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Jan's Computer Basics:

Processing: Processor Speed

We all are impatient and want our computer to work as fast as possible, and certainly faster than the guy's at the next desk!

Many different factors determine how fast your computer gets things done. Processor speed is one factor. But what determines the processor's speed?

Processor Speed affected by:

clock gif System clock rate = rate of an electronic pulse used to synchronize processing
(Only one action can take place between pulses.)

Measured in megahertz (MHz) where 1 MHz = 1 million cycles per second or gigahertz (GHz) where 1 GHz = 1 billion cycles per second.

This is what they are talking about if they say a computer is a 2.4 GHz machine. It's clock rate is 2.4 billion cycles per second.

Bigger number = faster processing

bus gif Bus width = the amount of data the CPU can transmit at a time to main memory and to input and output devices.
(Any path bits travel is a bus.)

An 8-bit bus moves 8 bits of data at a time.
Bus width can be 8, 16, 32, 64, or 128 so far.

Think of it as "How many passengers (bits) can fit on the bus at once to go from one part of the computer to another."

Bigger number = faster transfer of data

'Word" in different sizes Word size = a word is the amount of data the CPU can process at one time.

An 8-bit processor can manipulate 8 bits at a time.
Processors can be 8-, 16-, 32-, or 64-bit so far.

Bigger the number = faster processing

You want a nice match between the word size and the bus size and the clock. It wouldn't do any good to have a bus that can deliver data 128 bits at a time, if the CPU can only use 8 bits at a time and has a slow clock speed. A huge line of data would form, waiting to get off the bus! When computers gets clogged like that, bad things can happen to your data. It's like people waiting to get into the theater. After a while, some of them may leave!!