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Last time in Ken’s Corner, we looked at cores and threads and how more is better in determining the speed of your computer’s processors. However, just because a computer has more cores doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a faster processor.

Clock Speed Counts

Clock speed is another factor in how fast a processor is. While cores determine how many operations can be done at once, clock speed measures how fast each core completes that task. Clock speed is measured in gigahertz (GHz) and a higher number means a faster speed. If you’re choosing between two computers that both quad-core processors, the one with the highest number of GHz is going to be faster.

Some computer technicians will tell you the number of cores in a computer is most important, while others will say GHz is the true test for speed. In reality, both factors are equally important and a little give-and-take when comparing numbers will generally result in the same performance.

While it’s tempting to say you need a processor with more cores and a high clock speed, you really don’t in most cases. Sure, if you play a lot of modern-day video games, you need more of both (I’m 60 years old going on 22; my current processor is an octocore processor at 3.6 GHz. Curse my video game addiction!), but if you’re not doing much more than e-mail, some light web-surfing and solitaire, a quad-core processor running around 1.6 GHz will definitely fit your needs.

How many gigabytes of memory you have is another factor in speed. Remember how memory is the information your computer is using in order to do its calculations? As we’ve just learned, clock speed allows your processor to work faster while cores will determine how many operations it can do at once. The size of your memory determines how much information is stored that can be accessed quicker than it can in storage.

In short, gigabytes control how much information your computer can access in memory, cores determine how much the system can access at one time, and clock speed measures how fast that information is processed. Those three factors all affect how quickly your computer is.

Eight gigabytes is recommended for memory. Not long ago, four gigabytes was considered enough, but Windows 10 runs much better on eight. Most users don’t need more than eight gigabytes, but high-end users (video games and intense users of Photoshop-type programs) benefit from more.