Best multitasking CPU?
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Dear CPU Scorekeeper

I have an HP Pavilion XT878 with a 1.3 GHz AMD Athlon processor and 256 MB DDR SDRAM and Windows ME. I took a lot of my programs running in the background off so my systems resources are 86% with no programs open. However, when I opened WordPerfect and printed a document and went to open up another file my system froze. I also notice if I have several web pages open my system freezes or I get an error message with a blue screen giving me a choice of clicking enter or clicking control-alt-delete, but neither of those choices work.

I wrote HP Tech Support and they told me "For multitasking it is best to have dual processors, though it depends on what programs you are running on your system."

So, I am a little confused. Is my processor not that good for multi-tasking? Would two processors make a difference? If so, what would be a good second processor?

How does the Intel 4 1.7GHz compare for multi-tasking? What is the best processor for multi-tasking?

- - Claudia, June 2001

See the questionCPU Scorekeeper Responds

It appears that HP Tech Support either misunderstood your question, or misunderstood the difference between multitasking (having your computer juggle two or more tasks at once) and multiprocessing (having your computer divide its tasks between two or more processors). Any multitasking difficulties you are having are a result of the limitations of the Windows ME operating system (OS)-- not your processor.

Both the AMD Athlon and Intel's Pentium 4 are equally compatible with the multitasking demands of your OS. Furthermore, there would be no benefit to adding another CPU (via a new motherboard) to your system-- it would remain unused by Windows ME.

In order to take advantage of a second processor, you would need to upgrade to Windows NT, Windows 2000, or Windows XP, or switch to another multiprocessing-capable OS, such as Linux. Currently, the Athlon MP (and even regular Athlons and Durons) from AMD, and the Pentium-III and Xeon from Intel are supported in dual processor systems, with the appropriate motherboard and chipset. Even then, as befuddled by HP, the amount of increased speed seen from adding a second processor will depend on what programs you are running on your system and whether they are written to take advantage of multiprocessing.

When 'system resources' are a factor in system lock-ups or sluggish performance, the blame rests with the memory-hampered design of  Windows 9x/Me. Increased RAM or a faster (or different, or second) CPU will not solve this built-in restriction. The only real solution to escaping this system resource ceiling is an upgrade to one of the OS's as mentioned above.

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