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I realize for single applications - the application itself has to be designed to take advantage of multiple cores. But what about executing many different applications simultaneously?

On my development machine at an average instance, I run multiple servers (a database server, a web server), multiple instance of IDEs (either Visual Studio or NetBeans), Web-browser with multiple tabs (in Chrome, each tab is a process on its own), FTP client, SSH client etc. Does having a multi-core system improve the ability to run multiple applications simultaneously?

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Of course. And there won't be so much contention between different processes, either, since they run in their own address spaces, and they won't have all that synchronization overhead ...

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Short answer: Yes.

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Only if multiple things are happening at the same time. For example, browsing http://localhost and hitting the local DB will be improved with multi-cores. But, IMO the best way to improve preformance on a developer workstation is lots of fast RAM. And a fast hard drive.

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