• When you look at a computer on the shelf at a store--or the one on your desk--you will encounter a listing of components that can look mysterious to a person not acquainted with this type of device. The CPU is one such component.

    CPU Basics

    CPU stands for Central Processing Unit. This is the "brain" of your computer, and usually sits under a big fan inside the case and a hunk of metal called a heatsink. The fan and heatsink are required, because a CPU runs very hot.

    Pentium 4

    A Pentium 4 is a CPU made by Intel. It first introduced the Pentium in the early 90s, and the Pentium 4 (or "P4") was the last of this line, although you will see "Pentium Dual Core" in some desktop and laptop computers. Most P4s have only one processing core.

    2 GHz

    The 2 GHz refers to the processing speed of the CPU, measured in gigahertz. One gigahertz equals one thousand megahertz. In this context, it's a measurement of the CPU's clock signal, a device that cycles at regular intervals to keep operations coordinated. In theory, the more gigahertz, the more operations per second, the faster the CPU.

    Clock Signal Subtleties

    You may encounter computers whose CPUs have much lower clock signals, despite being much newer than yours. This is because, after the Pentium, Intel and other CPU makers figured out ways to improve performance without relying as much on higher clock cycles.


    Your CPU may not actually be running at 2GHz by default. It's possible to manually set a CPU to run faster than its manufacturer's specifications, a process known as "overclocking." If you need to verify your CPU's true clock speed, you may have to consult special identification software such as CPU-Z.


    Clock Speeds

    Official Pentium 4 Profile

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