10 Helpful Resources on the Basics For The Computer Illiterate

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computer basicsOver the weekend, I was helping a family member with transferring files to his laptop from his new digital camera. The experience showed me that what many of us take for granted with computers seems like absolute voodoo to many other people. When I told him to open Microsoft Explorer, he looked at me with a blank stare. When I said just hold down the control key to select more than one photo at once, he got up to get himself a stiff drink.

There are a lot of people – particularly older folks – that really want to keep in touch with family and friends, and interact with other people online. Unfortunately, computer technology remains a very real barrier for them. Even basic computer terminology like file transfers, blogging, torrents…it all sounds like a foreign language to a very large part of the population.

In an effort to help bridge the technological gap, I went out in search for free, high-quality online resources that can really help by providing tutorials and information about computer basics.


Unfortunately there’s a lot of crap out there – opportunists trying to sell a DVD that will “teach you computers” for $29.95.  Don’t worry – there are plenty of resources on computer basics that you can use to come up to speed with computers that are absolutely free (MakeUseOf being one of them). In addition to MakeUseOf’s awesome Windows 7 Guide titled “From Newbies to Pros”, I also recommend the following 10 sites for the computer illiterate.

Top 10 Websites To Learn Computer Basics

Jan’s Illustrated Computer Literacy 101

The first site I’d like to touch on is called Jan’s Illustrated Computer Literacy 101. Upon first landing on the site I thought it was from the 1990’s. The design is a bit outdated and the some of the graphics are cheesy, but after browsing through the site you’ll see that Jan offers useful instruction that really will teach computers to someone who absolutely has no clue how computers work.

computer basics

Custom Guide PDF Quick Reference Guide

Another very cool resource I found was a PDF quick reference guide from Custom Guide. While the site sells business training courses, it also offers this very useful two-page quick reference for novice computer users.

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Computer Basics & Beyond

Next up is Computer Basics and Beyond. This site covers basic tips on computer maintenance, Internet browsing, security and more. There isn’t a lot of material, but for someone that is looking for very short, straightforward answers to basic computer issues, this will do the job.

computer basics tutorial

Microsoft’s Digital Literacy

Probably the most professionally done resource to learn computer basics comes directly from Microsoft at the Digital Literacy site. Here, you’ll find  three “curriculum” levels – basic, standard and advanced. Each curriculum level provides a few tutorial videos that will walk the user through a list of lessons.

computer basics tutorial

The videos will request that you install Silverlight. Obviously, this may trip up a novice, but if they can get through the installation, the videos are animated, interactive and very high quality.

University Of North Carolina

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill probably offers one of the best free lists of online PDF instructional material for new computer users that you’ll find anywhere on the net.

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The list of handouts covers everything from computer basics up through an introduction to Craiglist and eBay. These are all high quality, professionally written handouts provided as part of a community workshop series.

Sandy Berger’s Compu-KISS

Another useful site for computer novices to bookmark is Sandy Berger’s Compu-KISS site. Sandy’s site covers just about any aspect of computing that you can imagine. Her tutorials are very short, very simple, and offers screenshots to boot.

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Terry Bellavance Resource Centre

Another community service site is one provided by the The Terry Bellavance Resource Centre in Ontario. It is basically a free online tutorial where you start at the “Introduction” and click “next” – working your way through the illustrated tutorial at your own pace.

Senior’s Guide To Computers

If you know an elderly person that is constantly getting frustrated while trying to use the Internet, point them to the Senior’s Guide to Computers website. It’s not a joke – it’s actually a website devoted to providing technical information about computers and the Internet in a manner that older folks will be able to understand.

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Computer Help A to Z

Computer Help A to Z is another good resource. While it’s formatted a bit like one of those websites seeking to sell subscriptions, it’s actually chock full of free tips and articles on basic computer topics. If you can overlook the cheesy clipart, it’s a great reference site.

Microsoft Office

Finally, the last site for the computer illiterate is the MS Office website. While I’d rarely point any newbie to the Microsoft site for “easy-to-follow” instruction, this site actually has a lot of useful content, like “getting started with…” tutorials for each Office product.

computer basics

So, whether you or someone you know starts to panic at the mere sight of a mouse and keyboard, decide today to face your fears head-on. Read through a few of the articles at these sites, or walk through a couple of tutorials. Before long, you’ll realize that using a computer really isn’t that difficult after all.

Image Credit: Michelle Kwajafa

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Comments (9)
  • Ryan Dube

    Haha! I bet you do!

    I really hope I’m even half as witty as you are when I’m an old fart! ;-)

  • Noj

    OK, Junior, I do appreciate your work, even if you take swipes at us dumolfarts. Yes, I’ve had my share of stiff drinks to deal with computer problems. (Bourbon, usually… Old Grand Dad, of course.) But, if you walk up to 10 computer literate people at their computer and say “Try this challenge: Open Microsoft Explorer as quick as you can. Go!,” you’re gonna get several IE’s and probably a couple of confused stares, “to boot.” Maybe then you’ll be ready for a stiff drink. (BTW, I know what Rye n Doobie means.)

  • Ryan Dube

    Haha! I bet you do!

    I really hope I’m even half as witty as you are when I’m an old fart! ;-)

  • Ryan Dube

    Hey old timer. Yes, meant Windows Explorer. And no, simply holding down the control key won’t select anything – but holding down the control key while you *do* select things with your mouse will keep each thing you select, selected. Good luck gramps, and if you need anything else, let me know. ;-)

  • Noj

    Hey sonny-boy, by “Microsoft Explorer,” did you mean Internet Explorer or the Windows Explorer file management stuff?… Just holding down the control key doesn’t really select anything does it? Your relative and I are easily confused by ambiguous terms and incomplete instructions that you darn whippersnappers carelessly toss around.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.