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How efficient is a desktop computer?

I believe the energy conversion efficiency of a modern CPU is extremely low, because it dissipates pretty much all of it as heat, which is not a desired product. But what's the order of magnitude of the fraction that gets spent on the actual computation?

Are there absolute maximums imposed on this efficiency by the known laws of physics, or can information processing occur without any waste heat generation as a by-product?

I'm a bit out of my depth here, having no idea quite how information processing relates to heat and energy (other than suspecting that there is a very deep connection), so apologies if this is nonsensical or vague.


marked as duplicate by Mark Eichenlaub, David Z Jun 8 '11 at 0:14

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