Multi-core CPU question


Jul 9, 2009
I've learnt from the threads here that unless a software is specifically written to take advantage of a dual-core or quad-core CPU, it will run as a single thread and so the multi-core CPU will offer hardly any performance advantage.
Right now, many laptops and desktops are dual-core. I am planning to assemble a PC soon, but thought of getting a quad-core. Now, after reading the article, I realize that I don't want to purchase a CPU that would not be of much use to me.
My uses will chiefly be email, media (photo management by digicam), maybe watching some DivX movies or sometimes using Visual Studio or some other IDE.
Not processor crunching, but I need help determining what's good for me. Does anyone know of any software that we use daily that makes use of our dual-core CPU's?


Jan 27, 2009
If you multitask, multiple cores always helps. I'm not entirely sure whether Visual Studio is multithreaded or not (never bothered to check, always trying to get stuff done and make sure there's no errors before I turn the assignment in) but I would assume it is. It should be, at the very least.
I've learnt from the threads here that unless a software is specifically written to take advantage of a dual-core or quad-core CPU, it will run as a single thread and so the multi-core CPU will offer hardly any performance advantage.

This is true... If you take the very myopic view that the only application that matters is the one you happen to be running at the time.

Understand that with multiple cores, different apps/threads can/will be run in different locations. And if you're thinking you only use one app at a time, take a look in your process monitor at the dozens of processes running. Even when you aren't doing anything yourself. Wouldn't it be nice if that stuff could be run on a core other than the one you are using for your (Game/App)?

Now - In that light, you may want to rethink the value of a multi core processor.


Jul 9, 2009
Very well then. Why would a higher clocked CPU (e.g.say an Athlon Windsor) not help as compared to say a Phenom that I'd use?
Also, apart from antivirus, CAD and video-editing applications, is there anything else that we use in 64-bit right now? Like Office, etc.?

...because Clock Speed is not the primary driver behind performance any more. It's how many "Instructions Per Clock" the overall architecture is capable of.

check for yourself:,6.html


Feb 24, 2006

You'll have to take all this advice with a grain of salt. You ask this question on an enthusiast computer site, where many of the members have top of the line computer hardware. Some are so far removed from budget hardware that they become disillusioned on the capabilities of entry level stuff. I run a single core processor daily, a Celeron 420 running at 2.66GHz and it performs quite well. I rarely encode anything and play relatively old games, so the vast majority of anything I do is purely single threaded. I definitely would not recommend single core to you, but a dual core is not such a bad thing, especially one at higher clocks, such as the Phenom 550. Of course, you could always compromise a little and get a triple core Phenom 720, which is also very reasonably priced.
Dual core is good because it insulates you from interference by other tasks.
For example, you may be web surfing when a antivirus scan starts up. With a dual core, you will not notice much.
For your purposes, any modern dual core cpu based on 45nm technology should serve you well.
The E5200 is a good example:

Ram is cheap, and 4gb in a 2x2gb configuration is recommended. Don't spend extra for speed or timings.It should cost <$50.

What WILL make a difference in every day usage is the power of your hard drive.

SSD's have limited capacity, and are pricey, but the best ones perform superbly. If 80gb and $314 do not bother you, then the Intel X25-m is the only way to go.
Cheaper units currently have write performance issues, and big improvements in ssd's are coming. I would wait.

A conventional hard drive like the velociraptor is next, but they are also a bit expensive
The 300gb velociraptor is $200:

A good all around selection is the WD caviar black 1tb drive for $99:
The outer 10% of the drive is almost as fast as the velociraptor.

---good luck---
Tech answer:

First, as a basic user you'll want a dual-core CPU. I won't get into the details, but YES mult-cores are used. Many applications are running simultaneously. Just because each one is possibly using one core doesn't mean you don't need multiple cores. Games also use multi-cores though it's true that that DirectX 11 will do it much, much better but that's getting off topic.

As for your dual-core CPU most are just fine. The really slow ones like the Atom CPUs aren't even fast enough for some web sites.

I don't recommend the Velociraptor. I recommend getting the Western Digital 1TB Black. The price premium on the Velociraptor is not worth it. In a year or two, consider replacing the 1TB drive with an SSD.

So, you should likely build a system based around AMD's AM3. Parts will depend on your budget:

1) AM3 motherboard

2) 4GB DDR3 RAM (2x2GB)

3) CPU-> AMD X3 710

4) Operating System: Windows 7 64bit OEM

5) Video Card? If you don't intend to game, onboard video might be just fine. You can always upgrade if you find the need. I find absolutely no difference in Windows multi-tasking between my sisters onboard 128MB solution and my relatively higher end HD3870 512MB card. I only really see a difference in games.

General multi-tasking speed is mostly determined by:
-hard drive

You will find no benefit to adding more than 4GB of RAM. The CPU I mentioned should be fast enough for all circumstances you encounter. You will see a big difference in upgrading to an SSD but I'd wait at least another year. Your SATA controller is SATA2 and will max out at 300MB/second. You should get an SSD of say 120GB with Read and Write between 200MB/second and 300MB/second. Above 300MB/second will work but you will not see the benefit.

Windows 7 is being released end September I believe so you might wish to wait for it. When you buy an OEM it is tied to the motherboard you built once you Activate it with Microsoft. This is the same as prebuilt desktops and laptops. Non-OEM "full" versions are identical in every way except they can be transferred a number of times to newer computers. Why bother since it costs at least twice as much, plus what do you do with the old computer with no Operating System?

You should also consider getting a program like Acronis True Image and make a backup of your Windows installation. I backup to the second hard drive and split it to 4.3GB (DVD) sized chunks. It's pretty simple to use and very handy. It saves a lot of hastle as you can always RESTORE an EXACT image of Windows etc on your C-Drive.

So yeah, multi-threaded CPUs ARE USED and you should spend about $100 to $200.

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