What Factors Affect Computer Speed

The underside of a CPU interfaces with the rest of the computer.

The central processing unit is the core of your computer. It is the part that performs the equations, and its speed is ultimately the limit at which your computer can perform. There are many different CPUs on the market, however, and several different factors to consider. Each of these factors strengthens the CPU in a different way, making it ideal for certain functions, such as scientific software, video editing or computer games.

Clock Speed

CPUs are most commonly referred to by their clock speed, such as 1.8 gigahertz or 900 megahertz. The higher this speed, the more quickly your computer can process information. A gigahertz (GHz) is equal to 1,000 megahertz (MHz). So with this example, 1.8 GHz is twice as fast as 900 MHz.

Instruction Set

CPUs have their own hardwired programming, known as instruction sets. Over the years, these instruction sets have become faster and more efficient. Because of this, newer models tend to be faster than their older cousins.

Front Side Bus

The front side bus is the interface between your CPU and your computer’s random access memory (RAM). Although your CPU is responsible for processing data, it first needs data to work with. By itself, the CPU is a tabla rosa, a blank slate. It needs instructions and information from the RAM to function. The faster the front side bus, the more quickly your CPU will be able to get new data. A fast clock speed doesn’t do much good if it outpaces your CPU’s ability to gather more data to work with.

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