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.
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.
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
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.
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.