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Why Are Muli-Core Processors So Popular?

Friday, September 14th, 2012 by | Filed Under: I've Always Wanted To Know...

I’ve Always Wanted To Know:
Why Are Multi-Core Processors So Popular?


Modern computer processors are designed to have multiple cores, basically smaller processors on a single big chip, which share resources and can process multiple bits of information at the same time. Why is this design better then one big processor? Why has it become so popular?

The simple answer is that a modern computer or smart phone does a lot of things at the same time. If your computer had a single processor core then everything that runs on your system from the update programs that check for latest versions of software, to your web browser, interface elements, virus scanner, music player and e-mail program would need to get in line to wait for it’s turn to use the processor.

With multiple cores a processor can let a series of programs use the processor at the same time. Let’s say your processor is a quad core (4 individual cpu cores) so instead of the e-mail client and web browser fighting for processor time one program uses the first cpu core and the next program uses the second cpu core.

Modern software is also designed to take advantage of multiple cpu cores. Many modern photo editing or design programs will use two or more processor cores to speed up things like video conversion or applying filters to a photo.

Does this mean that more cores are always better? Not always. If software isn’t designed to take advantage of multiple cpu cores a program may run with similar speed of a single core processor of the same power.

How can you tell if a program in windows is taking advantage of multiple cpu cores?

Right click on your task bar and left click on task manager. Left click on performance and a chart will come up showing your CPU usage and a box will appear for each CPU core. Leave task manager open and open a program you want to test. Watch the CPU usage graphs when you perform a complicated task in the program. If it’s using multiple cpu cores you should see bumps in each one of the cpu usage charts. If you see only a single cpu usage chart increase then the program may only be able to work with a single core at a time.

Will this trend continue? Judging by modern processors coming with 2, 5, 6 and even 8 cpu cores there is no reason to expect the trend to slow down anytime soon.


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One Response to “Why Are Muli-Core Processors So Popular?”

  1. Libby R. says:

    Great info and great explanation. Thanks for guiding users on how to actually open that window and understand what part of it is doing.

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