How can I tell how many CPU cores I have in Windows 8?

Some people have a fervor for knowing all the details of their system hardware.

In Windows 8 you can easily view the juicy specs about your CPU speed, RAM usage and OS bit version.

Just press Windows Key + x + y to get the summary… but what if you want to see how many cores you have?

First let me explain what I mean by core.

CPUs do a lot

I’m going to figuratively say that the computer’s central processing unit (CPU) is analogous to your central nervous system: your brain.

That is, every click, keystroke, and action is processed through the CPU just as every sensory input as a human being is governed by your brain.

The CPU has the laborious task of synthesizing billions of electrical impulses per second.   Technically speaking, the CPU comprises foundational technologies such as:

  • Arithmetic Logic Unit
  • Interrupt Handling
  • I/O Control

Let’s briefly walk through the trio

Arithmetic Logic Unit

The ALU is a fancy name for the digital circuit that works out all the basic math and logic functions on your computer.

I suppose if we extend our brain analogy, the ALU would be your brain’s cortex. We’re getting philosophical here, but your stream of consciousness is the closest comparison I can think of to the ALU because it’s where activity is the busiest.

Interrupt Handling

You’re assiduously banging out an email when your boss suddenly stomps in your office and breaks your concentration.

He drops a heavy UPS box on your desk and the sheer weight of the fall almost topples your desk lamp.

After the dust clears he barks: “Hey, I need you to expedite this package to New York.  The CEO is expecting it tonight.”

Interruptions suck but they are great way to illustrate the daily life of a CPU.

CPU’s are constantly receiving interruption signals from software and hardware which means its attention is always being pulled from the current task (known as a thread).

CPU’s manage all these interruption and ensure that the active thread still gets reliably executed.

Input/Output Control

When you think of I/O control think of a traffic cop.

In addition to managing interruptions and executing math operations the CPU coordinates the flow of data to and from itself with the help of a specialized controller called a Channel Processor.

Usually the CPU offloads chunks of the I/O functions to this Channel Processor which then independently deals with data exchange.

Cores Cores Cores

So what’s the deal with CPU cores?

Just think of one CPU core as one CPU

Thus, a dual core processor means you have two cores; that is – two CPU’s inside of one physical CPU socket.

This pattern continues for quad-core processors and so on.

So a dual core processor is a single CPU with two cores which is roughly equivalent to having two physical CPUs.

Having multiple cores means you can process multiple instructions in parallel.  In addition you actually get a performance surge by squeezing multiple cores on to a single slab of silicon because the signal has less distance to travel and therefore doesn’t a attenuate as easily and allows chip designers to push more data for each clock cycle.

Alright, enough of the pedantic details, here’s how to see how many cores your computer has.

Viewing your cores

Open a command prompt by pressing Windows Key + x + a and paste in the following command:

WMIC CPU Get /Format:List

Use WMIC to get the number of cores of your CPU

Scroll down and look for NumberOfCores and NumberOfLogicalProcessors.  From the graphic above you can see I have a quad core processor.

The second parameter is double the first because my PC is using Hyper Threading Technology.

Another way to view your cores is to simply press Ctrl + Shift + Esc from the Desktop and click open the Performance Tab.

Windows 8 Task Manager CPU Cores

Those eight mini-graphs represent eight logical cores.  These logical cores include both your physical and virtual hyper-threaded cores.

If you only see one chart, you can right click it and mouse over Change graph to and select Logical Processors.

How to view logical processors

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  • Husky Davies

    Wow, this was helpful. Thanks. My computer has four Intel i5 4430 @ 3.00ghz processors then, but the Logical Processors says four too, instead of eight like the example.

    I’m impressed with this computer. Now I know why it is so damn fast and why I can have a bunch of programs open with no problem unlike my last computer. I wish it had a better graphic card for games though. It was a good purchase nonetheless.

    • Hey Husky, I’m glad I could help. what kind of computer do you have? How much did you get it for? Perhaps there’s some other people reading that would like to benefit from a fast computer like yours.

      • Husky Davies

        Hi! My computer is a HP Envy 700-074. It cost around 700 bucks without screen and all the extras (I’ve seen refurbished for 400 bucks). With everything added, screen, drawing tablet, sound system it was around 1200 bucks. Maybe not a gaming computer, but it holds itself together very well. Definitely a great deal for guys like me who uses a computer mostly for work with heavy multitasking, and use of demanding programs. Opens everything at the speed of a click, and it’s dead silent. I really love it.

        It runs Win 8.1 64 bit, it has (as mentioned before) an Intel Core i5 4430 @ 3.00ghz (thanks to this tip I know it’s a quad core), 12gb Ram and a 2TB hard drive. The graphic card is very basic though, and what most commercial computers come with. I think it’s a HP HD Graphics 4600.

    • Zak

      Hey Husky, just for clarification, you have ONE Intel i5-4430 processor with
      Four cores. The reason your logical processors also says four instead of 8, is because the Intel i5-4430 doesn’t have hyper threading technology (like the i7-2720 has) which enables two “virtual or logical cores” for each physical core.

  • CO

    This is the simplest, best explanation I have read! Thank you

  • Jaeku

    awesome man thanks!!! this help me with setting up custom settings for Steam games..

  • Austin Smith

    so what does it mean if i have 2 cores and 4 logical processors i have an i-7 4510u cpu @ 2.00GHz

  • Hanrich Zeelie

    Thank you!

  • Lord Van Uroktor

    Thanks this helped a lot and was easy to understand.

  • GoultySoul

    I have a 6 core AMD FX 6350. But when i tried this steps it show i have 3 cores and 6 logical cores. This means i have only 3 cores instead of 6? When i view the task manager it shows the 6 core but only 3 is working the other 3 is shut down. Something wrong with my cpu or the other cores start when they are needed?

    • Zayd Borja

      open start and search “msconfig.exe”
      click the “boot” tab, then “advanced options”
      You should be able to choose how many cores are in use.
      I know it’s late but hope this helps