[Updated 2021-3-15 with picture with new monitor and update to CPU.] I last wrote about my trading computer back in 2016 and I just updated it so here is an updated post about it. Not much has changed but there are a few key improvements. The monitors are the same, except that I bought a Viewsonic 43″ monitor to replace my two right-most monitors. One problem with this specific monitor is the VESA mounting holes are towards the top of the monitor so if mounted in portrait mode it tends to tilt to the side (hence the books under it). Another downside of using such a large, flat monitor is that the far edges suffer some perspective distortion from me looking at them from an angle. I think perhaps the ideal setup would be four ultrawide curved monitors, such as this 49″ monitor from Monoprice.
While having more monitors and a faster computer can improve one’s efficiency, they matter not at all if a trader doesn’t have a good trading strategy and the ability to stick to that strategy. Keep that in mind! Beginning traders should not go out and buy a computer just for trading — anything that runs decently fast for basic computing should work fine for running one or two trading platforms.
I have 7 monitors, with the bottom center two monitors being the same ones from 7 years ago (24″ touchscreens); the rest of the monitors are 22″ to 24″ monitors of various makes. Frankly, monitor quality doesn’t matter for trading so a cheap monitor of decent quality is fine. My monitor stands are a hodge-podge and if I did this over again I would make the monitors all the same and put more thought into proper monitor stands. I have Ergotron quad-monitor stands holding the four bottom monitors. Each of the upper-row monitors is held by its own Atdec monitor pole (when I bought these they were half the price they are now; they are not the most stable).
Besides the monitors, the most important part of my computer (not shown) is the APC Pro 1000 UPS — If I lose power I want to be able to have enough time to close out day-trade positions. I have only two monitors and the CPU on the UPS. I have a separate UPS for my internet router and wifi access point. If my internet goes down I can turn my cell phone into a wifi hot spot to quickly reconnect.
As to the guts of the computer, I just upgraded from something that was way overpowered (a 14-core Xeon server processor) to something even more overpowered (AMD Ryzen 5900x). I did not need to upgrade the CPU but it is a good idea to do a clean install of Windows every few years so I used that as an opportunity to upgrade the hardware. Keep in mind that I do some things that are very CPU-intensive that most other traders never do. Here are the specs:
CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5950x 16-core (MSRP $799) – All the current-generation AMD processors are in short supply and sell out in minutes whenever they are restocked. I first got an AMD Ryzen 9 5900X because it was all I could find but I have since sold that (used) for more than I paid. For more normal users, the Ryzen 7 5800x (MSRP $449) is a great deal and great processor and it is currently in stock at most stores. I was able to obtain my 5950x directly from AMD by following the Stock Drops Discord chat alerts (free). Current (5000) generation AMD processors use less power and have superior multi-threaded performance to all current generation Intel chips. For a trader like myself, lots of cores are important because I run tons of programs all the time.
Motherboard: MSI MPG X570 Gaming Pro Carbon WIFI ($260) – One of the cheaper X570 motherboards that support AMD’s socket AM4, it has built-in WIFI 6, room for two graphics cards, two M.2 slots, and plenty of USB ports.
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-U12S SE-AM4 CPU cooler ($65) – I am a huge fan of Noctua CPU coolers and fans and they have worked great for me for years.
Storage: Samsung 980 Pro M.2 2280 1TB PCIE Gen4 NVMe SSD ($230) – M.2 is a far faster connection than SATA and modern SSDs benefit greatly from it. There are other good SSDs out there for a lot less but this is considered to be the best overall. I have found that it has very significantly increased boot speed and file load speed from the 950 Pro I used prior to my upgrade (and that I have in my second M.2 slot). I currently have no SATA drives in my computer other than a DVD drive. I have 8 terabytes of RAID 1 magnetic disk storage (WD Red 8TB drives) in a Synology DS218+ attached to my network.
RAM: HyperX Fury 64GB (4 x 16GB) DDR4 2133MHz DRAM – I just used the same RAM I bought 4 years ago because it is tested/approved for use with my new motherboard and faster/newer RAM would not give me any meaningful benefit.
Graphics cards: EVGA GeForce RTX 3060 XC GAMING, 12G-P5-3657-KR, 12GB GDDR6 – This is of course overkill for trading, but it is a good card and I like the low power usage of the RTX 3060 compared to other current-generation cards. If I do upgrade to 4 43″ monitors this one card could run all of them easily.
EVGA GeForce GTX 970 04G-P4-2974-KR 4GB SC GAMING w/ACX 2.0 – I have two of these graphics cards; I have had them since 2015; I just replaced one with the 3060 listed above while the other remains in my computer. I will keep the replaced card as a backup. They still work fine. If you want to be able to game as well as trade, the Nvidia GeForce 3060 Ti cards offer great performance and are reasonably priced if you can find them for sale (use Stock Drops to find any — they sell out in seconds whenever they are restocked).
Desk: EvoDesk 30″ x 72″ that I purchased 5 years ago when my previous sit to stand desk broke. If you have a lot of monitors pay attention to the weight capacity of your sit to stand desk — if I were purchasing a new desk today I would buy an EvoDesk Pro because they are more stable and have the highest weight capacity I have seen among sit to stand desks.
Computer Case: Antec Nine Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Case – This is the same case I have been using for six years. It works great. I replaced one of the front fans with a Noctua aftermarket fan. If you are in the market for a computer case, this Fractal Design Meshify C looks nice.
Power Supply Unit (PSU): Rosewill Fortress-750 750 watt active PFC Power Supply – This is the same power supply I have been using for the last 6 years. Get an 80 Plus Platinum power supply (or Titanium, which is even better though a lot more expensive) — the more efficient the power supply, the less waste heat generated. Learn more about the power supply efficiency ratings at Tom’S Hardware. Most importantly, go with a well-respected brand — a failed power supply or dirty electricity from a poorly made PSU can damage the rest of the computer.
Accessory: Elgato Stream Deck – This is a nice tool for those who have trouble remembering hotkeys. See the below tweet thread from me:
Computer Building Tips
Building a computer nowadays is easy! There are plenty of guides to do it so I won’t go into details, but following are the most important things that people frequently mess up:
1. Avoid static electricity!
2. Check at the motherboard manufacturer’s website to verify that the RAM you want to use has been verified to work with the motherboard.
3. Make sure you put your CPU cooler on, use thermal paste with it, and verify that all fans are working before you close up the case.
4. Prepare a Windows installation USB drive beforehand.
How to Save a lot of Money
Older high-end PC parts get sold off for pennies on the dollar. You can assemble a powerful computer by buying used CPUs / motherboard / RAM. For example, the Intel Xeon 14-core CPU I bought four years ago cost $1500 new (and costs $750 new now) and is available now for $150 used. Don’t buy used storage media though.