With regard to day trading computers, in my opinion, the truth about CPU and RAM requirements for the average day trader really comes down to this……..any new, off the shelf computer is adequate for day trading and certainly for swing trading.
However, if you plan to do intensive backtesting and operate several automated strategies at once, then maybe Intel’s i7 processor and at least 4GB of RAM is for you.
But, if your plan is to be a regular discretionary retail trader, then the most expensive day trading computers on the market simply aren’t necessary for intraday trading.
Streaming quotes and charting packages just don’t put a heavy burden on the CPU like video editing, video games and engineering 3-D CAD programs do.
To illustrate my point, here’s a screenshot of my windows task manager. My Dell Core i7 right now has three programs open, one being a charting program with hundreds of stocks continually updated. The CPU isn’t working very hard is it? It’s using a whopping 1% of processing power and only a quarter of my available RAM memory.
Now, I’m going to back peddle on you for a moment and say this……..I bought an Core i7 not because I really needed it, but because I just wanted it. Besides, if you go through DELL, you can get some really good deals on i7’s in the Studio XPS line.
I got mine with 4 GB of RAM. There’s not really a good reason to go with less RAM, because RAM is so cheap.
Honestly, if you don’t want to spend a lot on day trading computers, then don’t. A plain vanilla dual core will do just fine. Just don’t go any lower than 2 GB RAM.
About the operating system – a lot of guys love Windows XP pro……it’s time to move on…..Windows 7 – 64 bit is great, I love it. Programs like Ninjatrader 7 are now taking advantage of 64 bit multicore technology. Some software firms are lagging behind, but you can still run them on Windows 7.
If you want to get serious with your trading business, you should consider having a 2nd computer as a backup, that is dedicated to two tasks:
- An identical copy of your trading platform and any other necessary software, should be loaded and ready to operate if needed. You never know when your primary computer’s going to cut out on you. Also, you should always keep backups of your platform settings on a usb drive, in case you ever need to do a fresh reinstall of windows.
- You like to surf the internet right? Well, if you’re serious about day trading, you’ll use a separate computer for that, and keep all that internet garbage off your trading rig’s hard drive. If you have a dedicated day trading computer, that never sees any websites except your broker’s, you can even run it with no windows firewall or anti-virus/spyware software. I never had any problems with quotes getting all jammed up, even on ultra high volume FOMC days with the ES (emini S&P; 500).
Whether you have kids or not, and especially if you do…….get yourself a second internet provider and modem. I have both a cable modem and a dsl modem. The cable modem is dedicated to my trading computer and my dsl modem which is also wireless, is the backup. It is also the conduit for my family’s internet activities (computer, netflix, xbox live, etc.). Make no mistake about this — You need your own dedicated modem!
Don’t even think about trying to go cheap and day trade using the same ISP as your family or even by yourself surfing and trading on the same line. It’s just not smart. What are you going to do if your modem quits and then you realize the battery in your cell phone’s dead when you go to call your broker about those open positions? Duh!
MULTIPLE MONITORS SETUP
How many monitors? That’s a personal choice that you’ll have to make, but don’t make the mistake of thinking more is always better. I like three – 24″ monitors and for me, it’s just right.
Keep your charts and screen information to a minimum, which will keep your required screen real estate to a minimum. Keep your screen information to only what you need to trade your plan. Keep it simple.
Don’t feel like you need six monitors just to impress your girlfriend or wife. They’re not impressed anyway.
Their ergonomic position is very important. You don’t want your monitors positioned so that they require you to crank your neck to keep an eye on them. It’ll give you constant headaches.
UPS – BACKUP POWER
UPS stands for Uninterrupted Power Supply. It’s the black box you see in between my computers in the picture. Mine is an APC brand. A UPS is basically just a big battery that goes on instantly if the power in your home office goes off.
Not as important as dual computers and dual modems, but for $150 it’s nice to know, that if the lights go out, it will power my day trading computer, two monitors and two modems for up to 40 minutes. It’s also serves as a heavy duty surge protector for my equipment. And being someone that has had their house struck by lightning and seen what it can do to electronics all over the house, it’s important to me.
If you decide to get a UPS, make sure you plug in not only your screens and computer (just one is fine), but also your modems, otherwise you’ll be without internet if the power goes out.
Use just a regular surge protecting power strip for anything else that’s not necessary to run, like the backup computer and maybe a screen or two. The idea is to have a enough battery juice to run your day trading computer and screens long enough to exit any stock positions you might be in at the time of the power outage.
For some reason many day traders think they need hi-performance video cards for their trade stations. It’s a myth.
Only the most basic NVIDIA or Matrox video cards are required for trading. Passive radiation (no fan) 2D cards are fine. Charts and quotes do not demand hi-performance cards like gamers require. The only thing in trading I can think of that might require 3D effects, is backtesting optimizing graphs, but I think most computers sold today could handle that right out of the box.
What you should be concerned with is whether or not your day trading computer might need another monitor in the future. If so, then consider buying a video card that allows four monitors for future expansion.