The processor of a computer is what allows it to perform calculations and to carry out other computer operations. In addition, the processor carries out instructions presented by a computer program, such as a game.
How a Processor Works The processor of a computer, or CPU, acts as its brain and allows it to perform calculations and other functions associated with any programming on the computer. The processor turns the information entered into a binary code consisting of zeros and ones. Once converted, this information goes to the CPU, which uses its Arithmetical Logical Unit, or ALU, to perform any mathematical or logical operations.
In addition, a CPU needs other systems within the computer housing to help it remain functional. One of the biggest enemies of a CPU is the heat generated from performing all the functions associated with running a computer. Most computers use a fan to cool the processor, though some high-end gaming computers use cooling systems to help remove excess heat from the CPU.
The processor completes four basic steps when decoding data, including the following:
- Fetch: When an instruction from a program is uploaded to the computer's memory, it's given its own address number. The processor uses this address to fetch the instruction from the program counter, which tells the CPU the order it should execute the instructions associated with a particular program.
- Decode: The processor also decodes the instructions from programming into binary code so that it can understand them. The CPU uses the ALU to complete this process.
- Execute: When executing the instructions from a program, the processor does one of three things. It performs calculations using the ALU, moves data from one location in the computer's memory to another or moves to a different address within the computer's memory.
- Store: Once the processor has executed an instruction from a program, it must give feedback in the form of output data. This output data is then written to the computer's memory for later reference.
Types of Computer Processors When it comes to choosing a computer processor, users have the choice of two types of microprocessors: Intel and AMD. Intel processors include Celeron, Pentium and Core, each with its own clock speed, which is the speed at which a processor performs the functions associated with its programming. Just like Intel, AMD has its own set of processors, Sempron, Athlon and Phenom, which also have varying clock speeds. When it comes to clock speeds, the higher the number, the faster the processor works. Keep in mind that when upgrading the processor of a computer, users need to make sure that they get a CPU that's compatible with their motherboard and that they take into consideration the heat that the new processor generates. This might require the user to upgrade the cooling capabilities of their computer to account for the heat a faster processor generates.
Overclocking a Processor Overclocking a processor represents another option to installing a newer and faster processor. Many CPUs allow users to set up their processors to run at a faster speed than they are officially rated for. Computer owners need to keep in mind that overclocking a processor voids the warranty on their computer, and they need to make sure they are willing to accept the consequences of overclocking. Things that can go wrong with overclocking include destruction of the CPU, the motherboard or the computer's memory. In addition, overclocking a processor could potentially corrupt a computer's hard drive.