What Kind of Computer Setup Do You Need for Day Trading?

The ideal day trading computer setup would include all the critical components such as high speed internet, multi-screens for charting, plenty of ram, and at least a dual-core CPU, but ideally quad core. The first thing we need to do is to focus on the type of computer that you’ll be using;  this can be a desktop 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.

Who doesn’t wanna sit on their living room couch and trade stocks right? A laptop based trading setup will probably work for most traders, especially ones just getting into it. Below I’ll share you some good computers to use that you can depend on.

What Computer Setup Is Best for Day Trading?

Here are some good value machines that won’t let you down:

  1. Big power tower Dell XPS 8930 Tower Desktop
  2. Big monitor for power users Dell P Series 42.51″ Screen 
  3. Best power and performance Asus Tuf Gaming Laptop 15.6 With 64 GB of RAM
  4. Best value all around and big screen Dell 7000 Inspiron 2-in-1 17.3″ Touch-Screen Laptop

Why Spend the Money on a Day Trading Computer Setup?

Why do you need to fork out your hard earned cash for premium hardware and software? Because, as a trader you need the proper tools to do your job.

Like a professional athlete, your computer needs to be in tip top shape in order to handle the demands of high intensity trading.

Think of a surgeon for example, do you really want him or her cutting into you with a dull knife? No, I didn’t think so, and you as a trader should be no different.

You need premium tools to run today’s modern trading software platforms.  At the Bullish Bears, we highly recommend using TD Ameritrade’s Thinkorswim platform for charting. We think they are the gold standard when it comes to trading software.

The table below shows you the latest requirements as of July 2021 to run the Thinkorswim platform. Thinkorswim has some of the highest day trading computer requirements because…it’s a beast. AKA a resource hog for your computer.

ThinkorSwim Requirements 2021
ThinkorSwim is the best all around trading platform but also uses a lot of resources, so it’s important to make sure your day trading computer is up to the challenge of running it.

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.

Why Is Internet Speed Important?

Truthfully, investing in internet speed is a no brainer. High-frequency trading computers are operating on fiber optic networks that cost millions of dollars a year to access. They do this because it helps them get their order in front of everyone else. For retail traders, we need the very best internet speeds available to ensure our orders get from our computer, and through the order book as quickly as possible,

Not only sending orders, but 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. This means being able to see every animation of the candlestick chart. If your speed is slow, your candle sticks and moving averages may lag, and then that could lead to a losing trade.

If you don’t have a good upload speed then you orders will be delayed.

I am using Charter Spectrum with a 400 download x 20 upload package. I pay around $100 out the door and have no complaints about the package. Keep in mind that speeds like this will only be useful if your computer can handle the speed. My WIRED computer receives the full benefit of the 400 megabyte download speed. However, my wireless trading computer only gets about 100 download. So, if you’re trading wirelessly, you probably don’t need to pay for a package pass 100mbs. Keep in mind your hardware might not handle the speeds you’re paying for. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re wired, you’re getting the best speed from your router to your computer and you can rest easy.

Day Trading Computer Setup Speed Requirements

Upload/Download Speeds

You’ll most likely want no less than 4 mbps download speed to day trade, which is fairly slow these days. If you can’t get more than 15vmbs download then you might have an issue if you are trying to trade a lot, and often.

My recommendation for day trading internet speed is a minimum of 4mb download and 1 mb upload speed for day trading, but more is always better.

For upload speed you need a minimum of .5 mb, but again the faster the better. At .5mb you may experience slippage orders being filled a bit away from the prices that you want) and a delay in order execution.

Type of Internet

We recommend to have at least a cable broadband internet; do NOT use DSL. I have worked for the cable company in another life, and I can tell you, DSL over copper phone lines is not going to cut it. You’re gonna have a bad time.

If you can get something faster like coax cable or the best, 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. This is why traders usually try go get the fastest packages they can so when all their neighbors are home using the internet, they aren’t feeling the speeds slow down to a crawl.

Wireless Router. Get Rid of that old LinkSyS router from college.

Naturally, 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 internet provider company will offer you. Their wireless routers usually aren’t as nice as the newer models you can get from the store.

We recently upgraded from a Nighthawk 1900 to a Nighthawk AX6600. The 1900 lasted 5 years without issue, but in the last 6 months of life the antenna became worn and lose, and the WiFi range was decreased. While the 1900 sported a dual core processor, the AX6600 is rocking the quad core. This modern router will set you up for the next 5 years and keep everyone else in your house happy while streaming netflix or games too! The router supports Fiber & Internet Plans up to 2Gbps, way more than you would ever need to trade.

Now that we have internet connectivity out of the way, let’s get into the computer hardware needed to make sure your trading has the best chance of being successful.

If you want to run hardcore algo software for trading, then you need a hardcore computer to make it all happen without the lag, and potential crashes mid trade!

What Kind of Processors (CPU) Do You Need for Your Day Trading Computer Setup?

If you are shopping for a computer or building your own, read this paragraph. If not skip over it.

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. This drastically improves performance.

We recommend going with a processor or tower with at least a Quad-Core (Intel i7).

What Kind of Hard Drive for Day Trading Computer?

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.

How Much Ram Do I Need for Day Trading Computer Setup?

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. 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 have enough RAM. The powerful and blazing fast Corsair Vengenance allows for plenty of space for your trading software to be installed on. We like the Corsair brand, however, its most important the RAM fits in your computer!

Recommended Specs: At least 8GB but we prefer 16GB at a minimum these days. Anything less that that would potentially not allow you to install enough programs on. Make sure you verify your computer’s RAM type before purchasing an upgrade.

What Kind of Graphics Card Do You Need for Day Trading Computer?

If you are using multiple monitors, we have personally used the Nvidia quadro K1200, It’s a good basic multi monitor video card that won’t break the banks. Video cards are insanely priced lately. 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.

If you plan on using multiple displays, you’re going to want a strong graphics card. Your computer’s 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. I am personally a fan of the new GTX 2080 series and have been running one in my main tower for 2 years and love it.

You also will need some adapters for mini-display port to HDMI and some HDMI cables. Also you will need a DP to VGA cable and a mini DP to DP cable.

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 to connect 4 outputs to one device that breaks everything down into 4 charts cleanly.

Trading Computers

Dell makes a great monitor specifically for day traders in mind. If you can spare the extra cash for this monitor – get it! Just make sure you have the space to fit it. It’s big!

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, FlowTrade all our social media, trading software, and extra charts – we need it!

Final Recommendations

Below are some handpicked 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!

Also feel free to join us in the trade room once you get all set up! We are a laid back group of traders who help each other succeed and prosper. Thanks for reading! We have a stock trading course and day trading course available if you need more help with trading.

Top Laptops for Trading in 2021:

Great Power: Asus Tuf Gaming Laptop 15.6 With 64 GB of RAM!!!

Great value and Power: Dell 7000 Inspiron 2-in-1 17.3″ Touch-Screen Laptop 

Best Valued Single Screen Monitor:

LG 34″ IPS WFHD Ultrawide Freesync Monitor

Best Dual Monitor Mount For 34″ and Under Monitors:

AmazonBasics Premium Dual Monitor Stand 

Top Internet Router:

Budget: NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 

Performance: NETGEAR AX6600