although you may have for example a 2 gig processor, you can adjust the speed ti runs at, you can turn down the speed or even turn it up (although turning it up won't make it run that much faster and is also generally not recommended). You can do this in the BIOS.
Go back to the distant past when we had LPs instead of CDs. Their 'actual' speed was 33rpm but you could play them at 45rpm ('what it's running at') if you felt you needed to hear the songs play faster.
Yep, I think by "actual speed", tony tony tone means the factory native settings. The CPU was sold as, say, a 2.4GHz out of the box (tony tony tone's "actual speed"), but on the computer, it may be overclocking at 2.5GHz, or even underclocking.
The Sack's suggestion of wcpuid should be able to tell the factory settings.
thanks for the responses the problem im having is that i sent the pc to a shop for a repair as the pc keep crashing and losing programs,when the pc was returned i noticed the processor was showing different (the processor is meant to be athlon 2400xp yet its showing athlon 1800xp)if i return it to the 2400 setting in the bios the pc will run ok at first then after a while will dump the physical memory.