Day Trading – What Kind of Computer is Best to Trade With?

As day traders we spend hours debating trading technique, chart formations, and all sorts of highly technical questions in order to give ourselves every possible advantage in trading. And these sorts of conversations are normal; day trading is a highly competitive business and a wise trader uses all the resources available to him or her.

But one resource is essential for successful trading and it is probably one of the least discussed; to be sure, most traders take their computer set up for granted. Many traders view their computer set up as a commodity that is little more than a working part of a much larger scheme. We take our computers for granted, and that is probably a mistake. To be sure, I would suggest that your computer is one of the true essentials in the trading business.

But in my travels I have seen some trading computer setups that are nearly hilarious. I see old computers using outdated operating systems, systems set up with no backup utility, and a variety of computer systems rigged together in haphazard fashion. Yet the computer is one of the most important components in a traders vocation; without the computer our communication with the market would be impossible. The computer is our sole communication device with the markets and we are totally dependent upon our computers proper functioning. My observation, though, is that most traders take their computers set up for granted. Many of the systems are pieced together in a haphazard fashion.

Why is this? That’s a difficult question to answer.

I see many traders who trade solely on notebook computers. There is nothing wrong with notebook computers, though they are far less robust than desktop computers. Most notebook computers have limited expansion capability and substandard graphics setups. Yet it’s not uncommon to see traders use notebook computers as their primary trading computer. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

I will admit that notebook computers have come a long way in recent years. Early notebook computers were notoriously unreliable, tended to overheat, and were loaded with a substandard feature set. By and large, this is no longer the case with notebook computers. To my way of thinking, though, they still lack the robust nature of a desktop computer and are less than desirable as a traders primary computer. Most notebooks use an onboard graphics system, though a second monitor can be added through the serial port most notebooks supply. Yet onboard graphics, although they have also improved in recent years, are not nearly as versatile as a quality graphics card in a desktop computer.

On the other hand, a desktop computer contains multiple expansion slots that allow a trader to add a variety of peripherals that can be quite helpful. For example, I use high quality graphics cards for my monitors, have a second hard drive in my desktop computer, and use 10 GB of RAM to assure that I don’t run short in that department. All of these additions are made possible by the flexible nature of the desktop. Quite simply, the desktop is a far more robust trading platform than the notebook computer. For that reason alone, I much prefer desktop computers as my primary trading computer. I do have a notebook computer at the ready as my backup computer, and take my notebook computer with me when I go to do trading seminars or sit in with a group of traders. So it’s not like the notebook computer has no place in the day trading environment, it’s my opinion, though, that a primary trading computer should be a desktop computer because of the high degree of flexibility they offer.

Of course, new traders may have little choice as to which type of computer they will trade on as they may be forced to use whatever they have available to them. This is understandable. But once a trader has reached a certain level of success, I think a well thought out desktop computer system is essential, complete with a backup system that can be depended upon when needed. On my desktop computer, I also have an uninterrupted power supply in case I suffer a power outage during a storm or any other potential problem that may cause the power to go out. I also use an online backup system that automatically backs up my computer four times a day to an off-site source. In short, I have taken the time to consider my computer needs and potential problems that can arise and developed workable solutions that will not cause my trading business to come to a halt should some catastrophic event occur.

In summary, it is my opinion that many traders give their computer system short shrift as they trade. Our computers are our link to the exchanges and any computer failure brings trading to an abrupt halt. A well thought out computer system, complete with backup, it is essential for a professional trader and, in general, deserves more consideration than it appears most traders are using. I recommend all traders evaluate their system and bring it up to date. After all, it is our communication device that facilitates our living.

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