What is Hyper-Threading & How it Works?


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hyper-threading

Deciding to buy new Intel processor? Wanted to buy a new computer with Intel processor installed- then you may have heard the term Hyper-Threading. You may not probably familiar with this term unless you are a techie person. Understanding Hyper-Threading is very important as it is one of the major features in Intel processor line-ups.

Many times sales persons twist this term at the store you visit, to sell the items. Recently I visited an electronic shop near me, the sales person there told me that Hyper-Threading technology doubles the number of cores on a processor – it’s actually not true.

Hyper-Threading technology is present on Intel processors for almost 10 years now, but many people don’t know what it means! Many people think that Hyper-Threading is actually doubling the processor cores present on the processor. People often asks me this question, so I decided to explain in detail what Hyper-Threading really means.

What is Hyper-Threading?

Hyper-Threading Technology (Also called HTT or HT Technology) is Intel’s implementation of simultaneous multithreading (SMT) which uses processor resources more efficiently, enabling multiple threads to run on each core. No matter how many years of research we had in processor industry, there is one ultimate problem. A single processor core can handle only one thread at a time.

For example- you are using chrome, MS Word and Photoshop at the same time, you might feel like you are multi-tasking. But in terms of CPU- you are not. The processor only executes one thread at a time of the individual program, but because today’s processor are so fast we won’t notice any delay. But there is a tiny bit of time delay after executing one thread up to next thread starts its execution. This delay is mainly caused by scheduling- how the threads from each individual program should be fed to the processor. So, how can we minimize this delay- the answer is “Hyper-Threading“.

How Hyper-Threading Works?

We know that Hyper-Threading is a form of simultaneous multi-threading (SMT) technology. The concept behind Hyper-Threading is pretty simple. A processor with Hyper-Threading technology enabled consists of two logical processors per core. Each logical processor can work independently- can be stopped, interrupted and directed to execute specific thread. This makes it possible to assign processor resources to two individual threads at once.

As we know traditional multi-core system consists of individual physical processors and have separate resources. But, in the case of logical processors, it shares the resources of a single core. These resources include system bus interface, caches and execution engine. This sharing allows the logical processor to interact with each other more effectively. Logical processors can also borrow system resources from another logical processor (when not in use), but both logical processors must be on the same physical core.

Hyper-Threading working

Still Didn’t get it? Don’t worry! Let’s take an example, suppose I am a processor – I process food with my mouth. So, I can eat as much as my mouth can chew; I can add more mouths in case I need to process more food (this is what multi-core systems are like). But due to some constraints, I can have only one mouth to process food. I use my hand to grab a bite and bring it to my mouth for processing. So, I can process only the amount of food at a time which my hand can bring. If I can finish chewing before my hand brings me another bite, my mouth will sit there idle- doing nothing (this is what systems without Multi-Threading look like). What should I do to effectively use my mouth? I can use both my hands to bring food to mouth! So, my mouth will not sit there idle. This is what system with Hyper-Threading looks like- single core but intelligent scheduling to make sure that processor is always working.

Also Read Difference Between Intel core i3, i5 & i7 Processors.

Hyper-Threading Doesn’t Doubles Processor Cores.

No matter what Windows Task Manager tells you, but Hyper-Threading is not same as doubling your processor cores. If you boot your quad core processor with Hyper-Threading support and opens your task manager, you will see eight graphs floating around the window. This is where most people gets confused.

We see eight graphs on Windows Task Manager because Windows detects eight logical processor- two per core, but the logical processor has no physical existence. Windows can send threads to each individual logical processor, but at last, there is still only one physical core who does the execution. So, Hyper-Threading is different than adding separate physical core.

Benefits Of Hyper-Threading:

If you are using your computer for the things like- web browsing, watching movies, document editing. You will not notice any impact of Hyper-Threading. Hyper-Threading also can’t improve performance in single threaded workload (one thread at a time). But you can observe much performance improvements over multi-threaded workload. The examples of multi-threaded workload are:

  • Heavy multi-tasking
  • Video editing
  • 3D rendering
  • Scientific applications

According to Intel’s claim Hyper-Threading can boost performance up to 30%, although it depends on the kind of work you are performing. There are some cases in which Hyper-Threading provides no boost at all or even in some cases slightly decreased performance (depending upon the software).

Conclusion

As we have seen earlier Hyper-Threading can provide up to 30% performance boost. But it has some drawback as well, it increases the heat output a bit and power consumption. But there is no need to worry about that, the benefits usually outways this drawback.

We hope that your doubts have been cleared. But do remember:

Hyper-Threading is NOT same as doubling your processor cores“.

Share this article with your friends, if you have any questions feel free to comment down below. Also, do suggest the topics for future posts. Stay tuned for future updates.

Share this article with your friends, if you have any questions feel free to comment down below. Also, do suggest the topics for future posts. Stay tuned for future updates.


Akshay Bhor

Newbie

Akshay Bhor is a techie, webmaster, tech reviewer, cyber security enthusiast and part time blogger from Pune, India.

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