Help, I’m Not Sure What’s What On My Computer!

Joy writes:

I recently had some difficulty accessing certain e-mails and called my Internet company’s tech support number. I’m afraid the young woman was very frustrated with me as I didn’t understand many of the terms she was using. I’m not an unintelligent woman, I’m just not familiar with some of the computer terms she used. At one point, she got very agitated and sighed, “Don’t you even know what a browser is?”  It seems that I don’t.  A friend suggested that you were the best place to go for a simple explanation.  Here’s what I need to know:  What is a browser? At first I said it was Outlook, but it seems that can’t be correct. I thought she might mean Facebook, as that’s what comes up first when I go online and I even guessed she might mean the mouse, since that’s what you use to get around. And how do you know which browser you are using? She wanted that information as well. Also, what is an e-mail client?  I thought I was a client of the Internet company.  As simply as you can, please explain those terms to a very confused woman who used to think she was well-informed. My computer uses Windows 7 if that makes any difference.

 Joy,  I’m sorry you had a bad experience when you called for help. That’s not very supportive. You’re paying for tech support in your monthly bill and you should get it. So let’s cut to the chase and answer your questions with a little computer vocabulary lesson.

A Browser is simply a program on your computer, tablet or phone that you use to look at (browse) the Internet. The page that it goes to when you open the program is called your Home Page. The Home Page can be any site you select.

Three popular browsers are Internet Explorer, sometimes abbreviated as IE  , (which comes pre-installed on Windows computers) Firefox  and Chrome .

Since you might also be asked what version of a browser you’re using, here’s how to find that out.  In the upper right of Internet Explorer, you’ll see an icon that looks like a gear. Click on that and you’ll see an About Internet Explorer option.

Click on that and you’ll see a window with information about which version of the program you’re running.

For Firefox, choose Firefox Menu>Help>About Firefox.

In Chrome, select the menu icon to the far right and select About Google Chrome.

Which browser and the version of that browser you’re running can be very important information when troubleshooting.

Now onto the next word – Your e-mail client is a program installed on your computer that allows you to download, read, compose and send e-mail messages. Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail and Thunderbird are examples of e-mail clients. This is not to be confused with your e-mail provider. You could use Outlook Express to read messages from a Yahoo! Mail account or a Gmail account. You might also have your e-mail through your Internet provider. Fox example, many Time Warner customers have Road Runner e-mail accounts.

E-mail Client – program installed on your computer that you use to send and receive messages.

E-mail provider – provides your e-mail address. You could access these messages by downloading to an e-mail client or read them from a web-based account like

Internet provider – the company that provides your Internet connection. (Time Warner, AT &T, Verizon, SBC or a local company)

 You didn’t say anything about the original issue that led you to call the charming customer service representative. But feel free to ask us here at WorldStart.

~ Cynthia

7 thoughts on “Help, I’m Not Sure What’s What On My Computer!

  1. Cynthia;
    Handled very nicely with one glaring excption!
    What version of WINDOWS is questionnaire using! This make sALL the difference in the world based upon my experience. I am still running XP and your directions do not apply at all!. When I click on the gear I get a simple list not at all like the dropdown you show!
    Remember please, there are many of us out here that do not have the same level as you!
    OIther than that I found your explaination well done!

  2. Cynthia,

    If the user has an older computer they might still have IE 8, which doesn’t have a gear it has a question mark.


    I agree in general that it is good to include information about the diferent versions of WIndows and Cynthia usually does. However this particular user stated they had Windows 7.

  3. Good explanation Cynthia…I woke up this a.m. thinking about this same problem (meaning of terms/words)…especially considering I’m looking to buy a new cell phone…with all the choices we have now it really does get confusing. Will search WS for answers to this also. Thanks.

  4. An interesting tip. I learned a few things I had only a vague understanding of. Keep these tips coming. They are educational and useful.

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