Factors affecting CPU performance

Even though today's processors are tremendously fast, their performance can be affected by a number of factors:

Clock speed

Clock speed is the number of pulses the central processing unit's (CPU) clock generates per second. It is measured in hertz.

CPU clocks can sometimes be sped up slightly by the user. This process is known as overclocking. The more pulses per second, the more fetch-decode-execute cycles that can be performed and the more instructions that are processed in a given space of time. Overclocking can cause long term damage to the CPU as it is working harder and producing more heat.

Cache size

Cache is a small amount of high-speed random access memory (RAM) built directly within the processor. It is used to temporarily hold data and instructions that the processor is likely to reuse.

The bigger its cache, the less time a processor has to wait for instructions to be fetched.

Number of cores

A processing unit within a CPU is known as a core. Each core is capable of fetching, decoding and executing its own instructions.

The more cores a CPU has, the greater the number of instructions it can process in a given space of time. Many modern CPUs are dual (two) or quad (four) core processors. This provides vastly superior processing power.

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Processor performance can be affected by clock speed, cache size and the number of cores the processor has.