What does the CPU do?

CPU stands for Central Processing Unit. Yeah, OK, but what does that mean? Often just called ‘the Processor’, this is the thing that actually does the thinking in your computer. The faster the processor, the zippier things run.

How do you know how fast your processor is?
The speed of a processor is measured in Gigahertz (GHz). That’s how many ‘think-cycles’ it can do per second. So if a CPU can do 3 GHz, it’s going through 3 billion thought-processes each second. While that may seem like a lot, opening a program like Word involves a godzillion of these thought-processes, since when you get down to it, computers only think in ‘yes or no’ (binary) systems. It’s actually pretty amazing how much information is processed even in the most simple-seeming tasks.

What’s the deal with these cores?
Once the current processor technology got to about 3GHz, they found that it became pretty hard to make them faster, without them becoming super-hot. So they were like: “What if we just put two processors next to each other, so that they can work as a team?” – and so the age of multiple cores began. Now it’s as though each CPU has many brains built inside itself. Dual-core Processors have two cores that the system can use for different things at the same time, just like Quad-core’s have 4 … cores. The more the merrier, right? – That’s true, IF… the operating system and the programs are written well enough to make efficient use of these different cores. After about 2009, programmers started getting the idea!

AMD vs. Intel
These are the two major processor manufacturers that are competing today. AMD is usually a better bet for budget PC’s, they offer a great bang-for-the-buck, and it’s easier to match components that will be compatible with future/past technologies. So you can easily find mother-boards that will work with both older and newer AMD processors. That’s not as much the case with Intel, even though they’re trying to get better about it. In the past, each of Intel’s new processor technologies came with a different looking plug-system (socket), so you often couldn’t even fit an older Intel processor on a new motherboard. Intel’s processors are a little ahead of the game in terms of their performance, but you do pay for what you get.


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