What You Need to Know about Processor Speed

Processor speed is one of the most important factors to consider if you are going to buy a computer. Various types of processors exist, some made for laptops and others for desktop computers. Using the overclocking method, a processor can be made to run faster than it was originally intended to.

The processor speed or clock speed determines how fast the computer will perform operations and computations. Speed is measured in hertz. It is frequently referred to as the CPU (central processing unit) speed.

Clock Speed Measurements

Computers run at very high frequencies, so megahertz and gigahertz are used to express their speed. A single megahertz is equal to one million cycles per second. The gigahertz is equal to one billion cycles every second.

If a computer is advertised as running at 2.4GHz, it means the processor can perform 2,400,000,000 cycles per second. A computer that runs at 800MHz can do 800,000,000 cycles every second.

Multiple Cores

Majority of today’s computers have dual core processors. What this means is that separate processors can function in parallel. Dual core processors are common but there are also triple and quad processors available.


There are several types of processors. Some are designed for desktop computers, while others are made for laptops, mobile devices and notebooks. Manufacturers will make different processors. For example, Intel makes the Celeron, Pentium and Core processors. Each one is a processor family with many variants.

AMD produces their own processors: the Sempron, Athlon and Phenom. AMD uses the Radneon processors for notebooks. Intel uses the Celeron and Core processors for laptops.

There are many other types of processors available. A processor is made for a specific computer (i.e., upgrade, built from scratch or pre-assembled).

What is the Socket?

The socket contains the processor. Both the socket and processor are on the motherboard. There is no standard socket design; it usually changes when the processor is modified. Some socket designs can be used with other processors.

Others cannot; once you change the processor, the socket has to be changed too. In some cases, you have to replace the motherboard too when upgrading the processor.

Overclocking and Processor Speed

Overclocking is a method used to increase the speed of the processor. This is attained by increasing the speed of the motherboard bus. The voltage of the power to the CPU is also increased. This will make the computer run faster. However it produces more heat. Overclocking may damage some components.

Overclocking first came into being during the early 1990s. It was a complex process. One had to open the computer casing and switch jumpers on the motherboard. The jumper positions determined the bus speed. By changing them, the computer would be forced to operate at a higher speed.

Today it is much simpler. You just have to reboot the computer and go to the BIOS settings. There you’ll be able to change the bus settings.

While processor speed is important, so is the Random Access Memory (RAM). If you are going to buy a computer, you need to look at the hard disk, video card and other components too.