All modern computers have more or less the same interfaces. There are some differences between desktop and laptop computers as well as various mobile devices, but usually all devices have at least the following interfaces (the letters refer to the images below). When you know the different connection ports, you know what devices you can connect to your computer.
AC power connector
The AC power connector is usually located in the back panel of the computer. Please note that the computer should be plugged into a grounded socket and that you should unplug it from both power and network sources during a thunderstorm.
The display port is usually located in the back panel of the computer.
Local area network port (LAN)
Use the Local Area Network (LAN) port to connect your computer to the Internet via a network cable. The LAN socket and cable are easy to recognize due to their special appearance.
Devices that can be connected to the USB port include the mouse, keyboard, digital camera, USB flash drive, scanner etc. The following image shows two USB ports and a USB cable.
Many headphones designed for computer use are connected using a USB connector (see above). Some computers have several different audio ports. These are often colour coded and marked with symbols. There are usually three connectors: audio out (green arrow out or headset), audio in (blue arrow in) and microphone (red microphone).
Many new computers have an HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) port where you can connect e.g. a DVD or Blu-ray player, stereo amplifier or flat-screen TV. HDMI enables high-quality picture and audio transfer between connected devices.
Many computers have a Displayport interface (an alternative to HDMI; see the middle port in the image below), where you can connect the computer display or a stereo amplifier, for example.
Some laptops have expansion card slots. An ExpressCard (EC) slot accepts many kinds of devices, and to a Secure Digital (SD) slot you can insert e.g. a camera memory card for fast transfer of digital photographs.
Wireless network connections
With the exception of desktop computers, all modern devices can connect to wireless networks. Wireless connectivity models include:
- WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network): with WLAN you can connect your computer at home or at the university to a wireless network such as the university network Eduroam (more on wireless networks at UH). A WLAN network covers an area that typically ranges from some tens of metres to some hundreds of metres.
- Bluetooth networks: Using Bluetooth, you can create a short-range connection between, say, a laptop computer and a mobile phone or headphones. This way you can transfer data from the computer to the phone or vice versa. In order to use a Bluetooth network both the devices need to support Bluetooth. The range of the network does not exceed some tens of metres. To connect a device to a Bluetooth network, turn on the Bluetooth functionality on the device.
If you are having trouble connecting to a LAN or WLAN on your computer, you can check their status as follows:
- Windows 7 & 10: Click the network connections icon in the notification area in the lower right-hand corner of the screen (see the image above). This will show you the network connections available to your computer and their current status. If you cannot see the icon, click the triangle-shaped Show hidden icons button in the notification area.