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What is Hyper-threading?

What is Hyper-Threading?

Michelle Wilson
Reading time: 5 minutes
Hyper-threading is Intel’s term for what’s also called simultaneous multithreading or SMT in the computer industry. If you want a faster computer but don’t want to completely overhaul your hardware, hyper-threading could be the answer to help you speed up your central processing unit (CPU).
Keep reading to learn more about how this process can help your computer run faster so you can enjoy a seamless gaming experience or smoother streaming when you’re catching up on your favorite show.

Hyper-threading definition

Hyper-threading is a process by which a CPU divides up its physical cores into virtual cores that are treated as if they are actually physical cores by the operating system. These virtual cores are also called threads [1]. Most of Intel’s CPUs with 2 cores use this process to create 4 threads or 4 virtual cores. Intel CPUs with 4 cores use hyper-threading to create more power in the form of 8 virtual cores, or 8 threads.

How does hyper-threading work?

To understand hyper-threading, you first must understand how your processor works. Your CPU is also known as the control center of your computer. It contains two important components: the control unit and the arithmetic/logic unit (ALU). The control unit uses electrical signals to direct the entire computer system to execute instructions sent to it. You can imagine the control unit as a police officer directing traffic.
The control unit doesn’t actually carry out instructions, instead, it decodes them and delegates these instructions to other parts of your computer system. The arithmetic/logic unit is what carries out all of the arithmetic and logical actions [2].
A CPU executes instructions using the following steps:
  1. The control unit gets the instruction from your computer’s memory.
  2. The control unit reads the instruction and derives the meaning, then directs the required data to be transferred from memory to the arithmetic/logic unit (ALU). These first two steps combined are referred to as the instruction time or I-time.
  3. The ALU carries out the arithmetic or logical instruction. This is when the ALU performs the actual operation on the data.
  4. The ALU stores the result of the operation in the memory or in a register. Steps 3 and 4 are referred to as execution time or E-time.
While this might seem like a complex procedure, all of these actions take place in fractions of a second. The faster your CPU can process instructions, the faster your computer can complete tasks. It’s worth noting that if your CPU isn’t very high-powered, these tasks can end up bottlenecked, which leads to slow-down and lag.
This is where hyper-threading comes in.
Hyper-threading works by allowing each core in your CPU to do two actions at the same time. In turn, you get better processor performance since it’s improving the CPU’s efficiency. This way you can use more demanding apps or games at the same time.
Video editing, rendering in 3D, and CPU-stressing multi-tasking are examples of tasks that could benefit from hyper-threading working behind the scenes [3]. Hyper-threading is also a useful process when you want your CPU to send lighter tasks like background apps to one processor core while more intensive apps like games are sent to another processor core in multi-core processors.

Is hyper-threading better for gaming?

To determine if hyper-threading is better for gaming, you’ll first have to familiarize yourself with the number of cores your computer currently has. Demanding games usually require 2 or 4 cores in order to get the best performance.
If you have an Intel i5 or i3 processor, you could benefit from hyper-threading these processors. As you might have already noticed when playing games on these processors, you might experience lag or slow-downs since these processors aren’t as powerful as their more robust cousins, the i7 and i9 Intel processors [4].
Hyper-threading is currently available on the following processor families: Intel Core™, Intel Core vPro™, Intel Core M, and Intel Xeon®. However, in order to use hyper-threading, you’ll need an adequate operating system (OS) and BIOS that can handle Intel’s hyper-threading technology.

What else can make my computer go faster?

If you are looking to speed up your computer and you have an Intel processor, you may have access to Intel Turbo Boost Technology. For computers with Intel Core i5 processors or above, you might even have Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0, but it’s important to check the specifications and capabilities of your particular PC.
The combination of Intel hyper-threading technology with Turbo Boost results in a myriad of opportunities for faster and more efficient computing. Together, hyper-threading technology and Turbo Boost can dynamically respond to your changing workload and will automatically disable cores that aren’t active [5]. As a result, the processor frequency is sped up on busy cores, leading to better performance for applications utilizing hyper-threading.

HP® and hyper-threading

If you’re looking for HP products that support hyper-threading, there are plenty of HP devices like HP i7 gaming laptops with powerful processing power. For playing triple-A (AAA) PC games, it’s a good idea to invest in processors that boast at least 4 cores. An Intel i5 processor or AMD Ryzen processor is the lowest processing level you should depend on if you’re planning on playing CPU-intensive games.
The important takeaway for hyper-threading is knowing your specific computing needs. While there are no real drawbacks to hyper-threading, it doesn’t replace the performance gains of physical cores over virtual ones.
If you have a PC with hyper-threading enabled but find you don’t need the extra oomph, you can simply disable it. However, if you are a high-powered gamer looking to get the most out of your gaming experience for a truly immersive escape into a game universe, hyper-threading is a fairly easy upgrade to make.
Whatever your needs, HP Store has the high-powered options for enterprise-level businesses, casual users looking for a simple digital entertainment hub, or the crowning jewel of a powerful gaming rig.

About the Author

Michelle Wilson is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Michelle is a content creation specialist writing for a variety of industries, including tech trends and media news.

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