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Dated: Aug. 11, 2004

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CPU - Processor

By Brian Maroevich of Cheap-Computers-Guild

If you ever wondered, "What does a CPU do?" Then you have come to the right page...

Maybe you know, maybe you don't. Chances are you don't since you are reading this tutorial...

If you want to learn the basic function of the CPU let's see what the abbreviation CPU means because it is important to the discussion and answer to "What does a cpu do?"

CPU is the short name for Central Processing Unit, and is pronounced as separate letters. Next comes the short explanation of the CPU as a whole. It's is the brains of the computer. Sometimes it is also called the processor or central processor.

The CPU will likely be the larger of the chips on the mainboard inside your PC.


What does a CPU do, Part 1

If you bought a new computer, the CPU will be covered by a heatsink and fan. Keep in mind that the heatsink and fan are extremely important. If there are no such components the CPU would get too hot to work and possibly melt or burn out. And be very careful when you want to replace the fan if you need to have a look at your CPU.

What does a CPU do, Part 2

So, it is time to move on the performance of your CPU and the basic functions that it carries out.

As it was mentioned before, the CPU for the computer is similar to a human brain. It is artificial but the CPU is where all the logic is applied. Everything that goes on in your PC at some point goes through your CPU. If you cannot get the idea, here is a simple example which will probably help you get the point.

What Does a CPU Do?The computer code is basically mathematics. For example, imagine you want to do simple arithmatic. let's say you want to divide 12 into 2. What happens then? You will input 12/2 on the keyboard of your PC. The keyboard will then turn this information into a sequence of ones and zeros (the code, which the computer "reads").

After that this will be registered and then sent to the CPU for analysis. The CPU will see that the addition logic is required and use this inbuilt logic to send the answer of 6.

As the brain of your PC, the CPU allows you to operate software. And, of course, there is a connection between the power of the computer and the work of the CPU.

What does a CPU do, Part 3

The more powerful the CPU the more kinds of applications you will be able to run on your system.

Software packaging always tells you the minimum amount of processing power you'll need to use that program. If you don't have enough power in your CPU, the software will run slowly or improperly.

A top-of-the-line CPU will perform tasks more quickly than an older processor. The difference in speed can be astonishing, especially when doing jobs that require heavy number crunching.

If you are working with graphics and computer –assisted design you should know that a modern, powerful CPU is essential to manipulate the massive amounts of information found in complex and memory-intensive graphics.

What does a CPU do, Part 4

And now, let's say a few more things about the work of the CPU and its performance...After all, this is the goal of this tutorial, to give you enough useful information, which can help you.

The CPU's performance is determined in two areas: internal and external. The internal performance means the performance within the central processor. The chip's design (CISC or RISC), architecture (i.e., 486, Pentium or PowerPC), clock speed and memory caches all influence how quickly the CPU can perform tasks. And the external performance refers to the rest part of the system.

Have I answered the questions, What Does a CPU Do? I hope so. But here's more...

The amount of RAM, the capacity of the data bus and the motherboard circuitry all influence what any CPU, no matter how powerful, can accomplish.

If you have a system which is either old or too sophisticated, then the work of the processor will be inadequate. So, make sure your system is a good match for your processor.

There's little you can do to remove built-in roadblocks to CPU performance, but you can always add more RAM, especially if you have only four to eight megabytes.

Modern operating systems require at least 32 megabytes to provide good performance, and more megabytes is even better. Memory is cheap; double the amount you have now and you'll think you've just bought a new computer. These days 256-512 megabytes of RAM is the norm for new computers.

If your job, or hobby is connected somehow with graphics, then you surely will need more RAM.

An old video adapter can also slow things down. Consider a new video adapter with more built-in memory and a coprocessor that will take the load off your CPU.


What does a CPU do, Part 5

Well, we have finally reached the end of this tutorial. Now, you have surely learnt more things that you used to know before you read this tutorial.

And you have hopefully found the answer to "What does a cpu do?"

Now that you've gotten free know-how on this topic, try to grow your skills even faster with online video training. Then finally, put these skills to the test and make a name for yourself by offering these skills to others by becoming a freelancer. There are literally 2000+ new projects that are posted every single freakin' day, no lie!

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celda's Comment
what does c.p.u do for computer?and what monitor do for computer?
09 Sat Jun 2012
Admin's Reply:

This article explains that very thing Celda.

Raquel's Comment
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03 Sun Jun 2012
Admin's Reply:

mark's Comment
if i upgrade my ram. Does the CPU work faster?.
22 Wed Feb 2012
Admin's Reply:

 Hi Mark

well it depends how much your cpu get releive. consider ram as a shelf of item near cpu and cpu works as a chef and use different type of ingredients for making a dish and if every thing is near to him that chef can prepare dish little faster same is with the cpu. ram increase the area of the processor so you will feel the difference if you upgrade the ram but still you are not going to change the processor speed. you are just going to help him by providing him extra space but that will definitely increase your system power.

Mike Smith 's Comment
What are the advantages of upgrading your CPU?
06 Mon Feb 2012
Admin's Reply:

Well Mike

a cpu is an engine of your computer. so if you put a good and fast cpu it will work good. imagine putting a bmw or ferrari engine in old buke car :) 

Sean's Comment
I was going to buy the new SWTOR MMORPG game that just came out but apparently my CPU isn't good enough...? I was just wondering what I should do and how much this would actually affect my abillity to play the game? And whether or not I should upgrade it or not...? I already have 4 GB of RAM and all the rest of my stuff is good enough to run it.
29 Thu Dec 2011
Admin's Reply:

I'm not aware of your PC's specs. But it wouldn't hurt to try to run the demo to see if your computer's up for the task. If it's not, you don't loose any money and get to find out in advance.

Luke's Comment
i have ordered a new cpu off the internet for my laptop (hp compaq nx6325) its a am turion 64x2 the one i have currently is a amd turion 64 do you have any installation tips, I am also thinking of upgrading the ram to 4 gb (its now only 1.25gb) is there anything else which i should consider upgrading to increase its speed i aim to play a few more graphicly intense games (skyrim and assasins creed) i dont mind lag that much (you get used to it if you live in the middle of knowhere like myself). thank you. Luke
22 Thu Dec 2011
Admin's Reply:

Well Luke, thanks for visitor TW. Ram is usually a less expensive, and more bang for your buck type of an upgrade. CPU sounds fine depending on your need. Another inexpensive thing you can always do is to buy a small patch of air filter cloth and rig it up in front of your air intake. This $3 item can keep your system dirt free and much cooler than most $100 items in the market.

Kayleen's Comment
Ppl like you get all the brains. I just get to say tahkns for he answer.
28 Mon Nov 2011
Admin's Reply:

 Thanks a lot Kayleen :)

Cecil's Comment
Hi: I have an old HP computer, works well the last time. Has an error message: No operating system & doesn't start. Tried rebooting it up with Backup disk, but the system doesn't accept the CD. Help!
23 Wed Nov 2011
Admin's Reply:

 Hi Cecil

well their are many reasons for such problem but most likely the hard disk is not connected properly or the boot sector is cleared by some virus. so try to use the recory process first and see what happens. you can search a complete article on our website related to windows recovery.


Monsurat's Comment
state clearly what a CPU does when there is no program to run
16 Wed Nov 2011
Admin's Reply:

 Well i think the cpu sits idle and wait for something :)

ronardoppong's Comment
I wont to know about hardware.
21 Sat May 2011
Admin's Reply:

Thanks for your reply. CPU is centeral Processing Unit, CPU work same like human mind.

Beth's Comment
Does the CPU and hard drive have to be specific to the computer/laptop it came from?
26 Tue Apr 2011
Admin's Reply:

if I know the answer, I'll be happy to help.

cobbonglahore's Comment
i love hench toast, it smells like peanuts and i use it to wipe my tears after a sad movie
04 Fri Mar 2011
Admin's Reply:


henchtoast's brother's Comment
shut up hench you dont know anything.
04 Fri Mar 2011
Admin's Reply:

Wow, this is between you guys.

henchtoast's Comment
thanks you for ruining my GCSE you siiiii
04 Fri Mar 2011
Admin's Reply:

Me so sowwy!

ziaulhaq daneshjo's Comment
i don,t know ab out cpu please give me some information
16 Sun Jan 2011
Admin's Reply:

Check out: Central Processing Unit

happy-bunny98's Comment
NOOOOO INFO!!!!! if ure reading this shearch another page! D:
13 Thu Jan 2011
Admin's Reply:

Sorry to hear that. We'll try better next time.

Sahul's Comment
Hai iam a hardware engineer I have seen so many problems with systems!And I cleared All problems But I Have Problem With one system from past two weeks can u help me please! Problem: One system is not displaying And Ram beep is coming So i removed the ram And cleaned it and then put it again it's working fine but when i turnoff the system and restart again the problem appearing again what's the solution for it please tell me
27 Mon Dec 2010
Admin's Reply:

Check to see if there is any Memory related setting that you need to tweak in BIOS/CMOS during the computer bootup.

sdjkag''s Comment
dam this is legit :( :) ? idk
16 Thu Dec 2010
Admin's Reply:

It's too legit.

mayanne Noel's Comment
My computer at home is not working properly, When I turn it on it is telling me that my cpu has been changed, Is that saying that the computer is no good and needs to be thrown out. pls help me. I canot affore to buy a new one now.
16 Tue Nov 2010
Admin's Reply:

What's the exact error message?

And what's your PC specs?

nick's Comment
my computer has a 1.86 GHz processor and it runs slow when i play PC games. Would my PC run faster if i upgraded to a 2.6 GHz processor?
17 Sun Oct 2010
Admin's Reply:

Yes, but a cheaper upgrade might be upgrading your RAM memory if that's on the low side.

nirmal debnath's Comment
what are the electonics componants are using to make a cpu.and i need the construction video of cpu.
27 Fri Aug 2010
Admin's Reply:

Check out this video then: From Sand to Chip - How a CPU is Made

markop's Comment
i have a computer but im thinking the cpu on it burnd out,cuz now my computer doesnt even start it just beeps loongs beeps.
25 Wed Aug 2010
Admin's Reply:

Probable, but unlikely. I would suggest, you check the internal wiring connections first and also see if the display shows any error that can also be helpful.

Gwyn's Comment
Newsletters please.
22 Sun Aug 2010
Admin's Reply:

Sorry, newsletter didn't go so well. And became too expensive to sent to 5000+ subscribers. But we'll roll it out as soon as things change.

gola's Comment
Many thanks for your reply.
19 Thu Aug 2010
Admin's Reply:

Always Welcome Gola!

gola's Comment
I'm not clear - can you please tell me if the CPU has memory that can be quantified, as if can with RAM? Thanks
14 Sat Aug 2010
Admin's Reply:

CPU works differently than RAM. There isn't memory as such but the power of processing which uses memory. But to augment CPU's power, one can always overclock a CPU. Provided that they do it the right way and that specific CPU is  compatible with overclocking.

tuka's Comment
My laptop is running very very slow, and it is getting hot very fast, I don't know what is the problem, any advice?
10 Tue Aug 2010
Admin's Reply:

one of the fastest and easiest fix is to use an air spray can to clean out the insides of the laptop.

propro's Comment
Hey Admin, Say I had a mid-range graphics card; would an upgrade of CPU or RAM directly influence the performance of graphically intensive software?
05 Thu Aug 2010
Admin's Reply:

Yes it would to a point. Just having a good graphics card would not be enough. Just like sticking an ass kick mufler under donkey cart won't do wonders.

Larry's Comment
Could you please clarify what is the role of CPU when it comes to Input/Output? I always come across someone saying "this job is very I/O intensive" vs "this job is very CPU intensive". So when is something very CPU intensive vs I/O intensive. Again what is the role of CPU in I/O? Say I am trying to save a huge file from the internet to my hard disk...does the CPU get involved and what does it do? Sorry about the long question. Thanks a lot for the insights.
02 Mon Aug 2010
Admin's Reply:

Hi Larry...don't appologize for your's a good questions!

First of all, let me clarify that Input/Output (I/O) Intensive and CPU Intensive is essentially referring to the same thing. CPU is the component that deals with I/O work that the computer has to do. It's like saying:

"Towing a tree in your pickup is very engine intensive as opposed to torque intensive".

Now that we know this, your CPU does very little work as far as downloading is concerned. Although, everything requires some CPU work, however downloading a big file will be more bandwidth intensive as well as hard drive intensive.

Playing a kick ass video game however, maybe very CPU intensive.

I hope that answered your question.

Melbourne's Comment
Thx, this helped me when I was picking out a laptop.
16 Fri Jul 2010
Admin's Reply:

Happy to have helped.

pratyusha's Comment
hi your article helped thanks:) can you tell mewhere to get info'n on types of memory and comparison b/t them thanks:)
22 Tue Jun 2010
Admin's Reply:

Sure, take a look at our RAM Memory Category.

i see you pee's Comment
hey hey hey this sucks!
16 Wed Jun 2010
Admin's Reply:

Oh? I'm sorry to hear that. What's you're take on it?

james's Comment
i need to make a powerpoint on cpu any suggestions?
22 Sat May 2010
Admin's Reply:

Yeah, try using a template. Some people end up making super powerpoints look tacky otherwise.

Carla 's Comment
Um, so what do the numbers on my task manager mean when it shows CPU usage? when is something using up too much CPU and taking away from important processes?
07 Fri May 2010
Admin's Reply:

If the CPU usage for a single process is too high that simply means that process uses up some mega CPU resource. Basically I'll show you various scenarios:

  • While Working:
    • If CPU Usage is high around 50% or more, check to see if it's due to a single process highering the rate. Maybe by closing that single process can lower the CPU usage.
  • While at Rest:
    • If CPU Usage is higher than 25% or more, you need a better CPU. 

OS also plays a big role in this. I still kept my XP Pro and my CPU is Q6600 QuadCore. And my CPU remains around 8%. If I was using Pentium 4 and was working with Vista as my OS, my CPU usage would be around 32%. And also RAM memory plays it's part into this as well. RAM eases some of CPU's pain.

I'm just rambling now, have fun.

awesome's Comment
29 Thu Apr 2010
Admin's Reply:

Huh What?

mesfin's Comment
types of CPU
22 Mon Feb 2010
Admin's Reply:

If you're looking for that topic...try this...

Types of CPU's (Processors)

reena's Comment
this website did help me alot in a computer class and i dont know much
26 Tue Jan 2010
Admin's Reply:

Everyone starts off not knowing much but you'll know plenty if you keep at it.

Brian T.'s Comment
this was only minutely helpfull, im just gathering info for a big project, this did explain the function of a cpu, but not how it actually works. i still have a couple more questions, are there any related articles like this?
17 Sun Jan 2010
Admin's Reply:

Brain 's Comment
So more the RAM you have you can upgrade your laptops cpu.
13 Wed Jan 2010
Admin's Reply:

I'de be careful of taking advices for this article exactly the way it's written due to the fact that it's published in 2004. But in most cases, the CPU does do it's job better when it's got more RAM memory. Currently in 2010, the RAM is considered average at 2GB. And we currently we put more emphasis on the 64bit OS (software) because it can handle higher RAM than it's predecessor the 32bit.

Ricky's Comment
Could you send me an email reply please, i dont think i will be able to find my way back to this page everytime.
15 Tue Dec 2009
Admin's Reply:

Yes you will . Everytime an Admin replies, you get an email. Or at least you should .

Update: Did my email work?

Ricky's Comment
Thanks i think that was very helpful mate, good job. but im doing an assignment where i need to create a poster on a CPU, not making it too boring detailed or simple. and the thing is, i just cant find out enough information about it. would you be able to help me out? cheers.
15 Tue Dec 2009
Admin's Reply:

Well, How can we help?

Tedonkz's Comment
Now, you have surely learnt more things that you used to know before you read this tutorial. And you have hopefully found the answer to "what does a cpu do?" no. I haven't. this thing is useless
13 Sun Dec 2009
Admin's Reply: I'm sorry to hear that. Why not you find out and tell us too? I'm sure we can all benefit.

jada's Comment
Im also doing a project and im still stuck on this DEC,8,09
08 Tue Dec 2009
Admin's Reply:

Well, How can we help Jada?

adebayo's Comment
am doing project on how to coulple system
02 Wed Dec 2009
Admin's Reply: well can you tell us more about what it involves?

Zazoo's Comment
Im also doin a project on the CPU... the facts did help though...
27 Tue Oct 2009
Admin's Reply:

I'm Glad to hear that.

Calli's Comment
this is so weird because im doing a project and doesnt give me any info.!
22 Thu Oct 2009
Admin's Reply: maybe we can help you here at TW. what is it that you're looking for.