What makes a computer fast

What makes a computer fast?

What is it that you mean by a fast computer? Does it mean fast Internet? Fast games? Fast email? Fast graphics? Fast calculations? Fast windows? Fast downloads? Fast installs? Fast boot-up? Fast shutdown? Each of these things can have a speed of their own? I'll try to answer generally in order to cover my bases.

There are many things that contribute to the speed of a computer. Hardware is the main ingredient for a fast machine. Next comes the Operating System. Software is next in line for contributing to speed. Finally, your internet connection plays a significant role. But this doesn't really answer the question.

The hardware that makes a computer fast is tied to a few main components. First is the processor speed. You might hear about such chips as the Duron, Dual Core, Quad Core, Centrino, Pentium, Athalon, Ryzen, with such things as 1.8Ghz and 3.5Ghz. These are all types of chips and various speeds and power at which they operate. Next we have the FSB or Front Side Bus, which determines how fast the data gets to the processor. The faster the data gets to the processor; the faster the processor can begin processing.

If that wasn't enough to spin your head around, there is the speed of the memory. We're talking about actual RAM not virtual memory. Memory is a series of chips that stores information for the central processor, but only while the computer is turned on. When you turn off your computer the memory chip is erased! The faster the memory the more often said information can be retrieved and manipulated by the processor.

Then there is the Hard Drive or Solid State Drive, the place inside your computer that holds your documents, the operating system, pictures, and everything else that is stored locally, on your computer. When this storage drive is slow, the other components in your computer have to wait for information to be retrieved before they can do anything with it. (Oh, and Don't confuse drive space with computer memory. They are completely different things. Computer memory is electric information that is fast and goes away quick, like short term memory.)

The next speed is the Operating System (or OS). The operating system (i.e., Windows) uses resources (the hardware) on the computer to bring you the Internet, e-mail, movies, entertainment, and photos. Some operating systems use more resources than others, but generally newer the operating systems use more resources, and if you don't have the resources, your computer will slow.

Aside from the OS, the more software that gets installed onto a computer the slower the computer will operate. This is not true of all software, but most of the popular ones load a little bit of themselves every time the computer is started. This slows down the computer. Just because the software is installed, doesn't mean its running. So, be mindful of which applications are running on your computer.

To counter all these little programs eating up resources, it is best to have as much memory as possible in your computer. Memory should not be confused with what is called Virtual Memory, which is not memory at all. It is actually a file on your local drive that pretends to be memory. If you don't have enough memory, your computer will start using Virtual Memory, and it will slow your computer down. Virtual memory has it uses, but it should be used rarely.

Some of the pitfalls of a slow computer: Most windows computers need some sort of virus protection. Mac and Linux, have fewer worries in the virus department. Virus protection, at least the popular ones, require more and more resources to protect windows from attacks. Then there's spyware, rootkits, spam, and pop-ups that are a constant bane to computer users. A slow computer will be slow to catch and remove these sorts of malware (bad-software). To get better performance, use protection that requires less resources.

This leads us right to the Internet and how it affects the speed of your computer. Dial-up connections, even on a fast computer, are slow. Too much information needs to pass between your computer and the internet to really be of any use to you. Virus protection updates are almost impossible at dial-up speeds. Dial-up inhibits your access to many webpages, causes delays in email, and limits the quality feedback response required for learning to use your computer and the Internet.

Having a fast Internet connection does not mean you'll have a fast computer. If your computer is slow, a fast Internet connection will not make any real difference in your computers performance.

    • Slow Computer + Fast Internet = Slow Computer on the Internet.

    • Fast Computer + Slow Internet = Computer Slowed by the Internet.

    • Faster computer + Faster Internet = Quality experience on the Internet.