The Computer Installation of a Trader

I. Introduction

The objective of this article is to help you understand the computer installation of a trader to better know which solution to choose

Before we go any further, let’s talk about the difference between Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac.

Mac computers are not (or very little) adjustable once purchased. Apple simplifies the choice of consumers by making standard and very stable configurations, while Windows is much more flexible and adapts to many configurations. But, by being more flexible, Windows also becomes a bit more unstable.

Although both can be used for the most classical tasks (internet, emails, word processing, …), Apple is more specialized for video processing and editing for professionals. Windows is more versatile. Finally, not all computer programs are available in Apple versions. For example, the vast majority of video games can only be played on Microsoft Windows.

For trading, Sierra Chart is not usable on MAC, except with a system that creates a Microsoft Windows environment on your MAC, to know more, go to the dedicated article and video.

At the end of the article, we will give you some minimum features to look at for your computer installation. But for now, let’s move on to the various components or peripherals.


II. The Motherboard

This is the main electronic board of the computer, to which you connect all the peripherals.

All components of your computer must be compatible with your motherboard. You will connect your microprocessor, your RAM, your hard disk(s), your graphics card, your keyboard, your mouse…

Generally, it is proposed with the microprocessor because the two must be totally compatible. If you are building your own computer, pay attention to the accepted microprocessors and RAMs and the types of connectors (to which you will connect your power supply, hard disks and additional cards like the graphics card).

In the attached picture you will also see fans to cool the PC. They are also connected to the motherboard. It manages all the electronic elements of your computer.

In recent years, other functions have been added to motherboards. For example, a small graphics card is usually integrated to be able to connect at least 1 screen and manage the configuration of the motherboard.

Also, the network and sound cards have been integrated. To learn more, go to the corresponding sections below.

III. The Power supply

An often neglected point when building your own computer is the power supply.

The more cards and connections you have on your computer, the more power the motherboard will need. Remember that all the peripherals of your computer will be powered by your motherboard… which finds its power in its power supply

It is necessary to think carefully about the power required in Watts. If you upgrade your computer, it is possible that you will have to change the power supply, so don’t hesitate to do it so that everything works as it should. The power requirements for the cards are specified in the technical data. We can say that 350 Watts is a minimum in 2023 and it can go up to 700, 800 or 1000 Watts for the most powerful computers with the most peripherals.

For example, a graphics card for 4 screens consumes more power than a card for 2 (if the screens are connected and running, of course).

Finally, if you want to build your own computer, you need to consider the connection from the power supply to the motherboard. Be sure to check this before you buy.

IV. The Microprocessor

The microprocessor or CPU or brain of the computer is the main component that makes the connection between the different components of the computer: RAM, hard disk, graphics card, mouse, keyboard …

There are thousands of them and it would take too long to present them all. However, you should know that microprocessors evolve very quickly, every 2-3 years there is a new generation. Two brands dominate the market: Intel and AMD. The purpose of the article is not to “sell” microprocessors, so we will not compare the two.

In general, the important characteristics of microprocessors are: the sequencer, the register, the clock, the computer buses and the cores.

The sequencer ensures the communication between the RAM of the PC and the various installed peripherals.

The register is the microprocessor’s internal memory for processing data.

The clock is the frequency at which the microprocessor processes information (3.2 GHz = 3.2 billion information per second).

Computer buses are the routes by which information is transmitted from the microprocessor to the computer’s peripherals.

Finally, cores allow multiple tasks to be performed at the same time. The more cores you have, the more tasks you can run simultaneously.

Don’t worry, when you choose a microprocessor, it’s not a la carte. There is a coherence between the different characteristics. And vendors have given the models names to differentiate them: for example, Intel has i5s, i7s and i9s, with i9s of course being the latest and most powerful. AMD has the Ryzen 5, 7 and 9.

For most computer users, it will be purchased already assembled. The microprocessor will be consistent with the other peripherals. But if you’re putting together a personal computer, you’ll have to ask yourself the question of consistency between ALL the items you buy. If a component is not adapted (not compatible or not powerful enough), the whole computer will not work properly. If you are unfamiliar, get help from a professional.

During operation, the most important thing to check is the temperature of the microprocessor. If it gets too hot, it can burn out. That’s why there is always a fan on the microprocessor to cool it continuously. For those who will be interested in overclocking or multi-threading, a good fan (or several) will be essential to protect their hardware.

In 2023, we can say that it is necessary to buy microprocessors of at least 3GHz frequency (the other characteristics will be adapted) to be able to use them some years.

V. The RAM

The RAM or random access memory is the one that allows to multiply the calculations and thus the connections between the different elements of your computer.

The more programs you have running on your computer, the greater the demand on your microprocessor and RAM.

Generally speaking, in 2023, having less than 16GB of RAM is insufficient. 16GB is a bit limited for heavy use. 32GB has become the standard as recent programs use more and more RAM.

Beyond 32GB, these are configurations for specific uses such as gaming or video editing.

VI. The Hard drives

In 2023, there are three major types of hard drives: SATA, SSD and NVMe.

NVMe is the new version of SSDs, which was already a new version of SATA. As you can see, the fastest hard drives are NVMe, then SSD and finally SATA. NVMe speed is 3 to 15 times faster than SSDs but the price is at least 50% higher.

When buying a new computer in 2023, it is obvious that you should invest in an NVMe hard drive.

For the size, it depends on what you will store on your computer. You can also have external hard drives or Clouds that allow you to offload your computer. Microsoft Windows and your programs use some 50/100 GB to run.

So, we think 512GB seems to be a minimum in 2023. 1TB to be safe. More than 1TB and you’ll have plenty of room (especially if you multiply your photo or video storage).

VII. The Graphics card and the screens

It has become a very important computer peripheral, especially for trading or gaming.

The more screens you want to connect, the more powerful your card should be. But your microprocessor and RAM should also be powerful enough. It is a whole that must be balanced.

RAM is so important for graphics display that the best graphics cards have their own built-in RAM to offload the computer’s RAM usage.

The quality of the display on the screens also influences the power required. The standard quality in 2023 is Full HD, or 1920 × 1080 pixels, but more and more higher quality screens are available on the market (especially for Thunderbolt, see below). The new resolutions are 2304 x 1440, 2400 x 1350, 2560 x 1080 or 2560 x 1600.

For configurations with a minimum of 4 screens as for trading, your graphics cards must have a minimum of 2MB of graphics RAM, or 4MB for very high resolution screens.

It is very rare to have graphics cards for more than 4 screens. So, if you want 6 screens, you will have to buy 2 graphics cards. As you can see, you will need to have enough connection ports on the motherboard, enough power from the power supply, microprocessor and RAM for both graphics cards to be stable.
In the case of 6 to 8 screens with 2 graphics cards, we recommend graphics cards with at least 4GB of RAM and 32GB of RAM for the computer, i.e. 40GB in total.

The size of the screens also plays an important role in the need for graphics card power. The standard is 24 inches diagonal but 27 inches is becoming the new reference size. And obviously, a 27-inch screen consumes a little more energy and power than a 24-inch screen. But a screen has its own power supply so the main concern is the graphics card to handle a good resolution.

Finally, you need to think about the connectors for your screens. There are 3 main types: HDMI, DisplayPort and Thunderbolt.

Everyone knows the HDMI, it’s the cable for HD televisions or more. It is the most common video connector on the market. You will find it on almost every electronic device with a video output.

DisplayPort is Apple’s connector. As always, Apple likes to have its own standard. It is also very accepted by manufacturers since Dell, for example, equips its screens with HDMI and DisplayPort ports by default (with the cables that go with them).

The last one, Thunderbolt, is less known but is the most powerful (and also the most expensive). A little historical aside, few people know that this standard was developed by Apple and Intel to optimize the video flow between the microprocessor and the screen for laptops, before Apple developed its own DisplayPort connector and also its own microprocessors.

Thunderbolt allows you to connect, in series, 2 screens with a single USB-C port (like the one for charging Samsung phones for example). But this requires that your computer manages the display through this USB port (it’s your graphics card that will have to manage it) and also that your displays are Thunderbolt compatible (so that one screen can be connected in USB-C to the other). These screens are generally 40% more expensive than conventional HDMI or DisplayPort displays. It’s a budget but it’s so practical.

VII. The other components

A. The network / WiFi card

A distinction must be made between desktop (or fixed) computers and laptop computers. For desktops, the standard is cable, for laptops, the standard is WiFi.

For some years now, for desktop computers, network cards are generally integrated into the motherboard and of good quality. A minimum of 1Gbits of throughput is required for the cable network. If you have a fiber optic internet connection, you will be close to 1Gbits of upload and download speed. If you have an ADSL connection, you will have 20 to 50Mb of speed. So 1Gbits of throughput for the card is sufficient.

You can also find 10Gbit speeds but they are designed for industrial installations, not for an individual or small business. WiFi is generally not available on desktop motherboards.

For laptops, it’s the opposite. You have a built-in WiFi network card but not necessarily a port for the classic network cable. The main reason is the size of the cable connector. It is too big for thin laptops. Generally (but please check), you can connect a RJ45 Network Cable and USB adapter (A, B or C) to connect to the internet via cable.

For trading, and we have already discussed this point, it is essential to have a cable connection to your internet. The connection is more stable and powerful than WiFi (except maybe with some very powerful and last generation WiFi routers).

B. The sound card

Until a few years ago, you had to choose your sound card when you bought a computer. Now it is integrated with the motherboard most of the time.

Unless you want to make sound like a professional or you want your computer to play sound in exceptional resolutions (Dolby Surround x.1 or others), you will not have to ask yourself any questions, otherwise you will have to buy a special sound card and the speakers that go with it.

One last tip I’ve encountered in my life, most of the time small speakers are built into computers (for example, at Dell). But they are not very powerful (a few Watts). Consider getting slightly more powerful speakers if you want better sound. For a few dozen euros, you will have good speakers. To connect them to your computer, a 3.5 or 2.5 mm jack is available on all sound cards.

C. The keyboard and the mouse

There are so many different keyboards and mice that we cannot present them all here.

On the other hand, we prefer devices that connect via cable to the computer, especially for trading. The latency is better. In some mid/high-end models, you can choose wired or wireless, and when you’re wired, you recharge the battery of your mouse.

Little tip from the site: invest in a vertical mouse that you hold like the hands of Playmobil men. In the year since I invested in a new mouse, I have had less pain in my shoulder and upper arm. My hand is in a natural vertical position.

For the keyboards, the same remarks apply. But in addition to that, you have to choose the layout of the keys that change depending on the country. For people who need to use accents, a very versatile keyboard is the US International keyboard. You can achieve almost all accents with 2 keys.

D. The CD/DVD/Blu-Ray player

It is a bit outdated but it is possible to add a reader to your computer.

It’s up to you to choose the type of disc you want to play. The only advice, if you are mounting your PC, is to pay attention to the connector to the motherboard and make sure you have a bay and a port available to connect it. The bay is the place to bring the drive outward and connect it inward. Inside, you will have to connect the connection cable and also the power supply of the player, everything being done directly on the motherboard.

E. The different versions

1) Desktop version (compact, normal and large)

For the desktop versions, there are different tower sizes. Be careful, the cards you connect will have to be adapted to the size of your tower, like the power supply. The connectors are smaller for the compact towers.

The normal size is the ATX format, about 40cm high by 10cm wide and 35cm deep. The height is usually the part that varies the most. Except in specific cases, a classic user will take a normal size.

2) Other versions: laptop, tablet and phone

For all other versions, it’s just a matter of size. These are the same components but designed to be smaller and just as powerful. That’s why a phone is very expensive compared to a desktop computer.

To limit the space for connectors, the smaller the device, the more the wireless connection mode is used. It is convenient but not as stable as wired connections. For trading, we always prefer cable. We don’t trade on wireless devices.

IX. Which computer installation for which use?

As you will have understood, there are so many possible configurations that it is up to each person to know their needs in order to choose their components/peripherals.

However, in 2023 and imagining a use for several years, here is the minimum recommended by the site to have a versatile computer in Windows version. Please note that we do not take into account the budgetary constraints of everyone.

        • Microprocessor: minimum frequency of 3GHz
        • RAM: minimum 16GB (to be able to install and run enough programs without slowing down the computer’s performance). 32GB is a good balance.
        • Hard drive: minimum 512GB NVMe
        • Graphics card: for a trader, it is obvious that you need 4 screens. Thus, choose a card with 4 outputs. For trading, you don’t need a lot of graphics power (nothing to do with video editing) so 2GB of graphics RAM is enough.
        • Screens: 4 x 27″ screens is a good configuration for a computer, especially for trading. For the resolution, Full HD is sufficient. Thunderbolt being expensive, we do not recommend it, even if it is the installation of François, manager of the site, with 4 screens 27 inches 2,5k with a graphic card Nvidia RTX 3070 8Gb of RAM on a laptop Alienware X15 R1. Perfect for with power and mobility, even if a little expensive.
        • Network card: 1 Gbits is the standard and is largely sufficient for fiber optic internet lines
        • For the rest, it depends on the needs of each person. Do not hesitate to ask us questions in the comments of the video, we will try to advise you as well as possible.

If you are a MAC user, the minimum specifications are slightly lower because MAC has optimized its configurations, as we said in the introduction. By doing tests, we know that for some uses, the MAC is much more powerful than Windows. With the latest generation of chips designed by Apple, performance, especially video, is better. But pay attention to the compatibility of your programs with MAC before choosing an Apple computer.

We also have a complete article about using Microsoft Windows on an Apple MAC here. What we can say is that if you are a professional, you want to have a MAC as your main computer but with a Microsoft Windows trading platform, you should definitely invest in a VPS. The cost of 500-600€ per year is negligible compared to the benefits.

Finally, at and for all professional traders (Windows or MAC), we recommend the use of a VPS. To learn more, read the article on the subject here.

If you are using a VPS, the power needed for your trading platform will be used on the VPS, so your personal computer (connecting to the VPS) does not need to be as powerful as if the platform was running on it. You can choose a slightly less powerful personal computer. The VPS + Personal Computer is more expensive than a powerful personal computer but it is a much more stable solution for your trading.

A VPS also allows you to connect from anywhere in the world, which is very useful if you travel. Your platform will always be stable on your VPS and you will be able to trade by connecting from where you are (unless there are internet restrictions in the country where you are).

Now it’s up to you to find your configuration to be comfortable with your computer setup and optimize your trading. Feel free to ask us questions in the comments below.

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