SUMMARY: Plan on upgrading a computer or buying a new one? Look at more than just the CPU speed for faster performance.
Note that this tip is geared towards beginning computer users...
If you are in the market for a new computer or are considering upgrading an older machine, you might think that the CPU speed is the sole factor in determining how fast you will be able to work. You couldn't be more wrong:
1. Adding more RAM to your computer can speed it up when running many applications simultaneously, opening lots of tabs in your web browser, editing graphics and video, etc. When your computer runs out of RAM it has to page memory to your hard disks, and hard disks are notoriously slower than RAM to access. Don't go out and buy RAM willy-nilly; make sure your computer can handle additional RAM, find out the speed of RAM you can purchase, and make sure your operating system can actually address the additional memory (if you go 4 GB or over you will need to install a 64-bit operating system).
2. Speaking of RAM, faster hard drives can result in significant speed improvements in activities such as starting or shutting down your computer, opening applications, paging memory to virtual memory, etc. For the ultimate in speed, look into SSDs (solid state drives), hard drives that do not have mechanical moving parts and can go much faster than traditional hard drives. You'll pay a lot per GB for this speed, however, so these are best used in a two-drive setup where the smaller SSD holds the operating system and frequently-used applications, and a secondary standard hard drive holds media.
3. Faster video cards can result in huge improvements for Windows, Mac, and other GUIs (graphical user interfaces). Besides seeing a basic overall speed increase, expect to see improvements in playing games, editing large photographs, displaying video, etc. Plus, as video cards need RAM to handle complicated graphics such as 3D-images (think gaming), more advanced (and expensive) cards may contain their own higher-speed memory instead of having to use slower system memory.
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