What Sort of Computer Does a Trader Need?

I ordered a new computer from Dell this morning, just before I read an article by Larry Jacobs:

Five years ago, the average trader had a computer with two to four 15- or 17-inch monitors. Now, today’s trader has four to eight 19-, 20- or 30-inch monitors. These also have multiple monitor stands. This major change is because many successful traders are now doing trading for a living, and they understand they need the best equipment.
Traders’ computers are not just simple Dell or HP units off the shelf. They are custom-built units designed specifically for trading. They are optimized and overclocked for maximum speed. Trading computers also have continuous defragging software. This keeps them running at 100 percent efficiency during and after trading hours.

I almost fell off my chair because:

  1. No trader at my old brokerage firm ever used that many screens. My old boss, the uber junkie of screens, does not even use more than four.
  2. Optimized and overclocked? Forget it. That has the potential to damage the computer.
  3. Continuous defragging? Wouldn’t that suck up valuable resources?

Dell Vostro 200 Slim TowerWhile it’s great to have a super-duper toy, the fact is that the Dell Vostro 200s I bought today ($849 before tax and shipping) will support two monitors and do everything I need with these specs:

  • Intel® Coreâ„¢2 Duo Processor E4300 (1.80GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, 800FSB)
  • Genuine Windows XP Pro, English
  • 2GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz – 2DIMMs
  • 80GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM) w/DataBurst Cacheâ„¢
  • Integrated 7.1 Channel Audio
  • 256MB ATI Radeon 2400 XP
  • Single Drive: 48x CD-RW / DVD-ROM Combo Drive
  • No Monitor

I also have a Maxtor external hard drive (that came with Retrospect Express HD) that will be used to back up the computer. Alternatively, you can opt for a second, identical hard drive with RAID. Other than that, may I offer some serious suggestions for the trading computer?

  • The weakest link is often the internet connection. Make sure you get the fastest, most rock solid one you can subscribe to in your area.
  • Avoid wireless, since I think an ethernet cable connection to the latest-model router is still the best. Don’t forget to upgrade your old Cat 5 cable.
  • Do not install anything other than what you need for trading on the computer. No email. No surfing the net. Just keep it dedicated to one purpose.
  • Do maintenance on it once per week, on the weekend.
  • Last, but not least, use a quality surge protector.

That ought to be fine. And use the extra money on a good datafeed, OK?