It may seem blasphemy to the more technically minded but it is an unfortunate fact that the vast majority of computer users not only couldn’t tell you any real specific identifying characteristics about the central processing unit (CPU) or microprocessor which runs their desktop or laptop computer, but wouldn’t really understand it if it was explained to them. The CPU is the essential brain of your computer and it is well worth a few minutes to obtain a basic comprehension of it so that you can determine whether its capabilities are a good match to your uses.

Do you have too much or too little CPU?

One of the most critical factors towards a satisfactory analysis of whether your CPU is too powerful or not powerful enough for your uses is to learn a few basic features of it.

  1. Gigahertz. This is the speed at which your CPU runs. Generally speaking faster is better. However, keep in mind that the faster processors tend to run hotter which means that you’ll have to implement greater capacity cooling and the constant hum of the fans trying to keep that hot running microprocessor cool might drive you mad.
  2. CPU family. Every CPU belongs to a family which is a group of processors which all share similar engineering traits. Within a family (with strange names such as Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, Haswell, etc. for Intel) you can actually compare apples to apples when it comes to performance between the pricier and the cheaper members of the family. However, an entry level Haswell is likely to be faster and run cooler than a virtually identically engineered Sandy Bridge which is a couple of generations behind.
  3. The number of cores. More cores are better than less cores but there is a caveat the size of Kansas at play. If your business uses primarily legacy applications which were coded more than a few years ago, it is likely that they will only recognize a single core, as multiple core CPUs are a relatively new feature. Therefore if you have a four core CPU of a particular family of processors which is running at 2.5 Gigahertz you’ll actually have slower performance than if you were running a dual or even single core CPU from that family which runs at 3.5 Gigahertz.

Are you under or over CPU’d?

Once you’ve identified these three primary characteristics, you can now proceed to determining if you’re over-CPU’d or under-CPU’d. Being under the performance curve can significantly affect your productivity as your computer will constantly be showing you that evil hourglass and not only making you fume through the frustration of the wait, but actually derailing your train of thought for continuing the task at hand when the computer finally makes up its mind to cooperate. However, being over the performance curve is a negative as well, as not only will you have spent way more money than you need to and have a CPU that is somewhat tantamount to taking a Ferrari to the Seven Eleven and back, but you may also be facing the heat issues mentioned previously.

CPU heavy tasks such as video can require pricy processors

If your tasks and those of your staff involve little more than maintaining a basic database, sending emails, posting on social media, and surfing the web, you are completely wasting your money in an Intel Extreme Processor which can retail for well over $1,000. You will find that one of the more entry level CPUs at prices well below $200 will do the trick quite nicely. Naturally, if your business involves video editing or encoding, image manipulation, and other very CPU heavy tasks you might find that the extremely expensive processors are worth every penny you have paid for them.

Microprocessor technology is a massive field which advances at the speed of light so you certainly can’t be blamed for not even trying to keep up. However, if you keep these three critical keys in mind when you’re determining the suitability of your CPUs to your business needs, you’ll be a better informed and wiser computer user.