How do I determine the type and speed of my processor?

Computer CPUThere are multiple ways of determining the speed of the computer processor. Below is a listing of the methods of determining the speed.

Note: Before following any of the steps below it is important to realize that a processors settings can be adjusted or overclocked. This means that the software settings could be show a speed higher than the default processor speed. If you feel the system may have been tampered with the only way of truely knowing a processors speed is to open the case and physically look at the computer processor (see hardware steps).

Quick links

Windows users
Documentation
At boot
CMOS
Software
Hardware

In Windows

If you are running Microsoft Windows you can determine the processor type and speed by following the steps below.

  1. Press the Windows Key and Pause key at the same time.

or

  1. Right-click on the My Computer or Computer on the Desktop.
  2. Click Properties.

Doing either of the above options should open a System Properties window similar to the example below. In the System Properties window you should see the manufacturer of the processor (e.g. Intel or AMD),  the model of the processor (Core 2), and the speed (1.86 GHz).

Windows XP System Properties

Documentation

If you have purchased the computer from an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) like Dell or HP, the manufacturer will likely include documentation that lists the system specifications of the computer.

At boot

Most computers show the computer processor speed as the computer boots. For example, as the computer boots you may see a listing similar to:

Intel Pentium(TM) III 1000MHz

The above example indicates that the computer is running an Intel Processor running at 1GHz, or 1000MHz.

Note: Unfortunately, the boot process will be very fast; therefore, you may have little or no time to read all that is on the screen during one boot. Also, many motherboard and computer manufacturers have a BIOS splash screen as the computer boots up showing the company or motherboard logo; press the ESC key to display the text behind the logo. Finally, you can also press the Pause key to pause the boot process allowing you to read all the text.

CMOS

If the computer does not have documentation or does not indicate the processor speed as it boots, it is also possible that the processor speed will be listed in the CMOS Setup. This information will be listed under the main or advanced settings of CMOS Setup.

Software

There are also a wide variety of software utilities designed to list and detect the computer processor. See the third-party tools in the link below for a listing of the most popular programs designed to detect system hardware.

Hardware

The best method of determining the computer processor speed would be to physically look at the actual processor. It is important to note that this option may not be available if a non-removable heat sink is attached to the processor.

Power down the computer, open the chassis and locate the computer processor.

Once the processor has been located, if the computer processor is a slot processor, the processor speed, cache, and other information can be located on the top of the processor. For example, a slot processor may have a listing of numbers similar to 500/512/100/2.0V, which is:

500 MHz Processor
512 KB Cache
100 Bus Speed
2.0V Voltage

If your processor is a socket processor, determining the speed may be more difficult. The CPU information is located on the top of the processor itself (see our CPU definition for an example). Unfortunately, however, it is more than likely that a heat sink is attached to the processor. Before the speed can be determined it must be removed. Once removed, it is possible that a white paste (thermal compound) may be on the processor or heat sink. This can be wiped away, providing you have more paste, which can be applied later to the processor. A socket processor may have a listing of information similar to 1000/256/133/1.7, which is:

1000 MHz Processor
256 KB Cache
133 Bus Speed
1.7 Voltage

Additional information

  • See the MHz and GHz definitions for further information and related links about each of these terms.