Comptia A+ Glossary and Definitions List

Whether you are considering a career in information technology or looking to renew your credentials after years in the field, Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) A+ certification is a must.

CompTIA A+ is the certification for computer technicians that covers Microsoft, Apple, and Novell operating systems, among others. It allows specialists to continue professional development and serves as the foundation for future certifications, should you wish to move up the corporate ladder or receive an increase in pay – and who doesn’t want that?

CompTIA continuing education is especially helpful for IT professionals looking for a refresher course in CompTIA’s A+ Exams 220-801 and 220-802 as well as the TestOut PC Pro Certification.



This CompTIA certification is not just for entry-level.

Managers routinely cite CompTIA A+ as a requirement for employment, and employees are more likely to be hired with this professional certification. Below is just a sampling of CompTIA A+ certification terms with which you should be familiar. Review them to see if you could benefit from CompTIA certification:


Access Point: An AP allows a device to be connected to a network. Hotspots are examples of wireless internet APs that connect devices like laptops to a public wireless network.

Active matrix: The liquid crystal display used in flat panel portable computer displays. This replaced the passive matrix previously used and is not powered by circuitry. The active matrix is also known as the “Thin Film Transistor.”

AppleTalk: A proprietary network protocol utilized to connect a Windows operating system and a Mac operating system.

Anti-Static Wrist Strap: A device worn by technicians to safely ground them as they work with electronic equipment. Also known as a “ground bracelet” and worn at the wrist, it prevents electrostatic discharge. Electrostatic discharge (ESD) can happen suddenly, is more common in dry, cool environments and is a job hazard of which all technicians should be aware.


Bit/Byte: These refer to units of storage. A bit – designated by a lowercase “b” – is one binary digit, either zero or one. A Byte – designated by an uppercase “B” – equals eight bits and is the measurement used for computer storage

BIOS: Basic Input/Output System is software that comes standard in PCs and tests the system’s hardware components after the machine is powered on.

Blue Screen of Death (BSOD): Also known as the less dramatic “Stop Error,” this appears after a fatal system error has occurred. One of the more high profile instances of the BSOD occurred during the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics.

Bluetooth: A wireless radio technology that allows information to be conveyed over small distances. Given the distance limitations, it cannot replace Wi-Fi. Bluetooth is popularly used with earpieces and cell phones to promote hands free mobile phone use.


Cellular WAN: A wireless connection made using the cellular phone network. WAN stands for “Wide Area Network.”

CMYK Printing: Named because of the four colors used to make color prints: cyan, magenta, yellow and key – black. This is also known as “four color printing.”

Codec: Software or device that allows for the compression and decompression of data.

CPU: The Central Processing Unit of the computer handles the bulk of the computing function. A well-known brand of CPUs is the Intel Pentium Processor.

CRC: A “Cyclic Redundancy Check” is a precise code used to detect errors in data transmissions.


Defrag: An abbreviation of defragmentation. This is the reorganization process during which files are rewritten into bunched sequential clusters. Defragging is a helpful maintenance method that will make a computer run more smoothly. Many computers now automatically defrag.

DIMM: The Dual In-line Memory Module is the principal memory component used in processors. DIMMs are affixed to a circuit board and have replaced the previously used SIMMs (Single In-line Memory Modules).

DNS: The Domain Name Service is a protocol that allows users to type in a web address name instead of a numerical IP address.

DoS Attacks: Denial of Service Attacks are relatively common among servers and websites, especially those that offer access to financial and business information. A DoS attack renders a website, network or other resource inaccessible to its intended users. In the summer of 2014, popular services Feedly and Evernote were subject to Dos Attacks, during which the attackers demanded ransom money.


External Hard Drive: A device that provides additional storage by connecting via a USB port. It is a popular option, because it is portable and can provide a large amount of storage using a simple plug and play interface.

EMI: Electromagnetic Interference can occur in radio transmissions and copper cabling when the electrical current is disrupted because of either electromagnetic radiation or induction.


Firewall: The name for a security structure that creates a barrier – or firewall – between a secure network and another network that is not known to be secure.

Form Factor: Set qualifications for motherboards that allow for interchangeability between manufacturers and versions. The specifications include the size, placement of mounting holes, ports, etc.


Gigabyte: A unit of measurement used to describe storage space. One Gigabyte (GB) is equal to one thousand megabytes.

Grayware: While not as destructive a malware, grayware can cause aggravation or a small amount of damage to a computer system. Pop up ads and windows that can track user behavior, and even breach security, are a common manifestation of grayware.


HDMI: The High-Definition Multimedia Interface transmits uncompressed audio and video data, thus essentially converting a computer or other device into a television.

Hotfix: Also called a Quick Fix Engineering update (QFE update), this is the name given to a software update released to specific customers to fix a particular issue.


IEEE: The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is billed as the “world’s largest professional association for the advancement of technology.” As such, they establish standards for the computer technology industry. IEEE currently has over 1,300 standards or projects under development.

ISDN: Integrated Services Digital Network is an internet connection that utilizes a phone line but allows for the transmission of voice, data and other services.


Jargon: A common mistake made by information technicians is to use overly technical terminology, also known as jargon, to explain one’s work or mission. This can confuse and frustrate clients. Success in the field of information technological often depends on being able to explain issues and projects in a way that non-technical colleagues can understand.


Kerberos: A protocol used to authenticate networks via secret-key encryption. It was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and named after a character from Greek mythology.


Latency: This is the term for the span of time that passes while the data makes its way to the recipient. This can be a particular problem with slow internet connections or applications with video, like Voice-Over-Internet Protocol (VoIP). An example would be a video conference set up using Skype or another VoIP program. The delay between when one party speaks and the other person sees and hears them is called latency.

Localhost: A term that refers to the computer in use. The administrative computer on a network is also referred to as the localhost.

Loopback: An interface that allows for testing of a system without the possibility of causing damage, because the data is transmitted back to its original source.


Malware: A general term used to describe harmful software that will disrupt or grant access to computer operations. Examples include spyware, viruses and adware.

Motherboard: The circuit board that houses the CPU and memory. Daughterboards connect to the motherboard to expand a computer’s capabilities.

MSCONFIG.EXE: A system management tool that identifies problems and issues in the Microsoft Windows startup functions.


Network: A group of connected computers between which data can be shared. Networks could be small – like peer-to-peer networks – or large, connecting different networks across a vast geographic range – like wide area networks.

NTFS: Microsoft’s New Technology File System provides greater security and other improvements of previous file systems.


OCR: Thanks to Optical Character Recognition, documents and images are able to be read, searched and edited electronically. OCR refers to the conversion of hard copy images or documents into text that is readable by a computer.

ODD: CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray are all examples of Optical Disc Drives, which use lasers of electromagnetic waves to read or write data onto the disks.


Packet: A packet is the grouping of data that carries information. For example, emails are sent and received as a succession of packets.

Password Management: This software manages personal and administrative passwords for various workstations and applications in a secure and effective way. Some technicians utilize password management software that organizes PIN numbers, codes and passwords by storing them securely.

Peer-to-Peer: A type of network in which there is no separate server. Each computer in the peer-to-peer network acts as both the server and the client. A downside to this classification of network is that the security of the network is controlled by each user, therefore it is considered less secure than other types of networks.

POST: A Power-On Self Test is run every time a computer is turned on and notifications of errors are given in the form of beep codes and on-screen error messages.

Protocol: A standardized, definite set of rules and established format that allow various systems and programs to exchange information. Examples include Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP), Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), and Domain Name Service (DNS).


QuadWord: Another name for 64 bits, or four times the value of a word, which is 16 bits

Quarantine: The process of removing a potentially harmful device or file from the network or workstation so it cannot be opened or used. A file can be quarantined by anti-virus software or an individual workstation can be quarantined by disconnecting it from the network so it is not connected to other computers.


Restore: Running a system restore allows users to roll back to a previous setting by backing up critical files.

Remote Assistance: A technique commonly used by information technology professionals to provide support without needing to speak to the client in person or over the phone. The client can permit the technician access to their desktop, or they can communicate via chat over a network connection.

RJ: Used mostly in the United States, Registered Jacks are standardized connectors and wiring used in telecommunications. Common RJs include RJ11, RJ14, RJ21, RJ35, RJ45 and RJ48. The RJ11 connector is used in modem and telephone cabling.


Safe Mode: An environment in which a limited form of the operating system is used for troubleshooting issues. The information technology professional can then circumvent the issue and address the cause of the problem.

Server: Made up of hardware and software, this is the name of the system that provides the network service. The advent of cloud computing can combine and share server resources.

S/PDIF: The Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format is a coaxial or fiber optic cable created to connect a sophisticated audio system to a computer.

SSD: Solid State Hard Drives is flash memory that works more quickly than a traditional hard drive but is more costly than a traditional hard drive.

Surge Protector: An important device used to guard a computer from power surges by regulating the power flow from the power outlet to the computer.

System Root: The highest level directory used to locate log files, active drives and other important data.


Temporary Internet Files: A common directory in Windows Operating Systems that stores the cache from web browsers, allowing those sites to load rapidly on subsequent visits. Examples include .TMP files and the web cache. Over time, these files can become quite large and result in a decrease in performance if they are not deleted.

Thumb Drive: Also called a flash drive, jump drive, memory stick or USB drive, a thumb drive is a portable flash memory card with a USB port. This type of drive has replaced hard and floppy disks as well as CDs.

Topology: The physical – arrangement of tangible components – or logical – conceptualized data flow –arrangement of a network. Examples of topology include star and ring designs.


UPS: An Uninterruptable Power Supply will supply emergency power to a desktop in the event of a total power failure, thus preventing a crash. However, a UPS is not intended to keep a computer running indefinitely. The computer should still be shut down immediately, even though the UPS provides power.

USB: The Universal Serial Bus is a standard connector widely used today. Many peripheral devices, including flash drives, MP3 players and digital cameras, connect using a USB.


Voltage Rates: The European voltage rate is 230 volts, and the American voltage rate is 115 volts. Some devices can switch between the two rates via a switch located on the device.

VOIP: Voice-Over-Internet Protocol delivers voice and video data over an internet connection. Common examples include Skype, Google Talk and FaceTime.

VPN: A Virtual Private Network allows employees to work from home or while travelling. A VPN uses a secure connection to virtually access an established physical network.

VRM: The Voltage Regulator Module is typically built into the motherboard and ensures a consistent voltage level flow.


WAP: The Wireless Application Protocol is the standard by which information is accessed over a handheld wireless device.

Windows: The operating system created by Microsoft. It is the most widely used of all operating systems. Microsoft Windows was first released in 1985 and is currently on version Windows 8.1

Wireless Router: A device connected to the wireless signal access point that transmits the signal wirelessly.

Working Directory: The current directory of the filing system on a computer or the location where programs are stored while they are in use.

Word: A word is equal to 16 bits.


XGA: Extended Graphics Array is a graphical standard that supports more colors than previous standards.


ZIF: A Zero Insertion Force is a socket that uses a lever to thrust the contacts apart, thus little force is needed for insertion into the circuit.

So, did you know all of these terms? Did some sound more familiar than others? If this small sampling of terms is new to you or the definitions didn’t come to mind quickly, consider a refresher course in CompTIA certification.

In a competitive job market, having certification can set you apart from other applicants and help you land your next job. Comptia A+ Certification is granted after passing two exams, each of which have a maximum of 90 questions and will last 90 minutes:

  1. CompTIA A+ 220-801 covers the fundamentals of computer technology, installation and configuration of PCs, laptops and related hardware and basic networking.
  2. CompTIA A+ 220-802 covers the skills required to install and configure PC operating systems, as well as configuring common features) for mobile operating systems, Android and Apple iOS.

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