Trading computers range from standard computers available at any computer store, to custom built computers with multiple CPUs, terabytes of hard drive space, and support for eight screens. However, from a trading perspective, trading computers only need to be able to perform a few tasks, such as running trading and charting software and accessing the Internet, perhaps in addition to any basic non trading activities, such as web surfing and email.
Trading computers can be any make and model, but should meet the following minimum specifications so that they are fast enough and reliable enough for trading (especially short term trading styles such as scalping and day trading):
- Operating System : Windows XP (or UNIX / Linux but with less trading and charting software choices)
- CPU (Processor) : There are too many choices to choose one specifically, but any recent (i.e. within the last year) computer will have a suitable CPU.
- Memory (RAM) : 1 GB
- Hard Drive : 100 GB (most of which will be used for non trading activities)
- Screen Size : 15" (38.1 cm)
- Screen Resolution : 1280 X 800
- Network Interface : 10 / 100 Mbps (Ethernet or Wifi)
The most important features are the CPU speed, the memory, the screen size, and the screen resolution, which should all be as high and large as possible. The more powerful a trading computer is, the more markets and charts it will be able to handle, so beginning traders can usually use less powerful computers, while more experienced traders may want more powerful computers.
Some traders prefer desktop computers, while others prefer laptop (notebook) computers. Both computer styles are equally suited to trading, so the choice can be based upon other criteria. For example, if price is the most important criteria, a desktop computer will cost slightly less than a laptop computer, but if portability is more important, a laptop computer is obviously the better choice.
Windows (e.g. Windows XP) is the recommended operating system, because most brokerage provided trading software, and most charting software, requires Windows. Some trading brokerages offer trading software that is compatible with Unix and Linux operating systems (such as Interactive Brokers), but Windows will give you the widest choice of trading brokerage, and of trading and charting software.