What Are the Pros and Cons of a Front Side Bus?

Alex Newth

The front side bus (FSB) is a component on a computer's motherboard that allows the central processing unit (CPU) to interface directly with the computer’s main memory. This hardware has been used for years but, as it ages, many hardware manufacturers are moving on to other CPU connector units. The pros to continued use of the front side bus include that any number of CPUs can be connected to the bus, and it costs much less than other proposed CPU connectors. The cons include a memory bottleneck, which can halt processes, and the fact that the CPU must wait for a clock cycle to begin before it can do anything, which slows down the computer.

A computer motherboard.
A computer motherboard.

A front side bus is a piece of hardware that allows the CPU to speak directly with the computer’s main memory. Some computers contain a back side bus, by which the CPU speaks with the memory cache, but these are not present in every system. The amount of energy the bus can pull from a CPU is directly dependent on the amount of transfers per clock cycle. A cycle is when the computer requests power from the CPU, the CPU gives that power, and the power is then used wherever it is needed.

A front side bus links a computer's memory and hard disk to the main central processing unit.
A front side bus links a computer's memory and hard disk to the main central processing unit.

The pros of using a front side bus, on the economic side, include its cost and flexibility. FSB units are very cheap when compared to other processor connector types and, while the other connectors are faster, not all consumers need to have the fastest computer. The FSB can also be used in many different systems, while similar components are made for only one system or a line of systems.

On the side of power, the front side bus can have an unlimited number of CPUs connected to it. With more CPUs, the overall power of the computer will increase. A problem with this pro is that, while more CPUs will translate to more power, that power can only be used during the clock cycle, which will lessen the overall effect.

The major con of the front side bus is the memory bottleneck it produces because of its dependence on clock cycles. Other components work regardless of the clock cycle, making them much faster. With the FSB, it is common for tasks to pile up because of this memory bottleneck, which means the computer cannot complete tasks before the user assigns a new one. The new components, while they cannot ensure the tasks will not pile up, takes care of these assignments much faster than the front side bus.

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