What you need to get started

Becoming confident in using the internet can help you stay in touch with friends and family, manage your bills, go shopping, watch TV, and lots more. We've brought together some tips to help newcomers get the most from the online world.

Getting online is easy, but if you want to use the internet at home, you’ll need some equipment. If you're using a public computer (or a friend's), you can skip straight to How to use your computer

If you're not sure about any of the terms we use, just check our jargon buster.

The basics

Which device will you use to get online?

These days, there are many different devices you can use to get online. Lots of people use desktop computers and laptop computers, while tablets are increasingly popular.

Desktop computer

A desktop computer comes with a separate monitor (screen), keyboard and mouse. It’s hard to move a desktop computer around, so you'll need some permanent space in your home for it.

If you find it hard to see or use small buttons, a desktop computer could be a good choice, as the keyboard and monitor are larger than they are on most laptops.  

Laptop or notebook computer

A laptop, or notebook, computer is smaller than a desktop, has the monitor and keyboard built in and includes a rechargeable battery. This makes it small enough to carry around, but as the keyboard and monitor are usually smaller, a desktop computer may be better if you have sight loss or reduced dexterity.  


Tablets are smaller than laptops and even easier to carry around. They have a touchscreen instead of a keyboard or mouse. You can download loads of different mini programmes – called apps – to run on your tablet.

Where can I buy a computer?

To get you started, GetOnline@Home has fantastic offers on refurbished computers. For around £100 you can buy an up-to-date, internet-ready computer to use at home. There are discounts for people who receive certain benefits. You might also want to have a look at our range of computers in the BT Shop.  

A phone line

The most common way to connect to the internet is through a phone line. The information you send and receive over the internet travels through your phone line from the internet to your computer.

If you already have a BT phone line, then it's easy to add a broadband internet connection. If not, don't worry – you can ask for one when you order your broadband internet connection.

A broadband internet connection and equipment

Broadband is the name given to any fast, permanent internet connection. The easiest way to connect to the internet at home is with broadband for a fixed monthly price.

When you buy a broadband internet connection from us, we'll send you everything you need to connect your computer to the internet. More about BT Broadband

How to use your computer    

Right, you've got everything set up, so let's learn how to use it. If you haven’t used a computer before, don't be fazed – they're designed to be as easy as possible to use!

A computer is made up of three basic parts – monitor, keyboard and mouse – and here's how to use them. (If you’re using a tablet to get online, it’s a bit different, so you can skip to Using a touchscreen or touchpad.)

Your computer monitor

A computer’s screen is called a monitor. If you use a desktop computer, your monitor will look like a small TV screen. On a laptop computer, the monitor will be on the inside of the 'lid'.

Using a keyboard

All computers come with a keyboard that lets you type in information. Most keyboards have the standard 'qwerty' keys that you’d get on a typewriter – with extra keys for different uses.

Using a mouse

A mouse is a hand-sized device that lets you move an arrow (called a cursor), around the computer screen. When you move the mouse with your hand, the pointer will move around the screen. You can then click the mouse buttons to select things and move them about.

Most types of mouse have a left and a right button – and sometimes a wheel in between – but you'll probably be using the left button the most.  

Using a touchscreen or touchpad    

Instead of a mouse and keyboard, tablets have a touchscreen, which you work by tapping and swiping it with your fingers. Lots of laptops also have a touchpad, which you can use instead of a mouse.

Top tip

If small buttons and fiddly equipment can be difficult for you, there are lots of ways you can make things easier. AbilityNet have a section of their website called My Computer My Way which has loads of helpful tips and advice on how to adapt the way you use a computer.

Practice makes perfect

It takes time to learn something new. So if there are some keys on the keyboard you're not familiar with, or you're having trouble getting used to the mouse, then don't worry – that's normal! Practising is the best way to master using a computer. So why not register for free courses with Learn My Way?  

The Get IT Together handbook

Welcome to the BT Get IT Together handbook, your printable guide to getting online. It's packed full of hints and tips with lots of space to make your own notes.

Find a free course near you

Find a course near you
See where your nearest UK Online Centre is and get free computer lessons. There are a huge range of venues and courses available, so finding help near you couldn't be easier!

We're here to help

Go to our Help and support section for tips and advice on making this site easier to use, using our services, understanding impairments, and contacting us. To get in touch right now, use the Email, Chat or BSL links.