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For a long time, processor clock speed was used as a measure of processor performance. This is not necessarily true for newer processors for the following reasons:

  • If two processors are of the same type, higher speed typically means higher performance. With processors of different types, speeds might not be comparable.
  • It is important to make sure your mother board can support the speed of your processor.
  • Many processors use a performance rating instead of speed with a higher number indicating a better-performing processor. However, performance ratings are typically only applicable between models of the same manufacturer.
  • In some cases, buying a processor with double the cache can nearly double the performance.
  • Dual core processors offer better performance, but typically not double. Software must be specially written to take best advantage of the dual core processors.
  • Special instruction sets supported by a processor can increase performance. For example, hyperthreading support on Intel processors can boost performance for specific types of operations.
  • Performance can also be increased by modifying other system components such as adding more RAM, using a faster disk, or improving cooling and ventilation.
  • Overclocking is a feature that causes the processor to operate at a higher speed. Overclocking is typically performed by those who want to get the maximum performance from their systems. Some important things to know about overclocking are:
    • Overclocking can cause system instability, component damage, and can void your warranty.
    • Motherboard bus, processor, and memory settings should be adjusted to match.
    • Overclocking may require more voltage.
    • Overclocking often increases heat output. For this reason, it may be necessary to upgrade your cooling devices.