Join Nick Brazzi for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding how processor, RAM, and hard-drive performance affect speed, part of Speeding Up and Maintaining Your Mac.
- In this movie, I want to identify the components of your computer that determine how fast and smoothly your system runs. To be specific, I'm talking about your computer's hard drive, the RAM also known as memory, and the processor also known as the CPU. If you already know all about the hard drive, RAM, and processor, this may be a review for you. I want to speak for a moment to the people who are not 100 percent sure about what these components are, and how they affect the speed of their computers.
To oversimplify things for the sake of making an analogy, let's say that a computer works like your brain. With that in mind, let me ask you a few questions. First question, what is one plus one? I expect you can answer this question very quickly. The real question is why are you able to answer it so quickly? For the sake of our analogy, let's say that you can answer this question for three basic reasons. First, you know how to do arithmetic. Second, simple arithmetic is not particularly challenging for your brain.
And third, this is a very small math problem, and I wasn't asking you to think about anything else at the same time. So let's compare this to how a computer works. First, I want you to think about your ability to do arithmetic as a program or application that is stored on a computer's hard drive. You have certain skills saved in your long term memory in the same way that computers have applications stored on their hard drives. You know how to tie your shoes, how to cook an egg, and how to do basic arithmetic because these are programs that were installed in your brain's long-term memory years ago.
Next, we know that basic arithmetic is pretty easy. Everybody's brain is different, but this is an activity that is not particularly challenging to most people. Compare that to something like trigonometry. If you learned how to do trigonometry in school, it's much more challenging to most people. I don't know anybody who can do trigonometry as fast as a simple arithmetic problem like one plus one. The way you suffer with harder and harder math problems is sort of like reaching the capacity of a computer's processor or CPU.
Computers have a hard time with more difficult tasks, just like you. Finally, let's consider your short term memory. One plus one is no big deal because I'm only asking you one simple question at a time. But what if I ask you to add one plus one, divide that by three, multiply by six, add the result to 17, then divide by five? Now, you might have a hard time with that, but why? I'm still asking you to do basic math, a skill you know how to do, and you have the brain capacity for.
The answer is short term memory. Most people wouldn't be able to remember the numbers that I said because I was saying them way too fast. Let alone do the math fast enough to give me the answer. It's a lot of information for you to juggle, and that makes it hard to do, what would otherwise be, simple math. So think about that as you consider other challenges. What if I drew a triangle and I labeled one side three meters, and I labeled another side five meters. Then I asked for the length of the third side. I'll speak for myself this time.
I think I would give you the answer fairly slowly. The problem is not short term memory because there are not a lot of variables here. I do know how to answer this question using the Pythagorean Theorem, but that's something I learned many years ago and I don't use it very often. So I will need a minute to remember how to do it. Once I remember the operation, I should be able to figure it out pretty quickly. So if my brain were a computer, I would say that my RAM and my processor are up to the challenge, but loading that application from my hard drive is going to be slow.
All right, one last one. What is the square root of 144? Not a lot of numbers here, so short term memory or RAM, is not a problem. I know how to do square roots so my long term memory or hard drive speed really isn't the issue. But I've always had a really hard time calculating square roots. This is a calculation that is really challenging for my brain's processor. Good thing I'm not a programmer or a mathematician. So of course, we're oversimplifying here, but I think this should give you an idea of where your computer's limitations are.
And if you find that your computer's running slowly, the areas that you need to start looking at are hard drive speed, is the application that you want to run or the data you want to read so big, or is your hard drive so slow that it just takes a long time to even locate or start the application? RAM, also known as memory. Are you asking your computer to do too many things at the same time? Is this application really complex? Are you running 10 other programs at the same time? And finally, processor speed.
Is this application just too complex for the CPU in your computer? Most issues of speed on your computer will boil down to one of these components or a combination of two or more of them. Sometimes the solution involves upgrading a component. Sometimes a little maintenance is required. And sometimes the solution is to change the way you use your computer. We'll talk about those techniques in the rest of this course. But the first step is to recognize what part of your computer affects the speed as we've seen here.