Processing Capacity

What Does Processing Capacity Mean?

Processing capacity refers to the ability and speed of a processor, and how many operations it can carry out in a given amount of time. These kinds of measurements are critical for those who analyze hardware systems and measure their overall capacity and capabilities.


Techopedia Explains Processing Capacity

Typically, IT professionals refer to a computer processor as a Central Processing Unit or CPU. The CPU is a chip that gets installed on the motherboard of a computer. The central processing unit determines the computing speed of the hardware device.

CPU processing capacity is typically referred to in terms of Megahertz (MHz) or Gigahertz (GHz). Professionals talk about clock speed, which is the standard ability of the CPU to cycle through its operations over time. It is important to note that clock speeds are only condition-optimal estimates of processor capacity, and that other issues like bottlenecks or environmental factors can decrease or change processor capacity in actual operations and hardware use.

Early single chip processors often had speeds measured in terms of megahertz, but eventually approached the 1 GHz benchmark. Many newer types of processors involve dual core or quad core construction, where multiple processing chips are placed in one system. This has led to processing capacities or speeds in ranges upwards of 1 to 2 GHz and up to several gigahertz. Along with data storage capacity, operating system complexity and other major evolutions in IT, processing capacity or speed is an important piece in the puzzle that has continued to advance as engineers craft ever more powerful processor units.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.