Wednesday, 23 November 2011

What does it do? (1 of 4) Part 1 - CPU

I've decided to write 4 articles covering the major components of a computer and what they do.  I'll try and keep it simple, we don't need complicated articles do we?

The four main components are CPU, Ram, Hard Drive and Graphics Card. We'll start with the CPU.

A CPU is a Central Processing Unit. It's the main chip in the middle of everything that goes on in your computer and is designed to do all the calculations necessary to run programs, and "compute" anything mathematical.

Every time you switch on your computer, fire up windows, run a program, anything at all, your CPU is calculating lots of instructions per second.

Ok, a few mind blowing facts.. hold on to something.

A CPU with a 1ghz speed can process about 1 billion instructions per second.  Mhmm that's a lot.

Modern CPU's are build in layers. Things have got so fast, that a single layer can no longer go any faster. So they've built these layers (called Cores) so that they can simultaneously process information.  The latest chips have 6 cores, each running at about 3.3ghz. So 6 x 3.3 = 19.8ghz.  So, in theory, the modern processor could calculate around 19.8 billion instructions every second.

Don't take this figure as absolute. There are a lot of things that affect this speed, but it's a helpful guide when you are choosing a PC. The higher the CPU Speed, and the more cores it has, the faster it can process the information.

The CPU is responsible for the speed in which a computer runs. In the next article, we'll look at how RAM plays a part and what its role is.

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