Chapter 5. Processors

The processor, also called the CPU (Central Processing Unit), is the engine that drives the system. Replacing the processor requires some careful research to ensure that the new processor is compatible with the current motherboard and other system components, but a processor swap, properly done, can be one of the highest bang-for-the-buck upgrades you can make. In some cases, you can double or even triple overall system performance by spending $50 to $100 on a new processor. In this chapter, we tell you everything you need to know to choose and install a replacement processor.

The Truth About Processor Performance

Processor companies do nothing to discourage longstanding myths about processor performance. It's true that in the early days of microprocessors, a new model was often two or even three times faster than the model it replaced and sold for little or no more. In those halcyon days, the fastest available processors were sometimes 10 times faster than less expensive models that were still being sold.

There was also a favorable bang-for-the-buck ratio. If you paid twice as much for a processor, it was probably considerably more than twice as fast. We remember testing our 4.77 MHz IBM PC/XT against a 16 MHz 286 PC/AT when both were still being sold. The latter system ...

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