Computer Software Introduction

What We'll Learn

  1. How software is organized on your computer
  2. How to check what version of Windows you are running

How Computer Software Works

 This video from CommonCraft explains some great concepts of how Software works on your computer:

Software Building Blocks

The software on your computer is like a multi-layered cake.  Here's what happens when you first start your computer:

  1. First the computer loads a small software program from a chip inside the computer called the BIOS. This "wakes-up" the computer and gives it some basic information, including where to look for the Windows Operating System.
  2. Next the computer typically goes to Drive C: and loads up the RAM with the necessary parts of the Windows Operating System.  Now the system is fully aware of all it's hardware and how to use it.   Windows also provides the basic tools to work with files and folders and administer your system.
  3. At anytime you can run programs, such as Internet Explorer.  
  4. When you use Internet Explorer for special tasks, such as viewing a YouTube video, it will load an Adobe Flash plugin to help you successfully complete the task.
As you can see from the diagram, each piece of software builds on the next.  A problem in one layer can affect all the other layers, so sometimes troubleshooting can get quite complicated.  

Software and Hardware

How do software and hardware work together? On startup, the computer loads software stored on your Hard Disk into RAM. The software in RAM provides instructions to the CPU to complete the tasks you request.  

If there is not enough space for all the software in the RAM (Workbench) then the system begins to "swap" information between RAM and the Hard Disk, slowing it down significantly.  Increasing RAM is one of the most common ways to improve your computer performance.

Windows and Software Updates

Software Updates

Nearly every week, Microsoft is releasing updates and improvements for Windows.  These updates should automatically be loaded on your computer as long as you have an Internet connection.

You can check your updates as follows:
In Windows XP
  1. Click on Start
  2. Click Control Panel
  3. In the left pane, click Windows Update
  4. On the Windows Update screen, click Review your update history
In Windows 7
  1. Click the Start button Picture of the Start button.
  2. In the search box, type Update
  3. In the list of results, click Windows Update.
  4. In the left pane, click View update history.
Microsoft Windows is the most important piece of Software on your computer.  It is also the most common computer operating system in the world.  Over the years, Microsoft has released different versions of Windows:

  • 1985 - Windows 1.0
  • 1987 - Windows 2.0
  • 1990 - Windows 3.0
  • 1992 - Windows 3.1
  • 1995 - Windows 95
  • 1998 - Windows 98
  • 2000 - Windows ME
  • 2001 - Windows XP
  • 2007 - Windows Vista
  • 2009 - Windows 7
  • 2012 - Windows 8
  • 2013 - Windows 8.1
  • 2015 - Windows 10


Check what version of Windows you have on your computer.  Here's how: 
  1. Click on Start Button
  2. Right-mouse-click on Computer (This PC)
  3. Click on Properties
The screen with similar information is pictured below: