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What is GHz?

By Damir Wallener
Updated May 16, 2024
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Gigahertz, generally abbreviated GHz, refers to frequencies in the billions of cycles per second range. Giga is the standard multiplier for 1 billion, and Hertz is the standard unit for measuring frequencies, expressed as cycles or occurrences per second. One GHz is equivalent to 1,000 megahertz (MHz).

Most commonly, gigahertz is used when discussing computer performance or radio frequencies. In computers, it most often refers to the clock speed of the central processing unit (CPU); the faster the CPU clock can tick, the faster, in general, the computer can process data and instructions. In 2000, Intel and Advanced Micro Devices achieved a marketing and technical milestone by releasing the first CPUs to run at 1 GHz, and speeds have increased considerably since then.

In radio communications, GHz is used to define bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, with different bands assigned different uses. S-Band, for example, is a band of spectrum between 2 and 4 GHz. Common technologies such as Bluetooth®, wireless internet (WiFi™), and cordless telephones operate in the S-Band. L-Band, between 1 and 2 GHz, is used for satellite communications and Global Positioning Systems, or GPS. Other notable bands include Ku and Ka, used by satellites as well as by police radar guns.

Devices transmitting at or near the same band can interfere with each other. This is caused by the wave-like nature of radio waves; peaks in one wave can be offset by lows in the other wave, thereby nullifying both waves. The closer in frequency the two signals, the more pronounced the effect. Microwave ovens, for example, can interfere with Internet connections because they emit radiation at the same frequency as that used by WiFi™ routers. Similarly, Bluetooth® and WiFi™ compete for the same frequencies, and using them concurrently can affect throughput.

The use of GHz frequencies for communications was made possible by advances in semiconductor technologies. Prior to the widespread use of transistors and high-speed electronics, it was not practical to generate such high frequencies.

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Discussion Comments
By anon929590 — On Feb 01, 2014

Raw GHz alone cannot be used to determine a better processor, nor the number of cores. One reason you cannot only compare GHz is that GHz is a measure of cycles per second, and some processors can do more in one cycle that another processor my require two cycles to perform. Another reason is that some processors have more cache memory which is has a very fast access time to as opposed to its ability to access RAM.

The reason you cannot compare cores alone is because for cores to be useful, the program you want to speed up must support multiple cores in an efficient manner, if it is not a multi-threaded application, the extra cores will be no benefit at all. For comparative shopping between brands, you can look at either multiple benchmarks for a given application, or a CPU hierarchy chart for overall general speed comparisons.

The most important thing to know when deciding on an upgrade part is to determine what your bottleneck is. Typically for gaming, that is going to be your graphics card and RAM. For converting movies, the bottleneck is usually the CPU. For start up speed and general opening and closing of programs, there are two bottlenecks, which are RAM and hard drive speed.

RAM is 1,000 times faster than a regular hard drive. Running out of RAM will generally not cause an error because the operating system (such as Windows) will set aside hard drive space to emulate RAM, which is called Virtual Memory. When your computer needs more memory than the amount of RAM installed, it will start running sluggishly because it will take some of the information about a program running in RAM and put it into the Virtual Memory which is running on a hard drive that is 1000 times slower, it will then load the new program you're starting partially into RAM and partially into Virtual Memory. This can cause extremely long start-up times for Windows if memory is inadequate and multiple programs are starting on boot.

Once you have an adequate amount of RAM installed, you can compare your hard drive read/write speeds and access times to other drives. You may need to install a benchmark program to get the speeds of your drive. Once you know your drive's specs, look for benchmarks for new drives on the market. If a new drive is considerably faster than your current drive, you might consider an upgrade to improve boot and application start-up times.

P.S. In Windows 7 and later (possibly even Vista), Windows will automatically put some portions of a program into Virtual Memory even if you have not run out of RAM. This causes a noticeable delay when closing large programs that have a large portion of themselves assigned virtual memory. If you have a very large amount of RAM, you can disable Virtual Memory to avoid this delay when closing programs.

By anon313777 — On Jan 14, 2013

To all the people asking to upgrade GHz. You cannot upgrade on laptops, because to "upgrade" per se , you need to overclock, that means to increase the voltage your CPU uses. Laptops run on batteries, so it's hard to up the ante. For desktops, just do some research on what you have. It's not all that hard, good luck and have fun.

By anon233949 — On Dec 09, 2011

I tried buying a new ram computer but the fan isn't working. Should I upgrade my HDD to a Terabyte format? Or will that crash it?

By anon183457 — On Jun 05, 2011

I am cruising at high speed with my 80386, 128k ram and a decent 21 megabytes of HDD space, no one can beet that. It play games like starcontrol like no other PC. Performance is just great.

By anon139655 — On Jan 05, 2011

Dear anon68843: Presumably you are adding the cores together as an apple 7.2 Ghz processor does not exist? Fair enough. In which case I see your 7.2 Ghz and raise you 22.2 Ghz.

By anon138944 — On Jan 03, 2011

Mine has 3.2GHz, Triple Core, 1 Terabyte HDD, and 6GB of RAM. I'm looking this stuff up because I want to see how good it is compared to others. Now, I now it's fast, faster than the Windows 7 Computers at my school, even the ones with 10GB of RAM, because the one I'm using right now has 10GB of RAM *at school* and it's slow compared to my own.

I know RAM is one of the key factors because my old one has only 524MB of RAM and I don't know how many GB of HDD. I had it when it was Win 2000 and upgraded to Win XP. It was very slow, and I'm ecstatic about my new gaming computer.

By anon125616 — On Nov 10, 2010

Leave overcloaking to desktops since the power draw is more stable.

By anon125614 — On Nov 10, 2010

to the i7 1.6ghz guy: laptops are not the same in speed as desktops because they have to be lighter and able to hold that battery charge for a few hours. Unlike desktops, which are drawing power from an outlet.

By syncere99 — On Aug 22, 2010

i have a 2.8ghz cpu that came factory with 512mb of ram. at the time i bought it it seemed fast. i bought it in 2007.

i did some research and found out it can hold 4 gigs of ram so i added three 1 gb ram sticks to the remaining three slots. i maxed out the ram and now its just about as fast as anything new.

also, keep your registry clean. a registry full of errors from leftover shortcuts from uninstalled programs, etc. can slow things down. of course this is just from my experience. i learned keeping your pc clean helps speed. i can recommend a great registry cleaner. it's trusted and the best part is, it's free. the company operates on donations.

By anon91431 — On Jun 21, 2010

Can you upgrade a laptop's GHz? Say i bought a macbook pro with 2.4GHz. Could i upgrade it?

By anon74328 — On Apr 01, 2010

It's called Overclocking, not upgrading GHz. you need to overclock your CPU's multiplier, but your RAM must also be steady and possibly the speed be also adjusted to match or your computer will crash. Do some research on Overclocking.

By anon74327 — On Apr 01, 2010

Mine runs at 8.3 GHz and I have 2TF of RAM.

It's an old PC from my dad.

By anon71951 — On Mar 21, 2010

mine is a 1 GHz and 500mb Ram 10GB hard drive. man, it's like moving in a wheelchair!

By anon68843 — On Mar 04, 2010

I have a apple computer! It runs 7.2 Ghz and has 4 gb ram. Then it has another 1tb for storage. I have the best computer!

By anon66785 — On Feb 21, 2010

anon61121 - you can upgrade GHz but it would just be cheaper to buy a new computer with a higher processing speed

By anon61121 — On Jan 18, 2010

I have a intel i7 quad core processor but ONLY 1.6 GHz i don't get it.

By anon59840 — On Jan 10, 2010

1.73 GHz and 504MB of Ram. is that bad? lol.

By anon56002 — On Dec 11, 2009

i have 1.83GHz and 1.00GB of Ram.

By nzdeatheagle — On Oct 23, 2009

i got 1.4ghz. haha real crappy, i know

By anon37028 — On Jul 16, 2009

Hey, is there any BIG difference between 2.7 GHz and 2.8 GHz? Thanks

By anon36556 — On Jul 13, 2009

which is better AMD dual core or Intel Core Dual. and which has more mhz or mb

By anon35032 — On Jul 01, 2009

How much difference is there in the speed of 1.66 and 2.80 GHz?

By anon31155 — On Apr 30, 2009

My computer has 4gb RAM and 3.00ghz. Is there a way to upgrade the ghz?

By anon27288 — On Feb 26, 2009

Laskowski: yes this is possible but *extremely* unlikely. it would mean that the CPU cycles would have to start at the same time which is virtually impossible and even more so for this to happen more than once.

By Zellishere — On Dec 29, 2008

The answer to upgrading to a higher frequency of Ghz would be to purchase and install a new processor. but be sure it is compatible with the socket of your motherboard i.e. 775, am2+, 478, etc.

By Laskowski — On Dec 05, 2008

I have an older Compaq Presario (200ghz; 1.09 ddrsd ram, 33g harddrive). Is it possible for a tv being too close to cause it to not boot up fully each time it is turned on? Plus the monitor shows signs of some kind of interference by a slight change in the white turning a light shade of blue. FYI, the computer does eventually boot all the way up but sometimes it takes 5 or more passes at it. Thank you for any advice I can get about this.

By andeen — On May 20, 2008

I have a gateway laptop. is there a way to upgrade from 1.67 ghz to 2.8 ghz? TIA

By anon4313 — On Oct 12, 2007

Can you upgrade Ghz? If so, then how? It's not like buying new RAM... If not, then please state so. I'm on the peak of buying a new PC, but if my old PC can be upgraded, then it's worth a try.

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