Everything you need to know about your PC's CPU

The CPU is the central component that handles everything related to the distribution of processes on your PC. It would be like the main brain, put simply. Its importance is key, since without a graphics card and with very little RAM, an electronic device can still puncture. But if you run out of CPU, you can do practically nothing.

In this text we are going to teach you everything you need to know about a CPU, and answer any questions that may have arisen.

What processes are handled by a CPU?

The main function of a CPU is to execute a sequence of stored instructions called a "program", which is represented by a series of numbers that are kept in a certain kind of memory. There are four steps that almost all von Neumann architecture CPUs use in their operation: read, decode, execute, and write.


This step involves retrieving an instruction, represented by a number or a sequence of numbers, from program memory. The location in memory of the program is determined by a program counter. This stores a number that identifies the address of the next instruction to fetch.

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When reading that one instruction, the PC is incremented by the length of the instruction in terms of memory units. Thus it will contain the address of the next instruction in the sequence. The instruction being read must be fetched from relatively slow memory, which halts the CPU while it waits for the instruction to be returned. This is being avoided by cache inclusion on the CPUs themselves. This allows faster execution of these instructions if they are very small by their different cores.


In the decoding step, the instruction is divided into parts that have meaning for other units of the CPU. The manner in which the value of the numeric instruction is interpreted is defined by the architecture of the CPU's instruction set. A group of numbers in the instruction, called an opcode, indicates which operation to perform. The remaining parts of the number provide the information required for that instruction.

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Those operands can be given as a constant value or as a place to locate a value, which can be a register or a memory address. Today it is more common to use a firmware to help translate instructions into various configuration signals for the CPU. This firmware can be modified to change the way the CPU decodes instructions.


During this step, various CPU Units are connected to perform the desired operation. A connection is made to a certain number of cores depending on whether they need more cores to carry out the operation.


In this step, the results of the execution step are written to some form of memory. The results are written to some internal CPU register for quick access by subsequent instructions. They can also be written to slower but larger main memory. Some types of instructions manipulate the program counter instead of directly producing result data. These are what are called "jumps" and they facilitate behaviors such as loops, conditional execution of programs, and functions in programs.

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Here the so-called own cache of the CPU comes into play again. It stores these results for quick access in the event of similar commands being detected. That way they won't need to do these four processes again, just redirect to the cached result.

Many instructions also change the state of digits in a register to "flags", which can be used to influence how a program behaves. This is because they usually indicate the result of several operations.

What is the clock frequency of a CPU?

Most CPUs are designed and operate based on a synchronization signal. This signal usually takes the form of a periodic square wave. By calculating the maximum time that electrical signals can move on the various branches of a CPU's many circuits, an appropriate period for the clock signal can be selected. It must be longer than the amount of time it takes for a signal to move or propagate.

When the clock period is set to a value well above the worst-case propagation delay, it is possible to design the entire CPU based on the rise and fall of the clock signal. This can simplify the CPU significantly, but has the disadvantage that the entire CPU must wait to its slowest elements, which is a bottleneck.

A clock signal is subject to the delays of any other electrical signal: this makes higher clock speeds in increasingly complex CPUs make it more difficult to keep the clock signal in phase synchronization across the entire unit. Because of this, modern CPUs require multiple identical clock signals to be provided to them to avoid delaying a single signal long enough for the CPU to malfunction.

When choosing CPU, pay attention to the platform you need

When choosing a new CPU, especially if there are multiple generation steps, you should keep in mind that most likely you will need a new compatible motherboard. Not just any motherboard is worth it, and they are one of the elements that can least happen between configurations. The motherboard is the least you can reuse when you increase the quality of your CPU.

A motherboard is made for a specific series of CPUs

There are motherboards that allow overclocking, but to do it safely, the CPU itself must be compatible with overclocking tools to avoid being damaged. Choosing a motherboard when choosing a CPU is just as important as the CPU itself. It will be the one that limits how many PCie ports it has, and what generation it is; or the models of RAM it will use, and how many USB ports you can connect.

What is the cache of a CPU?

The cache of a CPU is divided into the following levels and category:

  • L1 cache: It is unique for each core
  • L2: Shared between the same group of nuclei.
  • L3 cache: Shared by all CPU cores.
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In terms of speed, the L1 cache is the fastest, since it is the closest to the core itself that performs a small task. The higher the level of the cache, the slower it will be, because it has to be available to more CPUs, but at the same time, the larger it is.

What is thermal paste needed for?

When you buy a new CPU, you have most likely seen that comes with a thermal paste dispenser. You put it because the assembly instructions indicate it, but what exactly is it for and what is its function?

The thermal paste acts as a link between the heatsink and the CPU to offer the correct heat dissipation. Due to its structure, it joins both the heatsink and the CPU at the microscopic level so that there is full contact and the heat from the CPU can go to the heatsink evenly and thus not overheat.

It's important to have thermal paste on hand if you handle the CPU physically, as it comes off easily.

As soon as you disconnect the heatsink, the contact of the thermal paste between the CPU and the heatsink will be eliminated, and after that, the thermal paste will go away very easily. Fortunately, it is a product that is easily found in many computer stores. when you put it on, you will need to make sure that most of the CPU is covered, to avoid gaps without contact and therefore do not have proper cooling. The most basic pattern to give the thermal paste is that of an "X" whose lines go from corner to corner of the CPU. Given its composition, it disperses very efficiently, and by tightening the heatsink you will not damage the CPU unless you apply a lot of force.

What is Intel Alder Lake Hybrid Architecture?

With the 12th Generation Intel Core, which Intel has named Alder Lake, their hybrid architectures were released which are made up of performance cores and efficiency cores. The intention behind this hybrid architecture is that the most powerful cores (those of performance), do not have to be used for tasks of very little weight, with which those tasks would be derived to the efficiency cores and the performance cores can be dedicated to do the most complex tasks.

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With this, they make the most capable cores available for larger tasks. Also reduce electricity consumption allocating the lighter tasks to the efficiency nuclei.

What is AMD laminated cache or 3D cache?

AMD Laminated Cache is a way of mounting a CPU cache, debuted in the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D model. The intention behind this laminated cache is to offer more cache memory to the CPU by offering more layers of L3 cache, so that the CPU itself can access more memory for simple and repetitive tasks.

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D

It is intended for use in games, primarily to reduce latency. Since the instructions being sent to the game require CPU usage, more fast access memory will allow for lower latency and not have to switch to RAM.

How to know the range of which is a CPU?

To do this, you have to go to your business name. Both AMD and Intel have clear rules for referring to CPUs according to its family, range, and benefits. In the name itself, it gives you everything you need to know about what model your CPU is, its range, and its features.

Know range of your Intel CPU

Intel's product naming format always follows the same format of "Commercial brand" -> "Gamma"->"generation identifier"->"Model"And"special suffix” if you have it.

Let's use the Intel Core i9-12900K as an example. we see the following:Intel Core” is their trademark, “i9” indicates that it is of the highest range, the “12” indicates that it is from the 12th generation Alder Lake, which has its own new drivers and architecture, “900” indicates that it is the top of the generation range, and “K” indicates that the CPU is intended for overclocking. We know this thanks to the following rules that Intel has when naming its CPUs.

  • Brand: Nomenclature that Intel uses to name its commercial processors before different audiences. the "Intel Core" are intended for the medium, high and premium ranges. There are those of the “Intel Pentium” and “Intel Celeron” brands, which are aimed at the lower and cheaper range, generally computers intended for offices or low-end products that are intended to cost very little and have little profit margin but be able to be distributed in large quantities.
  • Spectrum: It's an indicator of what power, but it's only used on Intel Core branded ones. The rule is that the greater the number that accompanies the letter 'i', and always being odd numbers, the greater number of nuclei. In this case, an “i3” would be a CPU from the lowest range of the series, an “i5” for the mid-range, an “i7” for the high-end, and an “i9″ from the premium range”.
  • Generation Identification: The numbers before the last three CPU model numbers tell us which generation of Intel Core processors it belongs to. So, if the model of your CPU has four numbers, only the first one indicates the generation, and if it has five, the first two are the ones that indicate the generation: Knowing the generation of your CPU or the one you want to buy is important because you will know what motherboard you need, what features such as PCIe generation or RAM form factor it can use, and how old it is. A top-of-the-line 4th-gen Intel Core at the time won't be able to take advantage of DDR4 or DDR5 memory or newer generations of PCIe, among others.
  • SKU number: It would come to identify the processor within the range. generally, the higher the number, the more power it has. It is a quick indicator to know the power.
  • Product Suffix: Identification of certain characteristics or market to which it is intended.
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The product suffix can tell us well the properties that make the CPU different from other models with the same brand, generation and SKU. An Intel Core i9-12900 is not the same as an Intel Core i9-12900KS. The suffixes that Intel uses in its commercial ranges are as follows:

  • G1 to G7: Indicates the graphics power of the processor itself. Recently, Intel Core have integrated Intel Iris Xe series graphics.
  • F: it does not have integrated graphics.
  • H: Model designed to have high performance in laptops.
  • G: Includes discrete integrated graphics.
  • H: For laptops and allows overclocking.
  • HQ: High performance for quad core laptops.
  • K: Overclocking ability.
  • KS: A special version and with overclocking capacity.
  • T: Low energy consumption.
  • U: For low power laptops.
  • Y: For low power but high efficiency laptops.

Know range of your AMD CPU

AMD follows more or less the same rules when it comes to naming CPUs. “Commercial brand(I.e.Gamma","generation identifier","Model"And"special suffix” if you have it. With the case of an AMD Ryzen 3 3200G, we know that it is a model of the AMD Ryzen brand, of range 3, its SKU is 200 and by the suffix G, it has integrated graphics. Now, how do you know what each part is like?

  • Brand: Nomenclature used by Intel to name its commercial processors before different audiences. The "AMD Ryzen" are intended for the medium, high and premium ranges. There is the "AMD Athlon", which are intended for the economic range, which, like the Intel Pentium and Intel Celeron, are intended for office computers and low-end products. AMD has its AMD Threadripper brand, which are CPUs with high clock frequency and number of cores, more powerful than its premium range. They are intended for business-class computers and serious enthusiasts. It also has the AMD EPYC brand, which are CPUs intended for data center systems for cloud services, virtualization or artificial intelligence.
  • Spectrum: It is an indicator of what power, but it is only used in those of the AMD Ryzen brand. The rule is that the higher the number and always being odd numbers, the more nuclei it has. In this case, a "3" would be a CPU from the lowest range of the series, a "5" for the mid-range, a "7" for the highest range.
  • Generation Identification: The numbers before the last three CPU model numbers tell us which generation of AMD Ryzen processors it belongs to. Since AMD doesn't have that many AMD Ryzen families, for now only the first number is important to know the generation number. As with AMD, the higher generation it has, the more modern features in the form of DDR RAM or PCie it can support.
  • SKU number: It would come to identify the processor within the range. Generally, the higher the number, the more power it has. It is a quick indicator to know the power.
  • Product Suffix: Identification of certain characteristics or market to which it is intended.

As with Intel, AMD has a series of suffixes that it puts on all of its commercial CPU products to indicate what properties they have. AMD product suffixes are as follows:

  • X: They are overclockable, but do not have integrated graphics. If you install it on a PC, you must accompany it with a graphics card.
  • G: It has integrated graphics, so if you install it on a desktop PC, you won't have to put a graphics card on it.
  • G.E. Very low consumption for desktop computers.
  • H: For laptops with variable TDP.
  • HS: Lower clocked than H, for laptops with low base clocks.
  • U: For laptops with low base frequencies and very low TDP.
  • XT: Improved versions of the normal X.
  • If it doesn't have a suffix, it doesn't have autooverclocking capabilities, but it can be overclocked.

What influences a generation of a CPU?

Both AMD and Intel offer new generations of CPUs on an almost annual cadence. Intel releases a new generation every year with a cadence of approximately ten months. Intel does not launch its entire line at once, but rather offers products of the generation in question throughout the year for different markets, be they desktop or laptop computers. The main models are those of its Intel Core line, designed for video game players and professionals. With a lower profile, they continue to launch Intel Pentium and Intel Celeron for OEM manufacturers who build office equipment, education equipment or low-cost devices.

In the case of AMD, they launch their generations of CPUs by interspersing a generation dedicated to desktop CPUs with a generation of laptop APUs. In between they have their Threadripper series, the CPUs designed for premium range equipment; and the EPYC series for data center servers.


A new generation of CPUs implies the widespread adoption of new features that make the CPU more advanced

In a CPU generation step, they may opt for a lithography of fewer nanometers and thus be more energy efficient. They may include hardware-level support for new video codecs, or hardware protocols such as new generations of PCIe or RAM.

The Intel Core Alder Lake family, which is the 12th generation of Intel Core, introduced an architecture that mixes CPUs powerful, with smaller CPUs to divide processes according to their workload. They also introduced compatibility with the recently released DDR5 memory while maintaining DDR4 compatibility though its physical compatibility depends on the motherboard.

It must be said that many features of a new generation of CPUs are always state-of-the-art and therefore, as soon as it is launched, a lot of hardware and software still does not take advantage of it. There are hardly any PCIe 4 devices when PCie 5 is already on Intel motherboards, and DDR5 memory is expensive and hard to find. Lugo is that it is the software itself that takes advantage of these formats and protocols. A new CPU with such features is a longer-term purchase in that future games and programs will take advantage of PCie 5 and DDR5 memory.

What is CPU overclocking and what is it for?

Overclocking is what is called to force a CPU above its factory values ​​to increase its frequency and speed. At a basic level, is it possible to overclock a CPU with a dedicated motherboard and BIOS software to remove the limiters themselves to achieve higher clock speeds and greater efficiency at key moments.

More advanced overclocking operations include much larger and more efficient heatsinks. The most extreme case is to create a compartment adapted to the CPU socket and surface and use liquid nitrogen, one of the materials with the highest cooling factor. This last case is mostly used to break benchmark records, since its regular use in any domestic or business situation is impractical and does not bring as many benefits for the cost and risk involved.

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An example use of overclocking would be for heavy workloads. An example would be enterprise-grade video rendering using the AutoCAD suite so that it can be rendered and handled faster in an environment that requires the highest possible speed to be efficient and save hours of work.

It should be said that CPU overclocking has its risks. There are CPUs and motherboards made for this, but in any case, the components are exposed to being damaged by the fact that they have exceeded their own factory limits for correct operation.

Overclocking a CPU is grounds for voiding the manufacturer's warranty.

The CPU itself has its own temperature limits so that if it is reached, it stops working. But indicators may malfunction or limiters may not kick in, so overclocking a CPU is still risky.

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Benjamin Rosa

Madrileño whose publishing career began in 2009. I love investigating curiosities that I later bring to you, readers, in articles. I studied photography, a skill that I use to create humorous photomontages.

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