There are plenty of very easy ways to check what CPU you have on your PC. All of these involve following a few simple steps.
To check your processor make and model, you can use built-in system utilities and services such as the About window, Task Manager or the Device Manager. You can also get a comprehensive information regarding what CPU you have and its specs using trusted (free) third party software such as CPU-Z.
In the following text, I will talk in detail about how to check what CPU you have and also touch base on important CPU specifications and why they should matter to you as a buyer.
How To Check What CPU You Have?
There are many simple ways to check what CPU you have. If it is already installed in the PC, then the following four methods should help:
1. Checking What CPU You Have Using ‘About’ or ‘System Settings’ Window
You can find out the make and model of your processor by heading to the ‘About’ window or the System Settings.
The ‘About” window can tell you the make, model and the base clock speed of the CPU installed in the PC as well as its architecture.
Here you can see the following details about my processor:
- Make: Intel
- Model: Core i7-7700HQ
- Base Clock Speed: 2.80 GHz
- Architecture: x64 – you can see the CPU architecture in the “System Type” field.
There are multiple way to access the About screen:
1. Using the Windows Search Bar
On Windows 10, type “About” in the search bar and click “About Your PC”
2. By Right Clicking “This PC”
Another fairly easy way to access this window is to Right Click on “This PC” and then selecting “Properties” from the drop down menu.
3. By Accessing the Control Panel
The third way to access the “About” or the “System Properties” Window is through the Control Panel.
With the “Control” Panel open, click on “System”:
Limitations of this Methods
While the “About” window is a great way to figure out the make and model of your PC, it doesn’t provide a whole lot of details and information regarding your processor.
It doesn’t tell you the core count, thread count, the boost clock speed etc. To know more about your CPU I recommend the following methods.
2. Checking Your CPU Using Task Manager
Another fairly simple way to not just learn about your CPU’s make and model, but also its important specs as well as its current usage is to head over to the Task Manager:
There are two easy to ways to access Task Manager:
- Right click on the Task Bar
- Select “Task Manager” from the menu.
- Press CTRL+ALT+Del – this should open a new screen
- Select Task Manager from the list
With the Task Manager open,
- Select “Performance” Tab from the top menu
- Then select “CPU” from the Left-Hand side menu
- The resulting screen shows essential details regarding your CPU
Task Manager is an excellent way to not just learn about the specifications of your CPU but to also get insight into its usage.
Here you can see:
- Make: Intel
- Model: Core i7-7700HQ
- Base Clock Speed: 2.80 GHz
- Current CPU Usage: Task Manager also shows you the current overall utilization of the CPU (14% in this case), as well as the utilization per thread
- Current CPU Speed: You can also learn about the current CPU clock speed of the speed (2.41 GHz in this case)
Note that depending upon how much the CPU is being utilized, or whether it is being run on the battery or not (in case of laptops), the current CPU clock speed can get lower or higher than the base clock speed.
For instance, my CPU, the Intel Core i7-7700HQ has a base clock speed of 2.80 GHz. However, when operating on battery (power saving mode), it clocks down to around 2.4 GHz – to conserve battery.
On the flipside, if you are performing strenuous tasks, it can even go beyond the base 2.80 GHz clock speed. My CPU can go to a max clock speed of 3.80 GHz (this is called Boost Clock Speed) and it varies from model to model.
Limitations of This Method
Task Manager is one of the most comprehensive built-in utility to get information regarding your processor.
However, if even this is lacking or incase if you want to find out information regarding the iGPU the CPU offers, its TDP, PCIe Lane count, total RAM supported etc, then heading over to the specsheet would be the best idea.
3. Checking Using Device Manager
Another simple method to check what CPU you have is to access the Device Manager utility.
To access Device Manager:
- Type “Device Manager” in the Windows search field
- Select Device Manager from the search results
- This should open up a new Window detailing all the components currently installed on your system.
Once in Device Manager, expand the “Processors” section. Here you will be able to learn about the make, model and base clock speed of your CPU.
Note that the number of times this list shows the CPU name corresponds to how many threads it has.
For instance, in my case, the Device Manager shows the processor name 8 times – which is the number of threads this processor has on paper.
One of the plus point about accessing Device Manager is that it shows the entire list of all the components that you have currently installed on your PC.
In addition to that, it tells you their driver information and also indicates whether a certain device/component is failing due to driver issues.
Limitations of this Method for Checking Out the CPU
Again, this method shows only the basic details about your CPU i.e its make, model and base clock speed.
4. Checking Using Third Party Software – CPU-Z
The final method I recommend for checking out what CPU you have is to use the popular free third party software called CPU-Z.
This is a very light utility that can be downloaded and installed free of cost.
Running this utility will give you a load of information regarding not just about the CPU you have, but also regarding the rest of the primary components i.e RAM, motherboard, graphics card.
Here you can see a plethora of information:
- Make and Model: Intel Core i7-7700HQ
- Base Clock Speed: 2.80 GHz
- Socket: FCBGA 1440
- Transistor Size: 14nm
- Generation It Belongs to: Kaby Lake
- Core Count: 4
- Thread Count: 8
- Max TDP: 45W
If you head over to the ‘Graphics’ Tab, then it also shows what integrated graphics it has i.e Intel HD 630.
Also Read: How to Check What Motherboard You Have?
Also Read: How Many Pins Does a CPU Have?
Check Out What CPU You Have If Its NOT Installed
If your CPU is not currently installed, then the only definitive way to check what CPU you have is to read the label on it physically.
The make and model of the CPU is almost always inscribed on the CPU surface.
Also Read: Where is the CPU Located in a Computer?
Understanding the CPU Specs
To truly understand what CPU you have and its capabilities, you need to have a basic understanding of the important CPU specs.
Basic CPU Models and the Performance Hierarchy
For starters, there are primarily two CPU manufacturers for the PC market: AMD and Intel.
Both AMD and Intel have several line of CPUs differentiated often by their performance.
The following lists describes the CPU performance Hierarchy
- Intel Celeron: Most budget level CPUs (Very weak performance)
- Intel Pentium/AMD Athlon: Entry Level CPU (Weak Performance)
- Intel Core i3/AMD Ryzen 3: Budget Mainstream CPU (Great for average power users).
- Intel Core i5/AMD Ryzen 5: Mainstream CPU (Popular among gamers and professionals)
- Intel Core i7/AMD Ryzen 7: High Performance CPU (For professional gamers, game streamers, editors and designers).
- Intel Core i9/AMD Ryzen 9: Workstation grade CPU (for elite users).
Knowing which line your CPU belongs to can tell you a lot about where it stands in terms of performance.
Also Read: What is AMD Equivalent to Core i5?
CPU Generation and Socket Information
The performance of a CPU can improve drastically with each newer generation.
You can tell what generation your CPU belongs to by the reading the first or the first two digits of the model name.
- If the CPU model has 4 numerical digits i.e Intel Core i5 9400, the first digits corresponds to the generation i.e “9”400 – 9th generation
- If the CPU model has 5 numerical digits, i.e Intel Core i5 11400, then the first two digits correspond to the generation i.e “11”400 – 11th generation.
- The first numerical digit of the model name corresponds to the generation it belongs to i.e AMD Ryzen 5 3600X, belongs to 3rd generation.
Each new generation can bring about a significant difference in performance, core count, thread count and clock speed.
In addition to that, newer generation often introduce smaller transistors making the CPU more efficient.
For instance, the second generation of AMD Ryzen processors had 12nm transistor size. With the third generation, AMD reduced the size to 7nm making their CPUs more efficient.
Additionally, each newer generation may introduce a newer socket.
For instance, 9th gen Intel CPUs use the LGA 1151 socket, 10th and 11th Gen use the LGA 1200 socket, whereas the 12th gen uses the LGA 1700 socket.
You have to make sure that you have the right motherboard with the right socket in order to plug the CPU in.
You can find out what socket your CPU has through its specsheet:
TDP – Whether It is a Low Powered or a High Performance CPU
Processors are also differentiated in terms of how much energy they consume. This is roughly defined by the TDP (Thermal Design Power) and is expressed in Watts.
Desktops CPUs have a high TDP since power delivery and heat dissipation is not as big of an issue as compared to on a laptop.
With laptops, however, CPU can vary tremendously in terms of how much power they consume.
Take for instance the following:
|Intel Core i7 |
|Intel Core i7 |
|Intel Core i7 |
|Intel Core i7 |
|Intel Core i7 |
Here you can see that for desktops, normal CPUs consume about 65 Watts of power nominally. However, unlocked (overclockable) CPUs can consume more i.e 125 watts (more on this below).
But the important point to note is that for laptops, there are often two kinds of CPUs in the market and within each CPU series.
First are the high performance CPUs such as the Intel Core i7 11800H and the second are ultra-low powered CPUs such as the Intel Core i7 1165G7 and Intel Core i7 10510U.
High performance laptops CPUs often have the ‘H‘ suffix in their name, whereas, the low-powered CPU have the ‘U‘, or more recently, the ‘G‘ Suffix in their name.
The high performance laptops CPUs have a higher core count, a higher clock speed and a much better performance, HOWEVER, they result in a much shorter battery life. They are excellent for professional and gamers.
The low powered CPUs, on the other hand, have a lower core count, lower clock speed, but they offer a much longer batter life. These CPUs are excellent for mobility.
Also Read: How to Monitor CPU and GPU Temp While Gaming?
Whether the CPU is Overclockable or Not
PC Gamers and professionals often like to overclock their CPUs to take the clock speed beyond the stock speeds.
This is done through overclocking.
With AMD things are a bit simpler, all of their CPUs support overclocking.
With Intel, only the ‘K’ series or ‘Unlocked’ processors can be overclocked.
Also Read: How To Check if CPU is Overclocked?
CPU Cores and Threads
Cores are a crucial element of a CPU. Core is a physical hardware unit located within the CPU Dye.
A Core is essentially a mini CPU within the larger CPU dye. A Core has its own registers, cache memory, ALU and each core has the capacity to perform the Fetch-Decode-Execute cycle on its own.
Threads, on the other hand, are a virtual or a software based element of the CPU. The tasks that you perform on your PC are assigned to a Thread.
Therefore, the more threads you have, the more tasks your PC can run simultaneously and seamlessly.
Essentially, every core corresponds to a single thread. However, if the CPU has multi-threading enabled, then each core would have two threads. Hence you will often see CPU with 4 cores / 8 threads or 8 cores / 16 threads.
Does More Core = Greater Performance?
Not necessarily, there are many aspects that define how the CPU will perform for your intended tasks.
For instance, gaming on an Intel Core i7 with 8 cores 16 threads would be an overkill as most games do not come close to utilizing all 8 cores.
However, if you are a gamer AND a streamer than the more cores you have the better will be your gaming + live streaming experience. This is because encoding video is a very CPU-heavy task:
Encoding can be taxing on your system. x264 will utilize a lot of your CPU, resulting in lower FPS. – Twitch.tv
Additionally, while graphic designing and web development may not benefit from a stupendously high core count, video rendering, on the hand, is a signature task that requires as many cores as you can throw at it.
Therefore, the question does more core = greater performance? is not necessarily true. The performance gain that you may experience from a CPU with a higher core count depends upon what tasks you perform.
If your CPU cores are not being utilized by the tasks that you perform in the first place, then you won’t necessarily experience much of a performance difference.
Single Core vs Multiple Core Performance Difference
All CPUs are measured by their Single Core and their Multi Core performance scores.
The Single Core performance of a CPU is equally as important as its multi-core performance. This is because most of the tasks performed in software and most of the codes being run by a game are Single-Core based.
Multi-core performance measures the performance of the CPU with all of the cores working at full capacity. Single Core performance a CPU is measured with only a Single Core working at a time.
CPUs within the same generation often have a similar single core performance.
Take for instance the following comparison of AMD Ryzen 5 5600X vs AMD Ryzen 7 5800X. The former has 6 cores / 12 threads, while the latter has 8 cores / 16 threads. They, however, belong to the same generation i.e 5000 series and they have a similar clock speed as well.
Cinebench R23 Single Core (AMD Ryzen 5 5600X vs AMD Ryzen 7 5800X)
Single Core performance of the two is almost similar.
Cinebench R23 Multi Core (AMD Ryzen 5 5600X vs AMD Ryzen 7 5800X)
Naturally due to higher number of cores, AMD RYzen 7 5800X takes the cake here. Again, you will only see the benefit of this IF the work you do actually utilizes all 8 cores.
Also Read: How to Check How Many CPU Thread You Have?
CPU Clock Speed
Clock speed is another measure of the CPU performance. Often people confuse Clock speed to be THE primary characteristic that defines how well the CPU would performance.
That is hardly the case.
While a higher Clock speed does improve the performance, there are myriad of other factors that define a CPU’s performance including the amount of cores it has, its transistor size etc
Take for instance the Intel Core i7 1165G7 with a base and boost clock speeds of 2.80-4.7 GHz and the Intel Core i7 11800H with a base and boost clock speed of 2.3-4.6 GHz.
Despite having a higher clock speed, the Core i7 1165G7 is much weaker than the Intel Core i7 11800H (Passmark scores of 10650 vs 21625 respectively).
Also Read: What is a Good Processor Speed for Laptop?
CPU’s Integrated Graphics Card
Many CPUs offer integrated graphics.
An Integrated graphics card (iGPU) is a bear minimum graphics card for video processing and for displaying visuals on your monitor screen.
In terms of performance, they are far from being comparable to mid to high end dedicated graphics cards. However depending upon what iGPU your CPU has, you may be able to play AAA titles on lower settings.
AMD RX Vega 7 and AMD RX Vega 8 iGPU as found in the 4000 and 5000 series Ryzen CPUs are some of the most powerful iGPUs out there that can be used a replacement for entry-level dedicated graphics card.
AMD ‘G’ Series CPUs have iGPU
It is worth noting that not all AMD CPUs have an iGPU.
With AMD only the ‘G’ series CPUs such as the AMD Ryzen 3 3200G, AMD Ryzen 7 5700G featured an integrated graphics card.
Intel ‘F’ Series CPUs LACK an iGPU
With Intel, the opposite is the case. All except the ‘F’ series CPUs feature an iGPU. For instance, Intel Core i5 10400F, Intel Core i5-11600KF etc lack and iGPU.
NOTE: Motherboard Back I/O Need an iGPU
A very important consideration to note here is that motherboard do not have an onboard graphics processing chip.
Therefore, the video output ports found on the back I/O panel of the motherboard rely on the CPU’s integrated graphics card to run.
In other words, if your CPU lacks an iGPU, the video output ports on the motherboard will NOT work.
You can find out what iGPU your CPU has through the specsheet. The specsheet will also highlight how many displays the iGPU can support – something that is essential for those looking to build a multi-monitor setup.
PCIe Lanes and PCIe Version of Your CPU
The expansion cards that you install on the PCIe slots on the motherboard connect to PCIe lanes.
PCIe lanes are information highways that transmit data from the connected expansion cards to the CPU.
The amount of PCIe lanes an expansion card uses depends upon how much data it generates. A wireless network card doesn’t generate a lot of data and hence require 1 lane aka, x1. An SSD requires 4 lanes, aka x4. A graphics card, the most demanding expansion cards, require 16 lanes, aka x16.
Now the amount of PCIe lanes you have on your system are limited and they governed by the CPU make and model as well as the motherboard chipset.
The more PCIe lanes you have the more expansion cards you will be able to connect.
Here is how many PCIe lanes Intel and AMD CPUs provide:
- Intel 10th Gen and older CPUs: 16 PCIe lanes
- Intel 11th Gen and newer: 20 PCIe lanes
- AMD Ryzen Series CPUs (Desktop): 24 PCIe lanes (only 20 user accessible)
In addition to that, the version of the PCIe protocol also matters. Every newer generation of PCIe doubles the per lane transfer speed.
The following tables shows the throughput rate (speed) of different PCIe versions for different lane count.
The PCIe version of your system also depends upon the CPU and Motherboard chipset you have.
I recommend reading the following articles to learn more about PCIe lanes:
Cache memory isn’t a super important specifications for your to consider a a buyer, but of course, the higher the cache memory of your CPU the better would be its performance.
Cache memory is basically the fastest RAM found on your PC. It is similar to your usual RAM sticks in its basic function, but instead it is super fast. The cache memory holds the most common instructions that a CPU uses on a regular basis.
It is also integrated within the CPU itself. This close proximity of the cache memory to the rest of the CPU sub-components, makes accessing repetitive instructions very fast.
There are three levels of the Cache memory namely L1, L2, L3 – L1 being the smallest but also closest to the CPU core. This is fastest cache level. L3 is the largest, but also the slowest of the cache memory.
It is always good to have a CPU with the most cache memory, however, this spec should not be the primary deal maker or deal breaker.
Learning how to check what CPU you have, its make and model is just one half of the story. The other half is to actually figure out how good of a processor you have.
Fortunately, there are many simple ways to find out what CPU you have, however, to truly understand how it fares compared to the rest of CPUs in the market, whether it is sufficient for the work you perform or whether it is time for an upgrade, you will need to conduct some research.
Learning what the CPU specs mean and then learning how to benchmark your CPU by comparing it with the rest of processors in the market should give you a good grasp of how capable your CPU.
Also Read: How to Check Form Factor of Motherboard?