How to Choose Features for Faster Computer Performance

By Nancy C. Muir

Your computer contains a processor 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, which is measured in gigahertz (GHz). The higher the GHz, the faster the processor.

When you shop, know that the higher numbers give the best performance, so factor that into your decision, depending on your needs.

Computers have traditionally used hard drives to store programs and data. Many computers use a solid state drive rather than a hard drive. The access speed (how fast your computer retrieves data) of solid state drives is much higher than the access speed of hard drives. If you need a computer that processes information very quickly, look for one with a solid state drive.

The data storage capacity (measured in gigabytes) of a solid state drive is generally lower than a hard drive; therefore, the amount of large files you can store on a system with a solid state drive may be limited.

Another factor involved in performance is whether your processor has multiple cores. Multiple core means that two or more processors are involved in reading and executing software instructions as you use your computer. Most processors today are multi-core processors, such as the i3, i5, and i7 processor lines from Intel. Those with two processors are dual-core; those with four processors are quad-core; and processors with six cores are hexa-core.

The bottom line with cores is that the more cores you have and the faster they are, the faster your computer can process instructions because all the cores can work at the same time, which makes multitasking possible. Multitasking is running several programs at one time, such as playing music, downloading files from the Internet, running an antivirus scan, and working in a word processor.

In addition to your processor, computers have a certain amount of storage capacity for running programs and accessing frequently used data that can affect performance. You’ll see specifications for RAM when you go computer shopping. RAM, which stands for random access memory, is a measure of the capacity for running programs; the higher the RAM, the more quickly your computer can juggle multiple tasks, therefore increasing performance. RAM chips come in different types, such as DRAM, and the latest version, DDR4, but whichever type of RAM you see in the computer specs, make sure your computer contains at least 2 gigabytes (GB) of RAM memory.