab and do whatever is necessary there, which I don't have time to explain all here.

  • If you do leave your computer on all the time, don't put it under a dust cover. The dust cover will give the computer its very own greenhouse effect and bring the temperatures inside the system way past the sweltering point and annoy Al Gore.

Resetting Your PC

Resetting your computer is a way to turn it off and on again without having to actually do that (and it's healthier for the PC than kicking the power cord out of the wall, despite the satisfying feeling that gives you). When you reset, you're restarting the computer while it's on.

You can reset in two ways: If your computer has a reset switch, you can push it. Ka-chinka! The computer stops whatever it's doing (or not doing) and starts all over again.

The reason for leaving your computer on, if you care to know

There are lots of interesting reasons why you should leave a computer on all the time. One is that the initial process of turning a computer on is a tremendous jolt to the system. It's often said that you subtract one day from the computer's life each time you switch the system off and then on. But who knows?

The truth is, leaving the computer on all the time keeps the temperature inside the box even. When you turn the system off, the electrical components cool. Turn the PC on again, and the components heat right back up. (The system's fan will keep them from getting too hot.) It's that temperature change from turning the system off and on that causes the damage. After a time, the solder joints become brittle, and they crack. That's when the real problems occur. By leaving your PC on all the time -- or just by minimizing the times you turn it off and on -- you can prolong its life.

An opposing school of thought claims that, although the preceding is true, leaving the computer on all the time wears down the bearings in your hard drive and causes the cooling fan to poop out prematurely. So be nice to your hard drive's packed bearings and turn the PC off once a day. Ack! You just can't win. (I leave all my computers on all the time, if you care to know.)

The second way to reset is to press the Ctrl, Alt, and Delete keys at the same time. You need to do this twice in a row in Windows, since Windows doesn't like you to press Ctrl+Alt+Delete, reasons for which I'll get into in the next section.

  • Ctrl+Alt+Delete is known as the three-finger salute, or control-alt-delete.

  • A reset is often called a warm boot. This is like a cold boot that has been sitting in front of the furnace all night.

  • As with turning a computer off, you shouldn't reset while the disk drive light is on or while you are in an application (except when the program has flown south). Above all, do not reset to quit an application. Always quit your programs properly and wait until Windows tells you it's safe before you turn off the computer.

  • Remember to remove any floppy disks from drive A before resetting. If you leave a disk in, the computer will try to start itself from that disk.

The proper way to reset in Windows 95

Windows 95 just won't let you press Ctrl+Alt+Delete to reset. The reason is probably because it's a bad idea to reset in the middle of something -- and Windows is always in the middle of something. So instead of being a reset command, Windows uses Ctrl+Alt+Delete to kill off programs that run amok.

If you press Ctrl+Alt+Delete in Windows 95, you'll see a Close Program dialog box, like the one shown in Figure 4-5. It's best not to mess with this dialog box, so click on the Cancel button or press the Esc key.

  • Don't press Ctrl+Alt+Delete in Windows unless you want to kill off a program. And if you want to kill off a program, see Chapter 25, the section "Killing Off a Program Run Amok."

  • If you really want to reset in Windows 95, you need to use the Shut Down command, as described in the section "Turning the Computer Off," earlier in this chapter. In the Shut Down dialog box, step 2, choose the second option, Restart the computer.

  • In the old version of Windows, Ctrl+Alt+Delete also killed off a program, but only the program you were currently using. This process was confusing for everyone, which is a good reason not to use Ctrl+Alt+Delete in the older version of Windows.

When to reset

Now the question arises: When should you reset? Obviously, anytime you're panicked. Personally, I only reset if the keyboard is totally locked up, and the program appears to have gone to the mall for some Mrs. Field's cookies and a soda. (Sometimes Ctrl+Alt+Delete doesn't work in these situations, so if you don't have a big reset button, you have to turn the computer off, wait, and then turn it on again.)

The only other time you really need to reset is just to start over. For example, I was experimenting with a program that made my keyboard click every time I pressed a key. There was no obvious way to turn off this annoying pestilence, so I reset.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

What’s New in This Edition? 1

Where to Start 2

Conventions Used in This Book 3

What You Don’t Need to Read 4

Foolish Assumptions 4

Icons Used in This Book 4

Getting in Touch with the Author 5

Where to Go from Here 5

Part I: Hello, PC! 7

Chapter 1: What Is This Thing, This PC? 9

Chapter 2: The PC Knobs, Buttons, and Doodads Tour 17

Chapter 3: PC Setup 29

Chapter 4: On and Off 41

Part II: The Nerd’s-Eye View 51

Chapter 5: Deep Inside the Console 53

Chapter 6: PC Memory 65

Chapter 7: Mass Storage 75

Chapter 8: Merry Monitor Mayhem 89

Chapter 9: Input This! 101

Chapter 10: System Expansion 117

Chapter 11: P Is for Printer 125

Part III: Basic Computing 157

Chapter 14: The Windows Tour 159

Chapter 15: It’s the Software Chapter 169

Chapter 16: Fun with Files and Folders 179

Chapter 17: The Grim Topic of File Management 193

Chapter 18: Save Your Butt When You Really Screw Up 203

Chapter 19: The Optical Disc Factory 213

Part IV: Networking Nonsense  223

Chapter 20: The Non-TV Kind of Network 225

Chapter 21: Network Abuse 235

Chapter 22: Why Does This Book Have a Bluetooth Chapter? 247

Chapter 23: As Little of the Internet as Possible 255

Chapter 24: PC Nightmares 263

Part V: Your Digital Life 271

Chapter 25: The Whole Digital Photography Thing 273

Chapter 26: Electronic Entertainment 285

Chapter 27: Sharing Your Life Online 297

Chapter 28: Kid-Safe Computing 309

Part VI: The Part of Tens 317

Chapter 29: Ten PC Commandments 319

Chapter 30: Ten Tips from a PC Guru 323

Index 329

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PCs For Dummies 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Lilpup21 More than 1 year ago
purchased for my husband - who had never learned to use a computer. He said it really helped him to understand the basics of what to do and how to use the computer without having to take a class and feeling "dumb". He's teaching himself (hands-on)with the use of this book - and has lost his fear of "computers". I highly recommed it for beginners.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I rhink ifs helpful because it courijis you =AWASOME
Imotep More than 1 year ago
I teach a PC class for Seniors! From those who don't know how to turn their PC's on to those who think they know just about everything. This book is a requirement for my classes. If you don't know and what to know this book is an excellent resouce. This is a good buy for those on fixed incomes.