Buy the Right CPU Processor for Your Computer

Steve Webb Steve Webb

When computers slow down, most consumers believe they need to purchase an entire new system to restore quality operational performance. That is analogous to saying that when a brain slows down, the person requires an entirely new body. The central processing unit (CPU) of a computer is the brain of the whole operation.

Buy the Right CPU Processor for Your Computer

CPUs orchestrate a seamless symphony of internal computer components to deliver superior computing performance. When a CPU incurs damage or tires, as is the lingo within some techie circles, the time has come for desktop and laptop users to upgrade their systems, not by purchasing an expensive new system, but investing some time and money into finding the right CPU replacement.

CPUs are available at national electronics chains, but the best bet is to shop for CPUs in smaller computer specialty shops, where the operators carry a wider variety of CPUs than those carried by big box retailers. The e-commerce explosion has created a niche for eBay, where sellers and buyers converge to consummate CPU transactions. Before shopping for CPUs, consumers should first perform research that includes receiving an overview of CPUs, learning about the types of CPUs, and writing down the factors that determine the right CPU for your computer.

Overview of a CPU

The CPU goes by several names, including central processor, and simply, processor. As the brains of any computer, the CPU is the single most important component for determining computer power. On large workstation systems, such as those found in corporate headquarters, multiple printed circuit boards contain dozens of CPUs. Personal computers only require one chip, which electronics experts refer to as a microprocessor. As an internal component of both desktop and laptop computers, CPUs possess multiple metallic connectors that attach to the motherboard underside. The CPU inserts into a CPU socket, with the pin or connector side facing down.

Each desktop and laptop motherboard only supports a CPU within a specified range. Consumers who want to upgrade their computer system should check with the CPU manufacturer first to confirm the CPU range. Contemporary CPUs also include an attached heat sink and minute fan that dissipates heat, and thus, ensures the CPU does not break down. CPUs commonly possess two components, which are the arithmetic logic unit (ALU) that performs logical operations, and the control unit (CU) that extracts and executes computing instruction from a computer's memory.

Types of CPUs

Since the CPU handles all of the computing instructions and logical calculations for a computer, it is important to note the types of CPUs. Software program operation speeds largely depend on CPU power, and that power is determined by the type of CPU. Intel and AMD represent the two leading CPU manufacturers, and each company constructs the three primary types of CPUs. The following chart lists each type, along with brief descriptions.


Type of CPU


Single core

Oldest type of CPU

Not good at multitasking computer commands

One operation must finish, before the next operations begins

Performance depends on clock speed, which is an indication of processor power

Dual core

Functions as two CPUs housed in one unit

Handles multiple data streams simultaneously

To maximise performance, software programs should possess simultaneous multi-threading technology (SMT)

Quad core

Four cores on one CPU

Workload evenly split among the four cores

Allow for the greatest level of multitasking

Best CPU for gaming


Most contemporary desktops and laptops possess multi-core CPUs. Each core operates its own cache and each core can communicate with other cores. Cores also share information within the same cache. AMD has introduced the GPU core, which improves a computer's math functions. The GPU technology allows the CPU to run sophisticated graphics programs that otherwise are the sole domain of science and healthcare laboratories.

Factors to Consider Before Buying a CPU

Many consumers decide to upgrade their processors, not because the CPUs have incurred irreparable damage, but because more advanced software has rendered the CPUs obsolete. Buying a CPU involves considering a list of factors that consumers must rank in terms of importance. In addition to the following buying factors, consumers also must weigh the benefits of buying new or used CPUs. New CPUs cost more, but they typically deliver superior performance. Unless consumers need CPUs for handling basic operations, they should stretch their budgets and invest in new CPUs when the time comes to upgrade their desktops or laptops.


Either the CPU's megahertz or gigahertz determines processor performance. The speed number depicts how often the internal clock ticks in cycles per second. For example, the internal clock of a CPU that possesses a speed of 4.0 GHz ticks 4 billion times every second. However, the rate of the clock ticking frequency does not guarantee high performance. Clock efficiency, which measures by the number of instructions performed per clock cycle, also plays a role in CPU performance.


The cache allows a desktop or laptop processor to have quick access to RAM. Slow operating computers typically possess poor caching, which requires users to wait for data to come from the system's memory. The right level cache allows data to be temporarily stored for faster access. Level three caches provide users with the quickest access to computer data.


CPUs may be an internal computer component, but they are part of a larger operational platform that communicates with other computers and servers. Data buses, which are the circuits that transfer data, communicate with chipsets constructed on the motherboard. The chips direct data from the computer to other devices. The speed of the data transfer measures in bandwidth, which splits into memory and input/output (I/O). The wider the bandwidth, the faster the CPU can direct data traffic.

Socket Set

Every processor fits a specific CPU socket, which is the internal component that connects the CPU to the motherboard. CPU buyers should refer to the motherboard to ensure the socket set is compatible with the CPU under consideration. Consumers can buy top-of-the-line CPUs, but quality means nothing when the CPU cannot connect to the motherboard. Consumers who have questions about their socket sets should consult with electronics specialists or go online to electronics forums. Some examples of socket sets include socket F and socket S1.

Intel vs. AMD

Outside of debating whether consumers should buy an Apple or PC laptop, the next most contentious computer issues revolve around the CPU brand. As the two behemoths that dominate the processor market, both Intel and AMD have devout fans who lavish praise on their favourite CPU manufacturer in online forums and by writing CPU reviews. The reigning CPU manufacturer appears to be Intel. The company's Core i7 range ranks as the fastest of any other CPU on the market and the CPU definitely outperforms any chip AMD offers. However, price can deter shoppers from buying the best Intel processors. Consumers who do not need high-end power, and shop on tight budgets, can find a high-quality AMD processor to meet their computing speed needs.

Where to Shop?

Buying the right CPU for a computer involves extensive research, not only into the CPU, but also the venues that offer CPUs. Avoid big box electronics shops, as larger retail outlets typically do not carry a wide selection of CPUs. The best for shopping for CPUs in person are smaller, computer specialty shops that offer several CPU models. However, the best venue for finding high-quality, affordable CPUs is on the leading auction website, eBay.


They say there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. While it is tough to argue with death, some people have figured out how to avoid the second so-called certainty in life. In place of taxes, substitute computer speed decline. Everyone eventually has to upgrade their systems because of both hardware and software advances that require more powerful computers. To obtain that power, consumers upgrade their CPUs, the brains of the desktop and laptop computers. CPUs have evolved through the years to keep pace with all of the computer innovations, but the factors that consumers must consider when the time comes to upgrade CPUs have virtually remained the same.

Improved computing speed comprises the main reason why consumers enter the CPU market, and hence, CPU speed is the most important buying factor. The rate at which the internal clock clicks, combined with clock efficiency, determine computing speed. Consumers also must list, in order of importance, buying factors that include cache, bandwidth, and socket set. They have to decide whether to buy in person or online, as well as choose between new and used CPUs. The last factor, and the one most hotly contested, is whether Intel or AMD produces the highest-quality CPUs.