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What Is a Midrange Computer?

A dual core CPU mounted to a motherboard.
A stick of DDR-RAM, a type of memory.
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  • Written By: Eugene P.
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 12 April 2014
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"Midrange computer" is a loosely defined term for a computer system that is more powerful than a general-purpose personal computer but less powerful than a full-size mainframe computer. In most instances, a midrange computer is employed as a network server when there are a small to medium number of client systems. The computers generally have multiple processors, a large amount of random access memory (RAM), and large hard drives. Additionally, they usually contain hardware that allows for advanced networking, and ports for connecting to more business-oriented peripherals such as large-scale data storage devices. The use of a midrange computer is not limited to businesses, however, as some people build or purchase midrange systems when high-end personal computers are insufficient, as could be the case with complex real-time image processing or computer gaming.

There is no single definition of what constitutes a midrange computer system. In general, it refers to a system with installed hardware that has higher operating specifications than what typically is found in the broader consumer retail market. At the same time, the systems are considered midrange because the hardware is not as powerful as a larger mainframe system that often uses components specifically designed for business or industrial networking, security and redundancy. One noticeable difference between a midrange system and a mainframe is that the midrange system often retains a large amount of functionality as a stand-alone personal computer, while a mainframe is geared primarily toward being a network host.

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The central processing unit (CPU) on a midrange computer is frequently a multi-core design, meaning there are several physical processing chips on the motherboard working in tandem. This allows a midrange system that is being used as a network server to run several independent processes concurrently, increasing the speed and efficiency of the computer. The large amount of RAM and hard drive space, sometimes containing more than a terabyte of storage, allows the computer to run complex networking software and to maintain sizeable databases.

When used in a network environment, a midrange computer is capable of acting as a server for several dumb terminals, with all processing taking place within the server. For more computationally intensive settings, such as scientific simulation and research, a midrange system might require that each client actually be a functional low-end personal computer that can perform some processing on its own. If being used in the home, some of the networking and speed benefits of a midrange computer can be capped or go unused because many consumer-level computer products and services, such as a digital subscriber line (DSL) or low-end graphics software, are incapable of taking advantage of the increased capabilities of a midrange system.

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