Following are the basic elements that make up any computer and, of course, affect its performance. We’ll cover some of the elements in more detail later in the chapter.
Your computer’s central processing unit (CPU) is like a car’s engine. A V8 will let you go faster, but a six-cylinder engine will get you around just fine. The V8 makes more sense if you regularly pull a heavy trailer, though. The six-cylinder might be able to pull the trailer on level ground, but it will have trouble on steep hills. If you need to pull an even heavier trailer or need to get up those steep hills fast, the six-cylinder is no longer an option. All computers manufactured since around 2000 have the equivalents of V8 engines for processors.
On most computers, you can replace the processor with one of the same type, but with a higher clock speed. However, the performance gain is usually small. Upgrading to a different type of processor—say, from a Pentium III to a Pentium 4—rarely makes sense, because you have to replace the motherboard and memory at the same time, and the costs can easily approach those of buying a new computer.
If you have a recently manufactured computer, upgrading to a system with a more powerful processor makes sense only in the following scenarios:
You are a speed demon or gadget-hound and want your computer to go as fast as possible, ...