For Seniors: How to Choose Computer Processor Speed and Memory

When you shop for a computer, you’ll want to pay attention to both processor speed and memory before you buy. Your computer contains a processor contained on a computer chip. The speed at which your computer runs programs or completes tasks is determined in great measure by your computer’s processor speed.

In addition, computers have a certain amount of storage capacity for running programs and storing data. You’ll see specifications for RAM and hard drive memory when you go computer shopping.

Processor speed is measured in gigahertz (GHz). The higher this measurement, the faster the processor. It’s hard to say the speed you should look for because these chips are constantly getting smaller and contain more and more power. However, when you shop, know that the higher numbers give the best performance and factor that into your decision depending on your needs.

Just like processor speed, the specific numbers for RAM and hard drive memory change frequently as well. As a general guideline, look for higher RAM numbers if you feel you need more storage capacity.

Here are a few other pointers to keep in mind:

  • RAM is the memory needed to simply access and run programs. RAM chips come in different types, including DRAM, SDRAM, and the latest version, DDR2. Look for a minimum of 1 gigabyte (GB) of RAM for everyday computing.

  • RAM chips are rated by access speed, which relates to how quickly a request for data from your system can be completed. You might see RAM speed measured in megahertz (MHz). Today, 800 MHz could be considered good access speed.

  • Your hard drive has a certain capacity for data storage measured in gigabytes (GB). These days you should probably look for a minimum of a 160GB hard drive, but hard drives can come with a range of huge capacities, with the largest being measured in terabytes (TB, measured in thousands of gigabytes).

  • Your computer will require some RAM to run the operating system. Windows 7 requires 1GB of main memory and 16GB of hard drive space.

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