Have you ever wondered what is inside your computer? Wonder no more! Let’s demystify the parts and pieces of the computer one step at a time!

In terms of what the CPU does, it is simple. The Central Processing Unit does all the computations and calculations that the other components ask it to do. Whether it is opening an application, running a word processor, or organizing data, the CPU is the brainpower behind it.

This topic brings up two really big questions.

  1. What do all the numbers (like 3.2 Ghz) mean on the spec sheet on a computer?
  2. Does having a higher number and more cores = a faster computer?

What do the numbers mean?

The numbers represent the clock rate of the CPU. You can imagine this like a clock you would hang on the wall! For every second or tick on the clock, only so many things can happen. However, after a full cycle of 60 seconds for example, you could get a lot more things done in comparison to just a single second.

That is how it works for the CPU. A Hertz (Hz) is a unit of measurement for a single cycle. One Gigahertz (GHz) is equivalent to 109 Hz or 1,000,000,000Hz. On a computer, this represents the frequency of the CPU’s master clock rate. So 3.2 GHz would be a master clock rate of 3,2000,000,000Hz!

Faster CPU + cores = Faster Computer?

Having a CPU with a faster clock rate and having more processors could allow you to do more. However different CPUs from different manufacturers handle tasks and instructions differently. Comparing two different CPUs at 3.2GHz may or may not end up testing at the same speed. For example, computer one may take 3 cycles to do the math equation (2+2)/2, where as computer two may only require 2 cycles. Different tasks take different CPUs different amounts of time to complete. However, having more processors allows more tasks and instructions to be completed simultaneously.

A piece of poorly written software can run equally poorly on a single core or a multicore system. Just as a really well written program can run equally well on a single core CPU if it wasn’t written with a multicore system in mind. CPU clock speeds and the number of processors is not always the best way to judge a computer’s capabilities!