How To Set Up Your Trading Computer Workstation

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One of first things that you will do as a beginning trader is decide which hardware and software requirements you will need. This includes questions such as should I use a PC or Mac to trade? How much RAM do I need?, What type of hard drive should I get? and many other related questions. The purpose of this article will be to help you answer some of these questions, and provide some recommendations on the best way to configure and setup your trading computer.

Download the short printable PDF version summarizing the key points of this lesson…. Click Here To Download

Trading From Your Home Or Office

Trading the markets poses enough challenges that a trader should not need to add additional stress related to computer hardware related matters. Therefore, it’s important that you configure a suitable computer workstation that best meets your needs and requirements for the style of trading that you engage in. Now, although you can use your mobile device to execute trades on the go, it’s best to try to use a properly configured trading desktop computer whenever possible.

Although you can get quite elaborate in your trading computer set up, many out-of-the-box gaming computers will often have the required specifications to run most trading platforms in an efficient manner. And so, many readers may already have this type of workstation set up in their home. If not, you can build out a similar set up at a fairly reasonable cost.

To begin with, most active traders regardless of whether they consider themselves day traders or swing traders, should start with an out-of-the-box computer to keep their costs down. And so, there is no need to go with a high-end custom solution when you’re just starting out. As you mature in your trading and gain more experience, you can always build upon your current set up or customize it completely to meet your specific needs.

Some new traders mistakenly believe that the fancier their computer set up is, the better they will be able to trade the market. Now, although a good trading computer will help you trade more efficiently, it will not necessarily make you a better trader.

It’s also important to recognize that there is no single best trading computer set up. More specifically, a day trader, who trades the markets very actively throughout the day, will likely have a much different trading computer workspace compared to a position trader who only initiates a handful of trades on a monthly basis.

The day trading computer setup will obviously require a much more robust configuration. And so, you need to match the necessary hardware requirements with your specific trading style.

Additionally, aside from the actual specifications of your trading computer, you will want to ensure that you are getting the fastest Internet speeds that are available in your area.

These days, most Internet service providers can provide significantly improved connectivity and speed at only a small incremental price increase. Thus, it makes great sense to research your ISPs different service offerings so that you can get access to the fastest Internet connections, which can certainly make a difference in trade execution.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of the recommended specs for computer trading workstations, it’s also important that you pay close attention to your specific trading environment. That is to say that you want to ensure that the room or office from which you are performing your market analysis and placing trades from are as distraction free as possible.

Depending on your particular situation, you may be able to do a better job than others, in creating this type of environment for yourself. In any case, it pays to trade from a space where you feel comfortable and relaxed, so that you are able to make the best, most informed trading decisions as possible.

mac-trading-computerPC vs Mac

One of the first matters that you need to decide upon is whether you will be using a PC or a Mac computer. They both have certain advantages and disadvantages. And although, it is beyond the scope of this article to get into all of these points, there are plenty of resources online that will help you decide which is better suited for you.

But generally speaking, Macs tend to be more stable and reliable compared to Windows-based PCs. Additionally, Mac computers tend to be much less prone to getting viruses and other malware. This can be particularly important if you will be using your trading computer for other tasks outside of trading, or if will be browsing the web quite frequently.

The most important consideration should be the compatibility requirements of your preferred trading platform with a Mac or Windows based PC computer. That is to say that certain trading platforms will only work on a Windows-based computer, others only on a Mac-based computer, while some may be compatible with both the Mac and the PC-based computer.

You will have to check with your trading platform provider to confirm the required operating system specifications As of now you will find that most platforms are compatible with a PC while only some are compatible with a Mac. This is particular true if you are an FX trader, in which case, you will likely need a PC for your forex trading platform.   

Processing Power

Processing power within your computer is commonly referred to as CPU, central processing units. The CPU is responsible for running all the processes within your computer. This processing power is measured in gigahertz, GHz, and so the higher the gigahertz the faster your computer will run. The typical CPU range for most out-of-the-box computer workstations is between 1 and 4 GHz. In addition to this your computer can have several cores which can run simultaneously. This would increase the total efficiency and speed of your day trading or forex workstation.

CPU power is particularly important for more active day traders because of the large amounts of real-time incoming data that need to be processed on a continual basis. As such, most active day traders should look for a quad core set up with a minimum CPU of 3.3 GHz. Swing traders that are less active could consider a dual core set up with a minimum CPU of 3 GHz.

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Hard Drive

The hard drive serves as the storage unit for your computers data. There are two types of hard drives within most computer units. The first is the traditional hard drive, and the second is what is known as the solid-state drive, or SSD’s. The solid-state hard drive has many advantages over the traditional hard drive. SSDs provide enhanced overall performance and speed, and they have the characteristic of being more energy efficient as well.

As such, most traders should consider either configuring their new trading computer to include an SSD. If, however, they are using a current trading workstation that has a traditional hard drive, then an upgrade to a solid-state drive would be recommended.

RAM (Random Access Memory)

RAM, random access memory, is responsible for running different processes simultaneously in an efficient manner. Since traders are often running multiple processes simultaneously, it’s important to ensure that your capacity in terms of RAM is suitable for your requirements.

RAM is measured in what is known as gigabytes GB, and the higher the unit of gigabytes the more processes you can run simultaneously in an efficient manner. You can think of RAM as a computer’s short-term memory capacity.

Day traders should consider at least 16 GB of RAM at the minimum, however, 32 GB of RAM would be the recommended amount. As for swing traders at least 8 GB of RAM should be configured, and at least 16 GB of RAM would be recommended.

These amounts can be adjusted up or down depending on the number of programs that you plan on running or keeping open at any given time. Obviously the more programs that you will be running simultaneously, the higher the RAM capacity you should shoot for.

Graphic Cards

The graphics card enables the processing of all graphic elements and videos on your computer screen. Getting a high quality graphics card will allow you to enjoy a better visual experience while trading. The minimum recommended specifications for a graphics card would be a Nvidia or AMD card with at least 2 GB of memory for a single monitor.

If you are using additional monitors, then you would want to increase your graphic card memory by two GB or so per additional monitor. A high-quality graphics card is essential for those that will require a multi monitor trading set up.

Computer Monitors

After all of the earlier described components have been sorted out, it’s time to decide on your trading computer monitor set up. So how many monitors do you need to trade the market effectively? Now the answer to that question will be different for every trader based on their particular trading style and the tools that they use to support their trading decisions.

For example, a futures day trader that monitors a dozen different markets throughout the day, and needs access to a newswire, may opt for a multi-monitor setup that includes 6 to 10 different displays.

On the other hand, a swing trader that focuses exclusively on the CME E-mini S&P, for example, and uses a very specific technical pattern may only require a dual monitor computer station to meet their specific needs. At the same time, a long-term position trader, who trades off of the weekly charts may not require any type of elaborate set up beyond a single screen to trade efficiently.

trading-computer-monitorsAnd so, the answer will depend heavily on your trading horizon, the number of markets that you watch, the number of trading tools that you utilize, and other related details.

Having said that, even very active day traders should start off with a relatively conservative multi-monitor setup. As they move along their trading journey, they can add more monitors as needed to suit their trading requirements.

And it’s important to keep in mind, that often times simplicity is much better then complexity when it comes to trading the markets. As such ,you should not opt for an overly elaborate multi-monitor setup just to satisfy your inner urge for doing so. That is to say that there should be a practical reason for adding additional monitors to your set up.

The resolution of your computer screen is also an important consideration. Resolution refers to the number of pixels that are displayed on your computer screen. The higher the resolution the greater the number of pixels added, which will result in better overall clarity.

There are three primary resolutions that you will typically find. This includes the 1920 X 1080, the 2560 X 1440, and the 3840 X 2160. Any of these configurations will work fine, but it’s important not to go lower than the 1920 X 1080 in terms of resolution.

These days, computer monitors are fairly inexpensive, and you can often purchase one for as little as $175 or so. As such, if you are an active scalper or day trader that requires a dozen or more trading computer monitors, you can often create such a set up for about $1000 or so. 

In the overall scheme of things, this is relatively low, and can add efficiency to your trading business, which can be well worth the added cost. Asus offers some of the best monitors for trading in terms of quality and price.

As for the size of the monitors, that will be a matter of personal preference. But generally speaking, the most popular trading computer monitor sizes used range from about 24 inches to 32 inches.

Other Considerations

We have now covered all the major specifications that trading computers should have. Now let’s discuss a few additional considerations and accessories that would enhance your workspace set up.

If you’re using a laptop from time to time, then one of the best ways to ensure that you will not have to deal with your battery dying in the middle of a trade execution, is to have a backup such as a battery-powered power bank.

Additionally, if you have a multi-monitor setup, you will need several desk mounts, monitor mounts, and monitor stands to keep everything connected properly. Last, but not least you may need a USB to HDMI adapter to connect your trading computer to the various accessories that require it.

Download the short printable PDF version summarizing the key points of this lesson…. Click Here To Download


The right trading computer setup will help you to maximize your efficiency. While the best setup will be personal to each trader based on various factors including their trade frequency, and personal preferences, there are certain minimum requirements that should be met. We discussed some of these minimum specifications as it relates to different components such as processing power, hard drive, RAM,  graphic cards and more.

A as final note, traders are advised to try to keep their day trading or forex trading computer setup simple whenever possible, and avoid any unneeded hardware or software that will only serve to complicate their trader computer workstation.

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