What is software?
Software is a general term for the programs that sit on your computer and carry out the tasks that you want to do.
A computer can't be turned on if it has no software, so every computer will have some software installed when you buy it.
There are many types of software, some common types (and examples) are:
- Browsers, which you use to explore the Internet (ie Firefox, Internet Explorer)
- Word Processing programs, to write letters and other documents (ie, Microsoft Word, Notepad, WordPad)
- Spreadsheet programs, to create (ie Microsoft Excel)
- Photo & Drawing programs (PhotoShop, Paint, Microsoft Draw)
- Anti-virus software, to protect your computer (ie Nortons, McAfee)
The operating system (OS) is a very important piece of software. All desktop computers have an operating system and it will be the first thing that is loaded onto a computer.
Without an operating system, a computer is useless because it uses the operating system to organise and control all of the other software on your computer as well as the hardware.
You will use the operating system to:
- make changes to how your computer works (change screen resolution, mouse settings etc)
- add and update software
- access data on discs and USB memory sticks.
How to get software
When you buy a computer it will have some basic software installed on it, such as an operating system.
If there are tasks you need to carry out with your computer that you do not have the necessary software for, you can either go to a shop and purchase it, or download it from the Internet. Before you install new software on your computer you must check if it is compatible with the operating system on your computer.
If you are not sure what software you need or whether a particular software is compatible with your computer, it is advisable to go to a shop to purchase it. You will then be able to see advise from the retail outlet on what is suitable.
Software is available from High street retailers such as PC World, W H Smith and Comet. There are also many more retailers available on the Internet. When you buy software, it will usually come in the form of a disc which when inserted into your computer will take you through the installation process.
If you know which software you need, it may be more convenient to purchase the software from a retailer on the Internet. If you purchase software in this way you will usually have the option to be able to download (receive) the software from the website and save it directly onto your computer. Many retailers of software on the Internet will also let you try out software for a trial period before you actually purchase it.
Downloading is very simple and usually involves clicking on a link on a webpage and following the instructions on your screen.
There is a also a lot of free software available on the Internet. Be very careful if you are downloading free software - make sure it's from a reputable website and it's recommended that you have virus protection software installed on your computer before you consider downloading anything.
Download Acrobat Reader* - this software will let you read PDF type documents.
* Hampshire County Council is not responsible for the content of external websites.
Updating your computer
Most software goes through a series of improvements, or updates (version 1.0, version 1.1, version 2.0 etc).
Most updates are free to download from the Internet. When you install software, you will often get the option to be notified of any software updates. It’s always a good idea to select this option as it is very important with some software, such as virus protection, that you keep the software up to date. If you do not get this option with software, then check regularly whether the software has been updated.
When you update software it is usually as simple as clicking a link and following the instructions on your screen.
Remove or Uninstall software
When you remove software you must be extremely careful or you could delete software that you did not mean to remove.
The instructions below show how to do this if you use Microsoft Windows.
Click Start in the bottom left of your screen
Click Control Panel
Click Add or Remove programs
Find the software you would like to remove and click on it to select it
Tip: All of your software programs will be listed in alphabetical order.
Select Remove (or Uninstall) and follow any instructions on screen.
PRINT friendly . . . when you print this page all of the tabs will print.