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More Cores/ More RAM = Better Multitasking?

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October 18, 2009 8:12:59 AM

I have been reading up on various guides and forums from different websites and got kinda mixed up with such a huge diversity of comments by various people and got kinda confused.

Initially, I was under the impression that a high RAM capacity would mean better multitasking.
Let's say running Winamp + browsing Mozilla with 10+ tabs + editing Word documents + downloading Torrents.
Would running these programs together do better with more RAM or more cores?

From what i understood, multiple cores only worked well if the applications used support multithreading, such as Photoshop, video editing programs and such. Does that mean that applications that don't support multithreading would work the same when it is used in a single core computer and a dualcore computer?

More about : cores ram multitasking

a b à CPUs
October 18, 2009 9:15:21 AM

To make a long story short, yes. When it comes to multicore CPU's, like you said, it is dependent upon the fact if the software you are using has been written to use more than one core. For the programs that are not written for multicore CPU's, there is an advantage, as for example, one core could take care of various background tasks (i.e. Windows), while another can "concentrate" on running your program(s). In terms of RAM, yes, the more the merrier, especially for multi-tasking. If you plan on having tons upon tons of apps open at once, go with a 64 bit OS, as it can address more memory. Gaming may be a different story though.

In short, you'll have a hard time finding single core CPU's these days, from either Intel or AMD.
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a b à CPUs
October 18, 2009 1:59:57 PM

Even though a single program might not be multithreaded and can use only 1 core, Windows is multithreaded. Which means that while 1 program is using 1 core, another program can use another, and so on.
If you are a heavy multi-tasker, a 64 bit OS with 4- 8 gig of memory and a fast quad core is going to be exactly what you need.
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a b à CPUs
October 18, 2009 2:32:21 PM

Don't forget that your hard drive setup will have a major impact on multitasking.

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a b à CPUs
October 18, 2009 7:14:33 PM

The more RAM you have, the more programs you can fit in memory - so yes, more RAM is good for multitasking. However, once you've got enough RAM to hold all your programs, adding yet more RAM won't directly benefit the programs (although Windows will use it to cache disk I/O).

The more cores you have, the more simultaneous work can be done - so yes, more cores are good for multitasking. But to some degree it depends on HOW you multitask. If you just switch from one window to another and the inactive windows aren't actually doing anything, then the extra cores will be of less benefit than if you're downloading files in one window, compressing files in another and watching a video in a third window.

Would "Winamp + browsing Mozilla with 10+ tabs + editing Word documents + downloading Torrents" benefit from more RAM or more cores? Depends on which one that particular workload is short of. If your disks are really busy while that's going on then it could be a sign of a RAM shortage and more RAM might help. If your CPU is at or near 100% while that's going on then more cores might help. Both could be true, too.
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October 18, 2009 8:18:40 PM

buwish said:
To make a long story short, yes. When it comes to multicore CPU's, like you said, it is dependent upon the fact if the software you are using has been written to use more than one core. For the programs that are not written for multicore CPU's, there is an advantage, as for example, one core could take care of various background tasks (i.e. Windows), while another can "concentrate" on running your program(s). In terms of RAM, yes, the more the merrier, especially for multi-tasking. If you plan on having tons upon tons of apps open at once, go with a 64 bit OS, as it can address more memory. Gaming may be a different story though.

In short, you'll have a hard time finding single core CPU's these days, from either Intel or AMD.

Even though a single program might not be multithreaded and can use only 1 core, Windows is multithreaded. Which means that while 1 program is using 1 core, another program can use another, and so on.
If you are a heavy multi-tasker, a 64 bit OS with 4- 8 gig of memory and a fast quad core is going to be exactly what you need.

Thx for the replies... =D
But still, I would like to know more on how many threads is Windows multithreaded?

Does that mean that if I have a quad-core, it would split into
Core1: background processes
Core2:D ownloading torrent
Core3:compressing files
Core3:Watching video

sportsfanboy: Hard drive setup meaning? rpm of HDD?
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a b à CPUs
October 18, 2009 8:34:37 PM

I'm not sure about how many threads Windows (Vista) can handle at once. I would assume at least 2, as dual cores were the main CPU's on the market for quite sometime. It maybe more though, as some dual cores came equipped with HT to virtually double their capacity.

W7 on the other hand may be able to work with at least 4.

In regard to HDD set up, I believe he is referring to RAID set ups and such. Depending on the particular RAID set up, one can double the speed of their HDD by having 2 or more drives do the task of one. The RPM of a drive really isn't that big of a deal, as maybe a 10K RPM drive like I'm using can access, read, and write a bit faster than some 7200 RPM drives. But at most, it isn't much, especially if you have a decent 7200 RPM drive(s), i.e. a WD Black or even some Seagates. Heck, I have a newer Seagate Barracuda (7200rpm) that can keep up with the Velociraptor (10Krpm) in terms of read and write speeds. The most gain you'll see from an HDD that isn't in a RAID configuration is through a solid state drive, as in many respects, they simply fly.
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a b à CPUs
October 18, 2009 9:57:55 PM

Ethwyn said:
But still, I would like to know more on how many threads is Windows multithreaded?
Windows can run as many simultaneous threads as their are logical processors (ie, 4 threads for a quad core, 8 threads for a quad core with hyperthreading). But it will only do that if it has enough actual work to do to keep all those processor busy.

In most cases, the thing that's important isn't in how many threads are running to do work for the OS, it's how many threads are running in YOUR applications. The OS is just there so you can run your programs, those programs are the real reason you've bought your computer (unless you're just a geek who likes tinkering with OSs... ;) )
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a b à CPUs
October 18, 2009 10:14:24 PM

Windows XP and Vista (not server) supports 2 physical processors with an unlimited number of cores, theoretically....I am sure there is a limit, but you will never ever be able to realize it....unless they come out with like 256 core processors.........
Windows Server 2008 will support up to 64 individual quad core processors for a total of 256 cores....I think. It may be more, but you get the idea.
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a b à CPUs
October 18, 2009 10:29:57 PM

if you look in processor affinity you should see how many threads windows can use. As for windows xp i see it can use up to 32 treads (or at least thats what there showing). Although as sminlal said, it's what programs you use on it rather than the os it self.

For storage drives (the typical bottleneck in a computer), Raid 0 or raid 1 (combine raid 1 with a very intelligent raid controler to do multi reads) will be a major improvement with multi-tasking. Although if you dont want to mess with raid, then a Intel ssd should be a good choice.

and as other have said:
A good storage setup (whether it's HDD in raid or a single ssd)
At least 3GB of ram or more
and a multi-core cpu

will increase the multi-tasking capacity.
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October 19, 2009 2:02:31 PM

how many 'threads' are being used is actually sort of a misnomer....there are a large number of threads running at any given time.....take a gander at the processes list in the task manager.....each one of those processes has multiple threads attached to it, and in the case of the windows based ones, hundreds of threads

while it is true that only so many can 'run' at a given time (and this is limited by the number of cores) the processor can switch threads in and out so fast that it appears to the user as if all the threads are running simultaneously

to the person that tried to say 'this core will do this, and this core will do that', no it doesn't work that way....the OS has some sort of mechanism that schedules threads based on time to completion, priority, and several other things....it will schedule a thread on a core when it sees fit, and the end user, you, has absolutely know way to know what thread will run on what core and when
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October 20, 2009 1:38:57 PM

ahh... ok then...a few more questions regarding the HDDs...
let's say I want to use the RAID and SSD systems... what's the best setup for these drives? use SSD for the OS and use RAID for the data disks? Which type of RAID setup would be more beneficial?
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a b à CPUs
October 20, 2009 2:30:24 PM

Ethwyn said:
ahh... ok then...a few more questions regarding the HDDs...
let's say I want to use the RAID and SSD systems... what's the best setup for these drives? use SSD for the OS and use RAID for the data disks? Which type of RAID setup would be more beneficial?


if you put a combination of ssd and hdd then you would want the os on the ssd. For the hdd scene it wont have an os on it raid 1 will be more beneficial than raid 0.

raid 0: "Striped set without parity" or "Striping". Provides improved performance and additional storage but no redundancy or fault tolerance."

This means that any data that's saved to the hdd's will be divided into the amount of hdds you have. Lets say you have 2, This mean that half of the data will go to 1 disk and the other half will go to the other.

Pros:
Nearly double read and write speeds
Have all the capacity of 2 drives. Exp: Two 80GB drives = total space of 160GB. Will looks as 1 drive in OS


Cons:
If 1 drive fails, all data is lost on all hdd's/ssd's.



raid 1:'Mirrored set without parity' or 'Mirroring'. Provides fault tolerance from disk errors and failure of all but one of the drives.

This means that all disks have the same info. So if 1 hdd fails you still have more to keep you running.

Pro's:
all but 1 drive can fail before computer not working.
With a good software raid or smart hardware raid card you can do split seek reading to improve multi-tasking.

Con's:
You only get total capacity of 1 hdd.
Write speed is equal to 1 hdd (and sometimes less)

(not realy a con but a mis-understanding of raid 1)
raid 1 is only meant for hard-drive failers and should not be used as primary back up.

If you accidently delete something or there a virus on one the hdd. The other hdd will have the same thing.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAID


in my personal option raid 1 would be better. I say this due to if you have important files on you computer like picture that you want to keep for years to come, there will more than 1 copy of it encase 1 hdd stops working.

Although if you needing as much space as possible then raid 0 would be the choice.

Hope this helps and if you need more info about raid, just use the wiki raid link i given above.
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October 20, 2009 2:43:05 PM

If we're talking SSD's and RAID 0, the standard onboard controllers from Intel, Marvell and JMicron simply can't take properly handle the speed. They do the job, but oft aren't much of an improvement over standard setup.
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