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At one point, our computers had a central processing unit (CPU) What Is A CPU and What Does It Do? [Technology Explained] What Is A CPU and What Does It Do? [Technology Explained] Read More with a single core. These days, most CPUs you’ll come across are dual core, quad core, or even octo core. We’ll explain exactly what a core is, dual core vs quad core, and how this all impacts your real-world computer usage.

The answers aren’t just helpful for leaning more about your computer — you may have to choose between a less-expensive CPU with fewer cores or a more-expensive CPU with more cores when buying a laptop How To Buy A Laptop Or Notebook PC In 2013 How To Buy A Laptop Or Notebook PC In 2013 This is an exciting time for the PC. Contrary to predictions of its death, the personal computer isn’t going away – but it is changing and, in some ways, becoming more personal. Touchscreens, convertible hinges... Read More , tablet, or even a smartphone. Knowing the difference between dual core vs quad core CPUs – and what it means for you – will help you make smart decisions when purchasing new hardware.

What Is a Core?

Each CPU “core” is actually a separate central processing unit, which is the part of the CPU that actually does the work. For example, a dual-core chip may look like a single CPU chip, but it actually has two physical central processing units on the chip.

Additional central processing units allow a computer to do multiple things at once. If you’ve ever used a single-core CPU and made the upgrade to a dual-core CPU, you should have noticed a significant difference in how responsive your computer is.

For example, let’s say you’re extracting an archive file and browsing the web at the same time. If you had a single-core CPU in your computer, web browsing wouldn’t be very responsive. The single core would have to split its time between web browsing and file-extraction tasks. If you had a dual-core CPU with two cores, one core would work on extracting the file while the other core did your web-browsing work. Web browsing would be much faster and more responsive.

Whether you’re doing multiple things at once or not, your computer is often doing system tasks in the background and you can benefit from additional cores to keep the operating system responsive. Applications can also be written to take advantage of multiple cores. For example, Google Chrome renders each website with a separate process The Better Browser With Great Features - Google Chrome The Better Browser With Great Features - Google Chrome Google Chrome presently is the most popular browser on the planet. It took Chrome less than 4 years to rise from barely 1% market share to where it is now. Globally, more than one out... Read More . This allows Google Chrome to use different CPUs for different websites rather than using a single CPU for all browser-related tasks.


dual core vs quad core

Clock Speed vs. Cores

CPUs have a clock speed – think of it as how fast the CPU does work. (That’s actually an imperfect analogy as the truth is a lot more complicated, but it will have to do for now.)

For example, Intel’s Core i5-3330 processor has a clock speed of 3 GHz and is a quad-core processor, which means it has four cores. All four cores in this Intel i5 processor are each running at 3 GHz.

what is dual core

Doubling The Cores Doesn’t Double The Speed

Many computer programs are single-threaded, which means that their work can’t be divided across multiple CPUs. They must each run on a single CPU. This means that doubling the cores won’t double their performance.

If you have a single-threaded application running on a 3 GHz quad-core CPU, that application will run at 3 GHz — not 12 GHz. It will use one core and the other three cores will sit idle, waiting for other tasks to perform.

Writing properly multithreaded applications that can scale across several CPUs at once is actually a difficult problem in computer science. It’s becoming a more crucial problem, as the future looks to be computers with more and more cores Why More Cores Will Beat Better Cores [Opinion] Why More Cores Will Beat Better Cores [Opinion] There's absolutely no doubt that competition between chip makers is steadily increasing not only for PC processors but for mobile and other-purpose processors as well. The big five that need to be mentioned are Intel,... Read More instead of fewer cores at faster and faster speeds.

Some applications can take advantage of multiple cores. Google Chrome’s multi-process architecture allows it to perform actions across several different cores at once. Some computer games can divide their calculations across multiple separate cores at once.

However, most of the applications you use are likely single-threaded. A quad-core CPU won’t run Microsoft Office twice as fast as a dual-core CPU. If all you do is run Microsoft Office, the performance might be extremely similar.

More cores help if you’re looking to do more at once or if you have a multithreaded application that can take advantage of them. For example, if you’re running several virtual machines What Is a Virtual Machine? What Is a Virtual Machine? Virtual machines allow you to run other operating systems within your current operating system, but why does that matter? What are the pros and cons? Read More while encoding video, extracting files, and doing other CPU-demanding things on your computer, an octo-core CPU may be able to keep up while even a quad-core CPU may stumble under such load.

Dual Core, Quad Core & More

Phrases like “dual core,” “quad core,” and “octo core” all just refer to the number of cores a CPU has:

  • Dual Core: Two cores.
  • Quad Core: Four cores.
  • Hexa Core: Six cores.
  • Octo Core: Eight cores.
  • Deca Core: Ten cores.

Controlling & Monitoring Cores

You can actually control which running programs can use a core from the Windows task manager. Right-click a process on the Processes pane and select Set Affinity.

what is dual core

You’ll be able to select which physical CPUs (cores) the application can run on. You shouldn’t need to tweak this most of the time, although it can be helpful when you want to restrict a demanding application to certain cores or avoid bugs in old PC games.

dual core vs quad core

From the task manager, you can also use the Performance tab to view the usage of all your CPU cores.



Intel CPUs use a technology referred to as “hyper-threading technology.” With hyper-threading, each physical core presents itself to the system as two logical cores. In the screenshot above, we’re not using an octo-core CPU – we’re using a quad-core CPU with hyper-threading.

This improves performance to some degree, but a quad-core CPU with hyper-threading is nowhere near as good as an octo-core CPU. You still only have four physical cores, although some tricks allow them to do a bit more work at once.

Have a question of your own about how technology works? Ask us on MakeUseOf Answers! This article was inspired by several good questions on MakeUseOf Answers.

Image Credits: Nao lizuka on Flickr, Installing computer CPU on a motherboard via Shutterstock

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  1. Victoria
    March 19, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    I need more memory for slideshows,
    and videos. I also just started a YouTube channel.
    What would give me more space? I usually work from my cell, but I also
    use my desktop.

  2. Anonymous
    March 3, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    Does the number of cores significantly affect daily duties such as web browsing and video streaming?

  3. Tristan Ferris
    January 22, 2017 at 6:53 pm

    I really appreciate the information.... ALL OF IT. Now I can have an extremely better time choosing a computer that will cater for my needs.

    Thank you once again.

  4. Rohit yadav
    December 27, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    Good explanation

  5. Raju
    December 22, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    very good information's very useful.......

  6. LA2000
    December 12, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    So, if I understand this correctly, as most consumer level, non-media programs are only capable of utilizing a single core, dollar-for dollar, my grandmother would be better off with a higher clock speed CPU with fewer cores and my gamer nephew would be better off with a lower clock speed with more cores.

    I appreciate that a higher clock speed PLUS more cores is optimal, but I am talking trade-offs within products of the same price range.

    Do I have that right? Or is there something that I am missing?

  7. mohinish nirwal
    October 7, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    wow thanks

  8. atlas chiew
    August 26, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    well explain. thanks

  9. hridaynath
    August 22, 2016 at 5:19 am

    help to understand core, thanks :)

  10. subair
    August 18, 2016 at 6:22 am

    useful and excellent explanation thanks...

  11. chris
    August 14, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Pretty cool, it explains the difference between dual/quad core and why a quad will always be better.

  12. shalki joshi
    August 10, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    Information in Layman terms is what i was seraching... Thanks a lot for this :)

  13. Daniel
    August 9, 2016 at 7:04 am

    Great explanation! Thank you.

  14. PriyaSathish
    August 9, 2016 at 4:27 am

    Thanks, really it is much useful, got a clear knowledge about quad core processor:-)

  15. JAR
    August 5, 2016 at 1:31 am

    Thank you so much! This is helping me choose what game development laptop to buy.

  16. Akhilesh
    July 28, 2016 at 3:57 am

    It was helpful

  17. Tareq Karimi
    July 19, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    Thanks, I actually digested this information. Quite informative.

  18. Jack
    July 19, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    The best explanation I've seen so far! Many thanks!

  19. SamsMom
    July 17, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    Thanks! I feel so much more prepared to select the right computer! I've bookmarked your site; looking forward to becoming more techno-savvy!

  20. shalini
    July 13, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    clear explanation. Thanks.

  21. Lucky
    July 11, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    Thanks for a clear explanation. It was helpful!

  22. Ganesh Prasad
    July 11, 2016 at 7:15 am

    Very nice and crisp explanation. Thanks a ton!

  23. Koda
    July 2, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    Was very informative, wish it had gone a little more in depth with clock speed and explaining that.

  24. Ujjwal
    June 21, 2016 at 9:59 am

    Informative and Clear !!

  25. Sharukh Khan
    May 11, 2016 at 7:47 am

    I Love you Dear...
    Thanks for the Nice Clear Best Info...?????Bless you

  26. Abbass
    May 1, 2016 at 10:23 am

    Thank You a lot, your explanation is very helpful

  27. Nied
    April 17, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    Very helpful!

  28. sdgs
    April 1, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Thank you for details

  29. pavan gupta
    February 26, 2016 at 10:21 am

    very clear description,good work,please keep it up.

  30. Ankur Bhagat
    February 12, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    Nice Explanation..

  31. sridhar
    December 10, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Very nice explanations...

  32. Bill Maughan
    December 6, 2015 at 4:54 am

    Task manager is different in windows 10; it looks as though one can no longer chose a core for a program to run on, set affinity is not in the drop down.

    • Bill Maughan
      December 6, 2015 at 5:16 am

      Scratch this last comment, I found it. You have to go to details in task manager, then set affinity appears in the drop down.

  33. niraj
    November 28, 2015 at 6:40 am

    pls clear logical core, how it is working?

  34. steevan
    November 24, 2015 at 6:12 am

    Hi Chris, thank you so much for a clear explanation. it was ultimate to read.. thanks a lot.

  35. Firstname Lastname
    October 19, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    Hi, I would be very much obliged if you could tell me how well would a quad-core 1.9 ghz would run a game that requires dual-core 2.5ghz.(Only based on the CPU not GPU)

    • Firstname Lastname
      October 19, 2015 at 6:18 pm

      My bad on expression, I meant how well would a dual core 1.9 ghz with 4 threads cope with a game that requires dual core 2.5 ghz.

  36. Asia Power
    October 19, 2015 at 9:22 am

    Hey Chris, Very well explained article. Simple yet informative and very useful. Thanks a on. Best wishes - Rakesh

  37. John Clouds
    October 18, 2015 at 3:31 am

    can you guys do an article further explaining how to navigate task manager.

    • Rithik
      December 13, 2015 at 6:24 am

      Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc at the same time.

  38. Raju miah
    October 10, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    thank you for this

  39. gul khan
    October 7, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    thanx for clear explanation

  40. mail2vascodigama
    October 3, 2015 at 5:43 am

    Thanks for clear explanation, please keep educating us.

  41. Rej Flores
    September 8, 2015 at 7:51 am

    thANK YOU so much .. :D :D this helps a lot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D write more articles about computers..

  42. jeuls santos
    September 6, 2015 at 2:22 am

    Hey Guys can anyone help me cause i don't know the difference of dual core and quad core and i don't know what is much great if it is Dual Core or Quad Core so guys can anyone help me THANKS.....

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 6, 2015 at 5:51 am

      Hey jeuls, that's what this entire article is about :) Did you have any particular question about it?

  43. pranava kumar
    August 11, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    Nice explanation

  44. Luis Magno
    August 3, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    please anyone could tell me about this
    2.0 Quad Core Haswell CPU w/ Intel Iris Pro 5200
    8GB of RAM
    256GB of PCIe storage


    • Rithik
      December 13, 2015 at 6:25 am

      What CPU is it exactly? i3? i5? i7?

  45. Chris
    June 19, 2015 at 2:47 am

    Hey There, Looks Like You've did an Error. Octa Core Not Octo Core, its not an Octopus Dude, other than that you review of Cores are Great

  46. Vasu
    May 15, 2015 at 7:30 am

    This article is very informative and helpful, really appreciate it. Thanks for sharing!

  47. Prateek
    April 13, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    Multiple cores are for performing multiple tasks simultaneously whereas more GHZ will help you to achieve better/faster performance for specific tasks, more core does not merge within for a single operation. Hence HTC will be better at multitasking whereas blackberry will perform better at demanding tasks such as high tech gaming.

  48. ramji
    April 5, 2015 at 8:13 am

    Black berry os 10.2.1 and 1.7 ghz dual core processor .
    Htc desire 820 android 4.4.2 kitkat 1ghz octo core processor. which is faster ? Pls reply to me ...

  49. raja
    February 21, 2015 at 11:24 am

    hi ,
    can any one suggest which is best:
    i prefer lenovo.
    --> i3/i5/ quad core processor ? pick one i need fast response while working with browsers ,app,games.

    i use gaming graphics, photoshop, editing, programming,etc..

    • Caleb
      February 27, 2015 at 7:46 am

      You haven't explained much there? If your doing programming i would have thought you would have a fairly good guess yourself? Gaming is complcated it all depends on the game, i use a Intel Core i7-4790K 4.0GHz Quad-Core Processor and i struggle sometimes. Graphics cards are also important my Email is: Happy to help anybody who needs help well thats if i can help:)

  50. Robert
    February 11, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Pardon my ignorance here, I've jsut bought a second hand desktop PC dual core HP short form.
    I recently found a 2nd hard drive for it - a thrown out Western digital 250 GB.
    When I installed this hard drive I notice it splits into 2 drives (as well as the original C Drive) showing 164 GB and 87-odd GB each. (the 87 GB seems to hold the programs and the 164 GB is all freed up). What is this split up, is it because the PC is 'dual' core. ? I'd rather have all my files in just the one 250GB drive. Thks, Robert

    • Anonymous
      March 1, 2015 at 10:18 am

      Hey Rober,you can format your hard disc and delete the partitions to remain with only one volume of 250GB

    • Robert
      March 1, 2015 at 11:04 am

      Hi Anonymous,

      Thank you for that, I see now that it is obviously the last owner who has partitioned the hard drive into two parts, not the fact that my PC is 'Dul Core'.
      I shall format the hard disc as you suggest. many thanks for the explanation. Robert

  51. Tony Nelson
    January 29, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    I dont know whether Chris Hoffman used a bad example or whether he really does not understand multi-threading, multitasking and pipelining. Both the examples he chose above are not the best cases of non linear mixes. Unzipping an archive is a compute bound function and will have few or no I/O interrupts. Browsing on the other hand is subject to very slow I/O and many interrupts where such interrupts permit the Interrupt Service Routine to context switch to the next or highest non suspended task.
    Furthermore traditional linear processes can never be multi-tasked and can only be optimised if the data is subject to random arrival rates and hence continuously varying queue lengths usually following a Poisson distribution- what this means is that during intervals in the distribution the ISR can context switch to other tasks. Users of Laptops ipads and the like do not run nuclear reaction or world economy models nor do they do major movie post production involving high rates of rendering (compute bound) jobs so the pseudo antics of sizing a baby system wrt to 3GHz QC or DC is a pretentious nonsense.

  52. Vikas
    January 27, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    can we take 2 processors with 2 core each is same as 1 quad core processor for application installation? Document says minimum CPU core required is 3 for application install, where as client provided us 2 processors each has 2 cores. Is this correct? will application work properly ?

  53. GTX6000
    January 3, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    hello , can a i7 of 16gb DDR4 and a GTX980 8gb run a realistic mode like a skyrim one?

    • Caleb
      February 27, 2015 at 7:51 am

      Yes! Skyrim isn't as demanding as other games, ive had lots of people disagree but my experience is that you can, but thats 1k worth of stuff right there do research before you spend large amounts of money:)

  54. nick
    December 27, 2014 at 8:43 am

    I have a dilemma between two similarly prized laptops
    2.6ghz dual core i5 MacBook pro and
    2.5 ghz quad core i7 Toshiba Satellite
    Given the reputations of the two brands. Help me make a choice.

  55. Jona Carvajal
    December 15, 2014 at 5:18 am

    Hello there. I'm having a hard time to choose between:

    ONE lappy : 1.5 GHZ processor speed (quad core)
    SECOND lappy: 2.16 Ghz (dual core)

    Which one performs better? thanks in advance.

  56. sumbal
    October 16, 2013 at 7:03 am


    October 11, 2013 at 10:12 am

    These advacement of technology will lead us to more multiple virtual but zero physical core, as research is carried on.

  58. Ed
    September 23, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    i AM NOT VERY CPU SAVY and hopping you guys could help. I have two computers and need to keep only one... The forst model cpu is a AMD A4-5300 dual core and the other would be an AMD A6-3620 quad core. If you had to keep one what one would it be?

  59. Anwaar
    September 12, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    Thanks for the block and providing such a wonderful information. I got my concepts cleared on Dual Core & Quad Core processors. Thanks once again.

  60. Sheriff
    September 2, 2013 at 6:45 pm
  61. Sheriff
    September 2, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    They say that processors are for smooth working for any application to run then why is there a RAM there? What's the difference between a RAM and Processor?

  62. azeem
    August 18, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    The technology which we are using today is good but the budget of some peoples are not enough to analized this latest technology so my request is the this technology should be made little cheaper inorder to make kind achievement search for some talent in this world...

  63. kiran
    July 26, 2013 at 7:55 am

    good job.

  64. Awais
    July 25, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    Excellent information.

  65. Shafiq Khan
    May 29, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Is there a link/site anywhere which lists the main applications such as microsoft office, adobe creative etc and shows if they support multi-threading or not?

    Would be useful to know.

  66. Shail Hu
    May 13, 2013 at 6:59 am

    thanks for sucha valuable poast

    • Shail Hu
      May 13, 2013 at 1:31 pm


  67. anandarajeshwaran
    May 11, 2013 at 9:56 am

    There was 2 good points in this post

    1)Set Affinity.-- This was a good trick. Never knew I could do this
    2) "It’s becoming a more crucial problem, as the future looks to be computers with more and more cores instead of fewer cores at faster and faster speeds."

    Fewer cores at faster speeds that should be the way to go.

  68. Kamruzzaman Chowdhury
    May 9, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing these useful information. Its very helpful.

  69. vineedcool
    May 8, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    what does a 4 core 4 threaded cpu mean???

  70. Noman Fayez
    May 7, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    nice post....

  71. Onaje Asheber
    May 7, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Good Stuff!!!

  72. Sathyanarayana Naidu
    May 7, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    This article was just awesome. It helps normal people like me to have a better insight about the difference between the different types of core.

  73. Osman Vielma
    May 7, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Always wanted for this explanation.
    Thank you!

  74. mohammadwasi786
    May 7, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    I ever know about this, this is really important knowledge for me awesome man

  75. Arif Ibrahim
    May 7, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    So, I guess the conclusion is, if you multitask a lot, go for more cores.

    BTW, I heard Intel Core i3 has 2 cores, but can do 4 threads, does that mean one core can multithread?

    • null
      May 7, 2013 at 5:43 pm

      I'm pretty sure all i3's are dual core with four threads with Hyper-threading. Each core can do two threads

  76. Igor Rizvic
    May 7, 2013 at 2:39 pm


  77. Md Mukhtar Mohsin
    May 7, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Any way to find no. of cores in my computer ? As much as I know its i3 and 3.1 GHz.

    • Tim Vels
      May 7, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      Hi Bro,
      You can check that out using Device Manager-->(open sub) Processor
      and you will see how many processors are available for your system.
      (example: I have a i7 so i can see 8 processors on the list)

      • Md Mukhtar Mohsin
        May 8, 2013 at 10:18 am

        Thanks , but bad luck to me ,it shows only 2 cores.

    • Colper
      May 7, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      What I would do:

      1. Start button or C: drive
      2. click on "System Properties" on the top ribbon.
      3. Copy and Paste the line on "Processor". i.e. Intel Pentium 2400 @ 2.4 GHz
      4. Google the line you just copied. Intel's results should be one of the top choices. Scroll down to find all of your specs.

      • Md Mukhtar Mohsin
        May 8, 2013 at 10:21 am

        Thanks bro but no need to google as Tim Vels told above you can see it in device manager .

        • Colper
          May 8, 2013 at 2:37 pm

          No prob. Glad you found what you were looking for. I like to google to see all the other specs and capabilities that come with the processor. Intel lays it out nicely. Cheers!

    • Colper
      May 7, 2013 at 2:58 pm

      Sorry, Forgot to mention in Step 1. Click on start Button then and/or "Computer or My Computer" depends on your OS. Then follow to "System Properties" on the top ribbon.

    • Haval Abdulkarim
      May 7, 2013 at 3:03 pm

      By the name of the CPU either it's Dual Core (two cores) or Quad Core (4 cores) and so on.

      • null
        May 8, 2013 at 1:52 am

        the i7 is decribed as Intel Core i7 which is not descriptive of its quad core
        8 thread capability.

  78. BiG eViL.......
    May 7, 2013 at 7:08 am

    hyper threading used to be on older Pentium 4 CPUs as well, does that mean they were 'dual core' as well?

    • null
      May 7, 2013 at 2:41 pm

      no, hyper threading is NOT dual core. basically it can do two separate tasks at once by using different instructions but on a single core.

  79. Zhong J
    May 7, 2013 at 2:57 am

    I have a dual core processor running at 2.3Ghz which is average for causal uses but the upper number of core is good for gaming or high demanding tasks.

    • null
      May 7, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      very few games right now take advantage of multiple cores. I'm pretty sure Battlefield 3 is one of them. In the future this will be true, but right now more cores is not much of a bonus unless your streaming or multitasking.

  80. Akhil Kumar
    May 7, 2013 at 2:03 am

    Just wondering, why don't they have a tri-core or a pent-core?

    • Jumbybird
      May 7, 2013 at 2:34 pm

      Even numbers fit better on a piece of silicon. Otherwise you have wasted space. If you have 3 cores a quarter of the chip will be empty

    • null
      May 7, 2013 at 2:35 pm

      Yes, Tri-cores are often (if not always) quad-core with one of the cores disabled.

    • gupta
      September 27, 2013 at 3:06 pm

      Don't wondering, study I.T

    • The Builder
      February 17, 2015 at 4:29 pm

      Hey Gupta, don't be so quick to criticize. We all "wonder" every now and then. It's the necessary & equal part to curiosity. It's human nature.

    • Mr Singh
      May 2, 2015 at 1:57 pm

      Gupta, its stop wondering, study IT OR Don't wonder, study IT.
      Study English.