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How to Upgrade a CPU, part 1

Jan 11, 2010, 21:33 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Carla Schroder)


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"Upgrading a CPU is always a what-if proposition. Sometimes you can do it, sometimes you can't. First question to answer is does your motherboard support a newer CPU? If the answer is Yes, chances are you will then get sucked into a whirlwind of Yes-Buts. Yes, but maybe I'll need a bigger CPU cooler, and maybe there isn't room. Yes, but it doesn't support faster RAM, and shouldn't I have faster RAM to get the most out of my CPU? Yes, but it might require a BIOS upgrade, and do I really want to hassle with that?

"Then there is the question of how many cores. Two, three, four? The more-is-better mentality can suck you into spending a lot of money. Dual-core is easy: yes, two are better than one in nearly all circumstances. Some factors to keep in mind:

"Applications need to be written to take advantage of multiple cores to get any performance increase

"CPU-intensive tasks like audio encoding do better with higher clock speeds. If your choice is two or three cores at higher clock speeds, or quad at lower clock speeds, go with the higher clock speeds and fewer cores

"Multi-threaded tasks go faster on more cores

"Running several applications at one time go faster with multiple cores

"Single-tasking users might as well save their money and stick with single-core CPUs. These are the folks who open one application at a time, do one task at a time, then close it and go to their next task. There is nothing wrong with working like this, and the money saved can go for something fun."

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