Most of us know that the CPU is the “brain” of a computer, but do you know how to accurately test it? In this article, we’ll explore how to run an accurate CPU benchmark test, as well as review some tools you can use to make your benchmarking more efficient.
What exactly is a CPU benchmark test?
CPU benchmarking measures the capacity and performance of a CPU when under stress. How the CPU reacts to these stress tests is recorded and usually assigned a number. In most tests, the higher the number or score, the better your CPU performed. The most common metrics recorded in a CPU benchmark test include:
- Registry calls per cycle
- General architecture
- Instructions executed (normally measured in GHz)
- Various architecture efficiency factors
- Processing power and efficiency
- Fan speed and temperature
- Energy efficiency
- Stress testing (How long a CPU can process data while at 100% usage)
CPUs can be found in nearly every device that can connect to the internet. This includes everything from your cell phone and smart TV, to your networked switches and firewalls. You’ll find that manufacturers like AMD and Intel will have their own diagnostic and benchmarking tools built specifically for their architecture, while some tools accurately benchmark test multiple brands of CPU.
Why is CPU benchmark testing important?
CPU benchmarking ensures that your machine can handle certain tasks, or support enough users. In a business environment not having enough CPU resources could cause downtime or impact productivity. Let’s look at a few examples of where CPU benchmarking is often used in the workplace.
- Video Editing – Individual workstations that need to render video often need significant CPU resources in order to do their job effectively. When exporting large videos or movies the CPU is often used in conjunction with the GPU to help speed up the rendering process. Not having enough CPU resources available could drastically slow down the exporting process for video projects.
- Engineering – Engineering departments use software that can render 3D shapes. These objects are often realistic models for physical parts that will be printed. Due to the amount of detail, adequate CPU resources need to be reserved to work with these shapes. Many different types of CAD software will have minimum requirements that have to be met. An inadequate CPU or underperforming CPU will cause problems in this software.
- Data Centers – In major data centers across the world, knowing the exact specs on your hardware is critical to meeting SLAs and ensuring uptime. While most of these environments use virtualization, the physical CPUs still must be tested for performance. This helps businesses plan resource allocation as well as identify underperforming hardware that needs to be replaced.
- Remote Desktop – Corporations often use Remote Desktop or Citrix servers to host applications that give their employees the flexibility to work from anywhere. These servers can host potentially hundreds of connections with users utilizing different amounts of system resources. An underperforming CPU will throw off your estimates when planning just how much resources can be allocated for each user. CPU Benchmarking gives you an accurate and realistic look into how that hardware will truly perform when put under stress.
As time goes on and these devices are in use for longer periods, CPUs tend to degrade over time. While this degradation is slow, overclocking and sustained high temperatures can shorten the lifespan of the CPU much quicker.
What is a good benchmark for a PC?
In most benchmarking software, a good benchmark is indicated by a final score or grade. In most cases the higher the score, the better your CPU performed. When looking at average frames per second for graphical tests, or the number of instructions handled you’ll want a higher number for a result.
While the scale of the numbers may change, as a general rule you’ll want a higher score. An exception to this rule would be when the CPU benchmark test is comparing render time as a metric.
In this test, the CPU is put under stress and usually allowed to spawn as many threads as it can handle. The object of this test is to complete the rendering in as little time as possible, hence where we would want to see a lower score or shorter time.
In some CPU benchmark tests, your score can be compared to similar systems or even the results of others who have tested their CPUs’ performance. This gives you not only an idea of how your hardware is performing on an individual level but also a look at how your CPU stacks up against other modern machines.
Other CPU benchmark tests can show you how similar brands or models of CPU perform in comparison to your results. This helps gives you a quick understanding of where your hardware ranks as well as some possibilities for improvement.
How do I benchmark my CPU?
To perform a very basic CPU benchmark test you can use a tool built directly in Windows called Performance Monitor.
To access the CPU benchmark test, press Windows Key + R to open the run menu. In the box type PERFMON and hit enter.
Here is where you can run a performance monitoring test that can benchmark the performance of your CPU as well as give you insights into the stats of your other hardware.
You can start a CPU benchmark test by going to Data Collector Sets – > System and then right-clicking on System Performance and press Start. After 60 seconds a log is recorded detailing the results of the test.
You can find the results by going to Reports – > System – > System Performance. Running this test while under a heavy load will give you insight into just how well your CPU is coping, and exactly what services or applications are impacting it.
This report is fairly detailed but can be a bit difficult to read and decipher. There’s a lot of information in this report, but for now, let’s just focus on the CPU section. You’ll notice that the CPU has its own tab, and within it are four other nested tabs, Process, Service, Services, and System.
- Process – This section will give you a high-level overview of how many bytes were processed during the test. At the top, you’ll see the most utilized processes recorded during the test. This can be useful if you’re looking for programs that might be causing issues over the long term. You’ll also find stats such as your processor time, idle time, and the number of interrupts per second in the section as well.
- Service – The services tab displays the most CPU intensive services that were recording during the test. This can be more applicable to troubleshooting server environments where specific applications can be at fault for CPU utilization.
- Services – This provides a list of the top 100 services and records their CPU usage.
- System – This section breaks down metrics such as processor queue length, the number of threads opened, and details about the number of operations per second that were handled.
Performance Monitor is a convenient free tool built right into Windows, but it’s far from the best. Home computers can greatly benefit from this reporting, but for a business environment, you need more details and clarity.
Here are a few more advanced CPU benchmark test software we recommended using.
SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM) is an advanced yet easy-to-use tool for performing CPU benchmark tests as well as monitor the overall health of your network devices.
The SolarWinds NPM platform takes CPU benchmarking to a new level by giving you the tools to run either individual tests on the CPU, or consistently monitor it over the long term. While PC gamers and enthusiasts might just need to run a few benchmark tests, MSPs and corporate environments will likely want to take a more proactive approach to identify inefficiencies and failures.
You can quickly create monitors on your CPU that detect metrics like fan speed, temperature, and overall CPU utilization. These monitors can feed directly into a dashboard that gives you performance metrics visually in real-time. This feature alone is a welcome change from just the raw numbers you get with most CPU benchmark testing tools.
If you’re looking to monitor CPU usage and performance over the long term, the monitors you create can easily be turned into active alerts. From within the monitor, you can set thresholds or conditions in which an alert notification will be sent.
You can test out SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor free for 30 days.
PRTG is a similar monitoring tool that allows administrators to monitor a number of systems and hardware metrics in real-time, including CPU usage. PRTG creates specific monitors for each piece of hardware you want to keep an eye on, giving you more control and granularity over your reports.
There are currently over 200 different pre-configured sensors that give you a solid foundation to start monitoring your network and hardware. For most companies, these configurations work out of the box, but for those who want to make more tweaks and customization, this serves as a launch point to quickly configure different types of monitors.
CPU benchmarking can be measured in Windows, macOS, and Linux environments, making PRTG a great option for multi-OS environments that need CPU monitoring. Key insights like process utilization, CPU load, and historic baselines are all recorded under the CPU sensor overview section.
If you’re interested in using PRTG to track and benchmark your CPU stats, you can try it for free through a 30-day free trial.
Online CPU Benchmark Tests
There are a few websites you can use to run a CPU benchmark, one of the better ones being CPU Expert. Over the course of about five minutes, this site will gradually put stress on your CPU, and measure how it copes.
If you run the test and it’s stuck on 0%, try a different browser or turn off your popup blocker temporarily. For the best results, you’ll want to make sure you have nothing else running in the background.
While CPU Expert is a quick and easy way to run a CPU benchmark test, it certainly isn’t the most accurate. Only software installed directly on your machine can get a complete picture of how your CPU is handling a heavy load. The CPU Expert test is the same for everyone, so your score gives you a solid comparison with others who run it.
Lastly, you’ll want to be careful with online CPU benchmark tests. Only use verified software and tools when testing your CPU. Accidentally installing malware could lead to a malware infection or even possible damage to your CPU.
How can I improve my CPU benchmark?
If after a thorough test you’re not happy with your CPUs performance, there are a few things you can do to improve your CPUs benchmark score.
- Examine your processes: Look for applications or processes that run in the background as you use your computer. Oftentimes you’ll find programs you don’t really need running are active in the background. This can happen during startup when programs put themselves in your Startup folder. You can easily disable problem programs by checking Task Manager.
- Kill processes that are stuck: Sometimes applications will crash or be written in a way that locks up your CPU resources. This can be anything from a video game to a browser that tries to run a process continuously. If you think a program has exceeded its runtime, be sure to kill it in Task Manager. If this continues to happen consider reinstalling the application.
- Buy a new CPU: It might not be the answer you wanted to hear, but it might be the best move. Applications and games are continuously demanding more CPU power from your PC. Even CPUs from four or five years ago can run into problems when running the latest and greatest programs. Check your application system requirements. If you’re barely meeting them, or not meeting them at all, consider budgeting for an upgrade.