See also: Processors | Hardware

Shortform / Acronym (CPU): Central Processing Unit


The central chip of a computer containing many thousands of transistors, responsible for the processing of data in many information technology appliances. There are a number of types from various manufacturers. The clockspeed of a computer is a rating of its speed and is often measured in megaHertz (millions of cycles per second) however megaHertz is only one method of determining speed. Very high capacity processing power is measured in teraflops, where one teraflop equals one trillion floating point operations per second.

Bus, L1 (level-1) and L2 (level-2) cache, and other factors can affect a processor’s ability. Also, different operating systems treat the processor differently, especially multi-processor systems which have no support with an OS like Windows 98, for instance.

A processor requires external cooling to operate. Overclocking generates more heat than normal. Inside computers fans are used to regulate the running temperature of cpus. These fans can generate substantial noise. Recent advances in heat dissipation have included water cooling that is much quieter.

Weather conditions may elevate temperatures and restrict usage of computer hardware at certain times of the year. This depends upon the design of a chips physical housing within a computing device, the building the computer is located in and local climate. During hostile conditions, airconditioning becomes not only desirable but essential for stable computing. Portable Information Devices are less prone to such problems as they are built to withstand adverse conditions, outside or in a mobile environment.

Volunteer processor power

Donate your unusued processor time to a Distributed Computing Project.

Most computer applications such as Word Processing, e-mail, and other functions only use less than 1% of your processing power, because they spend most of the time waiting for user-input.

And many millions of computers sit idle, while still powered, wasting electricity and time which could otherwise be used for processing information through distributed computing.

Related Topics

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