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CPU or Central Processing Unit - NOT YOUR WHOLE PC

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The CPU is the heart of the system.  The common misconception is that their speed in megahertz (or gigahertz) is the whole story behind the over all performance.  You also must consider the bus speeds, cache size, and internal/external bus widths.

BUS: A data pathway connecting two or more components.  The "wider" a bus (called bandwidth) the more traffic that can move at one time.  Just like a four land highway moves more traffic at once than a two lane highway.

The bus is measured by width in bits and it's speed in megahertz.  In other words, all other things being equal, a 900 MHz CPU with a 200 MHz bus is much faster than a 900 MHz CPU with a 133 MHz bus.

CACHE:  The L2 Cache (Usually housed in the CPU die) is where the CPU stores frequently used commands.  This speeds up common tasks.  The larger the cache, the more commands that can be stored there.

When upgrading the CPU on an system make sure the motherboard will support it.  The motherboard will support minimum and maximum bus sizes and CPU speeds.  The socket or slot type must also match (Socket A, Socket 478, etc).  A wide variety of CPU's can be used in Socket 370 motherboards.  This may be a good "beginners" motherboard.

Today's CPU's need to be cooled!  Get a good fan/heat sink for your CPU!  The more air flow the better to keep things cool inside your PC.

It's a good idea to do a little research before you decide which CPU is the best for you.  DO NOT take the manufacturers word for it.  PC magazines do a lot of testing, and would be a good place to start looking for comparisons.

Clockwise from top left:  P4 (socket 478), Celeron (socket 370), AMD Athlon (Socket A), PII (Slot 1)

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