In years gone by, the CPU on your PC would have been a single-core piece of silicon. As performance demands increased, rather than installing multiple CPUs, more processing units were packed onto a single CPU.
These days it’s not unusual to find six or eight of these 'cores' on a consumer CPU. In future you can expect a lot more than this. Intel recently pulled back the covers on its most powerful desktop CPU which boasts an amazing 28 cores.
So, how can you see how many cores your PC's processor has? Here's how to find out.
How to see the number of cores in your CPU
There’s no need to open up your laptop or PC case in order to discover how many cores are inside. Thankfully there is a very easy way to find out this information within Windows itself.
To do so, go to the Start Menu, search for Task Manager, then select it from the list of results that appears. Alternatively you can press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open Task Manager.
Across the top of the window that appears you’ll see several tabs. Select Performance and the main pane will change to show the current state of the CPU.
Beneath the graph you’ll see a listing for Cores: with the number included on your CPU displayed to the right.
Beneath that is Logical processors: which displays the total amount of cores if you include the virtual ones used for simultaneous multithreading.
To see what each logical processor is doing, right-click on the graph can choose Change graph to > Logical processors. Below you can see the load on each core. You'll also note that the number of cores is the same as the number of logical processors here. That's because Core i5 processors (for the most part) do not support Hyper-Threading.
If the reason you’re trying to decipher the makeup of your system is to see whether you can play the latest FPS or open world RPG, then it might be worth considering an upgrade to a different part of your PC.
Take a look at our recommendations for the best graphics cards, as upgrading yours can be the best solution when it comes to making games run better.
What do cores do?
Each core acts essentially as a CPU in its own right. This allows them to crunch the numbers required to complete computational tasks which could be for running programs, displaying graphics (although this is often handled by dedicated cards), or anything else required by the system.
With more cores, more tasks can be completed in a shorter space of time, and this has the effect of speeding up performance while allowing PCs to run more challenging applications.
You’ll often see another feature mentioned alongside cores: Hyper-Threading. This is Intel's name for processing multiple threads at once, and uses clever technlology to create virtual CPU cores which the operating system sees as real cores. ther than Hyper-Threading.
Some AMD CPUs also use virtual cores, but it uses the term SMT - simultaneous multithreading.
Virtual cores can improve performance, but only in minor ways when compared to real cores.That being said, every little helps, so a processor which supports SMT can be a better choice than one which doesn't, assuming they both have the same number of physical cores and run at a similar speed.
For more information about what makes your computer tick, also check out What hardware is inside my PC?
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