Get to know your laptop


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What is a laptop?

an open laptop

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In this activity, you’ll get to know your laptop by finding out what it’s used for, how to turn it on and off and the differences between a laptop and a desktop computer.

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What is a laptop used for?

The modern laptop is a powerful computer that can be used almost anywhere. It can be very thin and light, and is sometimes also called a notebook computer.

A laptop is portable with a built-in battery, so you aren’t restricted to using it at home or in an office where it’s plugged into mains power, like a desktop computer.

You can learn more about desktop computers in the What is a computer? course.

a laptop
a laptop with a highlighted screen

The laptop screen

Like a desktop computer, a laptop has a screen that is used to display content. The laptop screen is located on the underside of the lid and can be seen when the laptop is open. Screen sizes vary and are smaller than the screen of a desktop computer.

The laptop keyboard

Your laptop has a built-in keyboard. It is used in the same way as you would use a keyboard on a desktop computer, though it might have fewer keys, if it’s part of a smaller laptop.

You can learn more about using a keyboard in the What is a computer? course.

a laptop with a highlighted keyboard
a laptop with a highlighted touchpad

The laptop touchpad

You can attach a mouse to a laptop if you want to, or you can use the touchpad to control your laptop and give it instructions. A touchpad is also called a trackpad, and we’ll explore it in more detail later in this course.

Turning your laptop on and off

Your laptop has a power button on the side or on top, just above the keyboard. To turn your laptop on, press the power button once. If you want to turn your laptop off, you can shut it down using your operating software, or by pressing the power button.

This will help ensure you don’t lose anything you’ve been working on.

the power button
gently closing a laptop

Putting your laptop to sleep

Your laptop has a sleep function that saves battery, but also protects your data from being lost. Some laptops are set up so that when you close the lid, the laptop goes to sleep.

Other laptops are configured so that if your press the power button while the laptop is on, the laptop goes to sleep instead of shutting down.

You can change what the power button does, and what closing the lid does, in your operating software’s settings.

Waking up your sleeping laptop

When your computer is in sleep mode, the buttons might work differently. Your laptop might be set up so when you open the lid, it wakes up automatically. Or you might need to press the power button briefly, once.

If neither of these work, you can wake up your computer by pressing the Space bar or Enter/Return key. You’ll need to wait a moment, but the computer is awake again when you can see something on the screen.

gently opening a laptop
a laptop plugged into mains power via a charger

Charging your laptop

All laptops come with a power cord that can be plugged into mains power to charge the laptop’s battery. If you’re using the laptop at home, you can keep it plugged into mains power.

Laptops usually show a small red or orange light to indicate they are charging. When the light turns green, that usually means the laptop is fully charged.

a locked padlock

eSafety tip

A laptop’s power cord will have a transformer, usually called a brick, between the wall and the laptop itself. Be careful not to step on this, roll your chair over it, or damage it in any way, or the laptop may no longer be able to charge.

If the laptop isn’t charging, check that the cable from the wall to the brick is properly attached, and that the cable from the brick to your laptop is plugged in securely.

If your charger stops working, you should be able to purchase a replacement.

The camera

Most laptops come with a built-in camera or webcam that can be used to video yourself when you’re speaking to friends and family via a video call.

If your laptop does have a camera, you’ll see a small pinhole on the frame above the screen, often with a small light next to it that will illuminate when the camera is in use.

highlighting the camera
plugging a cord into a USB port

USB ports

Laptops come with one or more USB ports that can be used to plug in other devices, such as a mouse or printer. They can also be used to plug in external hard drives that can be used to store documents, photos and other important files.

Well done!

This is the end of the Get to know your laptop activity. You’ve learned about the different parts of a laptop and how they can be used.

Up next, find out more about the keyboard in the What is the difference between a laptop and desktop computer? activity.

an open laptop