Once a year or so, I update my trading machine, and I typically give a write-up about it for our subscribers. The current state of technology is really great. It’s important to have a clean and powerful pipeline from outside your house all the way to your machine and screens to trade effective. One bad component can make it hard to be a successful trader.
Let’s start outside the house. If you have the option in your area, use cable modem service and not DSL or satellite. And pay for one of their top two tiers of data speed. Remember, if you are trading and following a lot of charts and information, you don’t want a bogged down pipeline. It’s true that at the top speeds, you rarely run into a situation where you need most of what you are paying for. But if you have ever had your charts freeze up on news, it might not be your broker or charting company. It could just be Internet speed.
Inside the house, get yourself a good Wireless-N router and make sure that the hard ports pass information at a gigabit level. I currently use the Netgear WNDR4500 N900 Dual Band Gigabit Router, which can be found here if you are looking for cool domain names.
The mistake that people make next is a big one, though. Having a fast cable modem and a great router doesn’t mean anything if your computer can’t receive that information at top speeds. If you are using a hard port, it needs to accept the data at the gigabit level (this is typically something built into a motherboard and something worth checking when you buy a computer). If you are getting a wireless card, I suggest looking into the higher end chipsets for Wireless N cards, like the Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 AGN. This will guarantee that even over wireless, your machine gets the smoothest reception of data for what  you are pumping to it.
For the machine itself, I always prefer to install a fresh Operating System and not upgrade versions of Windows on one machine. Most people that had issues with Windows Vista, for example, had upgraded from XP. This leaves a lot of files and such that cause conflicts and problems. Currently, you want Windows 7 64-bit Ultimate. Windows 8 is on the horizon and I have heard great things, but it will probably be a bit before companies like e-Signal are fully compatible.
I am a big fan of solid state hard drives, at least for a primary drive. I have been using them now for three years. My machine boots in 10-15 seconds, which is important in the rare cases that I feel that I need to reboot in the middle of the day. I put a 120 GB solid state Intel hard drive as my primary drive and run most of my main applications from there. Everything loads instantly. I have a 2 TB secondary drive for everything else, like data, documents, and lesser-used programs.
You can get away with 8 GB of RAM, but I put 16 on my machine. This allows me to run a lot of programs with no slow down at all. Only 64-bit applications really take advantage of the bigger RAM number, but it is quite a useful thing to have in my opinion.
The other change in technology that I love is the video card technology. I currently run 3 separate 27″ monitors at high resolutions off of one ATI graphics card with their Eyefinity technology. The exact card is the Radeon HD 7900. Works great. Keyboard and mouse technology has also come a long way in recent years, and I finally felt comfortable cutting the cord and using the wireless versions of these. I tried them previously, and they would disconnect from time to time, which obviously can’t happen when you are trading.
I run e-Signal across two monitors. I’m currently in the process of creating my layouts for e-Signal 11.4 while using 10.6 as my primary charting. There are still some issues with 11.4, although there are certainly things about it that make it faster and easier to use and watch more things (i.e. the new pages system of tabs). You can run both 10.6 and 11.4 on your machine at the same time as the Data server serves both from a single login. I then use my third monitor for other things, such as email, the Lab, and instant messaging and more.
Don’t screw around when you are getting yourself a trading rig. This is your primary tool for making money. You’re fighting for executions against everyone else in the world. One bad link in the technology chain, and you might be disadvantaged. Have a great weekend.