In this article we will discuss the ideal day trading computer setup and some important things to consider when purchasing a trading computer. The first thing we need to do is to focus on the type of computer that you’ll be using. This can be a tower or a laptop. Tower based computers can be a bit easier to upgrade over time, but laptops are much more mobile, and will allow you to trade nearly anywhere with a good internet connection. A laptop based trading setup will probably work for most traders, especially ones just getting into it.
DAY TRADING COMPUTER SETUP – TRADING SOFTWARE DEMANDS
First, let’s talk about the requirements necessary for today’s modern trading software platforms. At the Bullish Bears, we highly recommend using TD Ameritrade’s Thinkorswim platform. We think they are the gold standard when it comes to trading software. Unlike using a website based trading platform, Thinkorswim is a software package specifically designed for active traders who need to get lightning fast prices and metrics and then execute orders as fast as possible. Like a professional athlete, your computer needs to be in tip top shape in order to handle the demands of high intensity trading. The table below shows you the latest, at the time of this writing, computer requirements in order to run the Thinkorswim platform.
With these specs in mind, let’s take a look at all the different elements that go into making a great day trading computer setup.
INTERNET SPEEDS AND CONNECTIVITY
Internet speed for day traders is probably one of the biggest misconceptions out there for everyone that wants to start day trading. The big factor for day trading is having high speed download and upload rates. When talking to the world wide web, its a two way communication so a computer uses both when sending and receiving information. When trading you need fast download speeds so you can receive market data and you’ll want to have fast upload speeds so you can put in your buy and sell orders without delay.
Especially when it comes to day trading, you need to have the most current picture of the market so you can make a split second decision about when you should buy and sell a position. If your data is delayed, then you may be getting in or out of the trade later then you would like, and that will cost you money!
DAY TRADING COMPUTER SETUP – SUGGESTED SPEEDS
You’ll most likely want no less than 4 Mbps, which is fairly common now a days. You’ll definitely want to look at which plan you have with your internet provider because, when they say that your internet speed is “X”, that often will be the maximum speed that you will have and it might not be consistent throughout the day. For upload speed you need a minimum of .5 mb, but again the faster the better. We are using 60/5 at one location and 100/20 in another.
We recommend to have at least a cable broadband internet. If you can get something faster like fiber optic internet, that would be even better. Just be sure to remember that internet speeds always fluctuate and the greater number of people around you that are using the network the slower it can be. Also, you’re going to want a nice wireless router for your day trading computer setup. We prefer to have our own, rather than the one the provider will offer you. We went with a Netgear NightHawk AC1900 Router and love the ease of setup, speeds, and dual core processor! Now that we have connectivity out of the way, let’s get into the computer hardware.
DAY TRADING COMPUTER SETUP – PROCESSORS (CPU)
The central processing unit (CPU), is your computer brain and is the primary component that’s responsible for interpreting and executing most of the commands from the software that you are using. The clock speed of a processor is measured in gigahertz (GHz) and it signifies the number of tasks it can process in a second. Some processors have a single-core while others may have a dual-core, or quad-core. Each core represents is an individual processing unit, so a dual-core CPU can handle twice the instructions every second than a single-core processor and a quad-core processor can process four times as much information, which drastically improves performance. Our recommend spec: Quad-Core 3.3GHz (Intel i7) Intel Core i7
DAY TRADING COMPUTER SETUP – WHAT KIND OF HARD DRIVE
Your computer’s hard drive is where all your data and programs are kept. Since storage is becoming more inexpensive nowadays, you should try to get a computer with a solid state drive (SSD). SSDs are much faster and more efficient than the older hard disk drives (HDD) also known as “spin drives.” There are also hybrid drives that are half SSD, half HDD. Stick with a SSD for your day trading computer setup as this is fastest. For example, booting a computer from a SSD on average takes about 10 seconds. For size, a 500GB SSD Drive should be more than enough, especially if you only use it for trading and not a general use computer for the family. We really like the Samsung drives and have upgraded to them in our computers.
DAY TRADING COMPUTER SETUP – RAM (MEMORY)
Random Access Memory, RAM for short, is what allows your computer that allows you to run multiple programs more efficiently. A computer’s hard-drive is its long-term memory and RAM is its short-term memory. As a trader, you and your computer will be trying to multitask and run a variety of programs and calculations at the same time, and the more programs you run on your computer, the more RAM you’ll want to have so requests don’t get backed up while you work. You’ll want to make sure to get a higher amount of RAM. Recommended Specs: At least 8GB (16GB is preferred). We like the Corsair brand, however, its most important the RAM fits in your computer! Make sure you verify your computers RAM type before purchasing an upgrade.
DAY TRADING COMPUTER SETUP – GRAPHIC CARDS
If you plan on using multiple displays, you’re going to want a strong graphics card. Your computers graphics card is responsible for displaying all your computers information. The more powerful the graphics card is, the better graphics and more screens you can have. You’ll want to have a Nvidia graphics card that has at least a 4GB of its own memory. We stick with Nvidia because of its strong brand name, reliability, and cutting edge processing. If you are using multiple monitors, we have personally used the Nvidia quadro K1200. For single monitor setups, the Gigabyte Geforce GTX 1050. If you need additional monitors added simply and easily via USB to HDMI. We are using a external video adapter which connects to your USB port and gives you two extra HDMI connections allowing two extra monitors! We like the ASUS 24″ monitors connected to this.
DAY TRADING COMPUTER SETUP – MONITORS, SCREENS AND MORE SCREENS
Once you get your trading computer, you’ll want to focus on how many monitors you’ll want. You’ll just want to make sure the monitors are compatible with your computer so you don’t need to buy an adapter. We are using a Dell P4317Q as part of our setup. We like the single monitor, no bezels, 4k screen, low power consumption and ease of use.
How many monitors should you get? Well that’s both up to you and what your hardware will support. Some people are comfortable using one monitor while others want an operations centers worth. Just remember more isn’t necessarily better. Make sure you are using your space and devices to their limit and then ask yourself what you really need. You’ll want to find a balance between real estate space and unnecessary distractions. Here are a few different trading setups for you to look at. We are using two desks, and 6 screens on one, and a laptop with a ASUS USB monitor on the other. Between Trade-Ideas, Benzinga Pro, Market Club, social media, trading platforms, charts – we need it!
DAY TRADING COMPUTER SETUP – FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS
Below are some hand picked devices that we recommend for a solid trading setup. If you are looking for the best technology with flawless performance for trading, look no further!
Top Spec’d Laptops for Trading:
Best Valued Single Screen Monitor:
Best Dual Monitor Mount for your 34″ and Under Monitors:
Top Internet Router:
CHOOSE A COURSE THAT WORKS BEST FOR YOU
Fundamentals of stock trading
STOCK TRADING COURSE
Simple day trading strategies on how to become a consistent and profitable day trader
DAY TRADING COURSE
Advanced day trading techniques
Basics of swing trading and also some advanced swing trading strategies
SWING TRADING COURSE
Basic and advanced options trading strategies and how to buy and sell options contracts
OPTIONS TRADING COURSE
Set up your virtual trading platform in ThinkorSwim