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What Is a CPU Thread? A Basic Definition

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A thread is a virtual version of a CPU core. To create a thread, Intel CPUs uses hyper-threading, and AMD CPUs uses simultaneous multithreading, or SMT for short (they’re the same thing). These are both names for the process of breaking up physical cores into virtual cores (threads) to increase performance.

For example, AMD CPUs with four cores use SMT to provide eight threads, and most Intel CPUs with two cores use hyper-threading to provide four threads. These approaches have a big impact on overall processor performance, as you can see in our CPU Benchmark Hierarchy. 

This article is part of the Tom's Hardware Glossary.

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Scharon Harding

Scharon Harding is a Senior Editor at Tom's Hardware. She has a special affinity for gaming peripherals (especially monitors), laptops and virtual reality. Previously, Scharon covered business technology, including hardware, software, cyber security, cloud and other IT happenings, at Channelnomics, with bylines at CRN UK.