How to Check CPU Speed

A processor speed test for your PC or Mac

What to Know

  • Check your CPU's base clock: For Windows, go to My PC > This PC > Properties. For Mac, go to About This Mac > Processor.
  • You'll need external help to check the computer speed boost clock on Windows (CPU-Z) or on Mac (Intel Power Monitor).

This article explains how to check both the base clock speed and computer speed boost clocks.

How to Check Computer Speed for Base Frequencies

The base clock speed is the speed with which your processor is guaranteed to run during normal utilization. It will typically run faster when it can, but this is the lowest frequency you would typically expect your CPU to operate at.

Windows and macOS have their own built-in methods for checking your CPU's base clock.

Windows

The following method works in Windows 7, 8, and 10.

  1. Type My PC into the Windows search bar.

  2. In Windows 7, and 8, you'll see the result My PC. In Windows 10, it will display as This PC. In either case, right click (or tap and hold) on the result and select Properties.

  3. Your CPU speed will be displayed in the new window that appears.

    The speed of your Windows-based PC using the built-in tools in Windows.

Check Computer Speed on MacOS

The following method works on every version of macOS since its change from OS X, and some versions before then.

  1. Select the Apple icon in the top-left corner of your screen.

  2. Select About This Mac from the drop-down menu.

  3. Your CPU speed will be displayed next to the Processor name.

    About This Mac window displays the speed of your processor.

Check Computer Speed Boost Clocks on Windows

To know the typical clock speed and maximum clock speed(s) that your CPU can run at, you need to use a bespoke piece of software. For Windows PCs, CPUZ is one of the best.

  1. Download CPUZ from the official website and install it as you would any other piece of software.

  2. Run CPUZ and update it if necessary.

  3. Look at the Core Speed frequency. That is your current CPU speed. If you run anything remotely intensive, like a web browser, or even a game, you should see the core speed reach its typical boost frequency.

    The CPUZ interface showing the speed of your CPU.

Check Computer Speed Boost Clocks on MacOS

Checking the active boost frequency of your CPU on MacOS requires a tool of its own. The best is Intel Power Monitor.

  1. Download Intel Power Monitor directly from Intel.

  2. Select the package and follow the installer prompt instructions. You may need to Allow system software from Intel in the Security and PrivacySystem Preferences.

  3. When installation is complete, launch it from the Applications folder as you would any other application.

  4. The Frequency table will tell you what your active clock speed is. Launch a web browser or any moderately intensive application. Your CPU frequency should increase to its boost speed.

What Is CPU speed?

CPU speed is an important metric for how fast your computer is. It's not the be all and end all, especially when it comes to games, but knowing how fast your processor is running can help you find ways to improve performance, make sure you're getting the most from your existing hardware, and better know when it's time to upgrade.

There are a lot of factors that go into a processor's speed at any particular task. Its number of cores and supportive threads can be an important factor in software applications that can really support multi-threading. Cache size is important too, as is the age of a CPU and its underlying architecture.

Typically, however, when people mention CPU speed, they're colloquially referring to clock speed. That's the number of cycles with which a processor can conduct tasks per second. In modern processors it's typically referred to in gigahertz (GHz), usually in multiple single digits. The fastest processors in the world can operate at above five gigahertz (displayed as 5.0GHz) while more modest options might run under two gigahertz (2.0GHz).

Does CPU Speed Stay the Same All the Time?

No it does not. Modern processors use clever algorithms to "boost" the frequency of their clock speed when it's required and when power and thermal limits haven't been reached. Some CPUs can operate at these higher frequencies for prolonged periods of time, while others do so for short periods of time and then downclock, or lower the frequency, to keep temperatures low.

Processors with inadequate cooling or coolers that are clogged with dust, may consistently run at a slower speed to avoid overheating.