What is the difference between multiple CPU processors (ie: Pentium D) and multicore processors (ie: Core 2 duo)?

3 Answers 3


Multiple CPU processors (like the Pentium D) are literally just two distinct CPUs (two dies) that just happen to share the same physical package.

So, instead of having 2 CPUs in 2 sockets, you have 2 CPUs that just happen to fit in one socket together. Basically, there's no difference between having, say, 2 physical early-generation Xenon CPUs (each in their own socket) and a single Pentium D. (Note: This is very much a simplification.)

Multi-core CPU processors (like the the Core 2 series) are two processing units that share the same die (silicon substrate).

So, the multiple CPU processors are like having 2 CPUs which are just conveniently packaged together, whereas the multi-core CPU processors are 2 CPUs on the same chip.

If this seems like a subtle distinction, that's because it is.

Of course, there's more to it than that - for one thing, having the two CPUs on the same die is more efficient (both power-consumption-wise as well as instruction-wise, due to a different internal design). Additionally, having the CPU cores on the same die means they can share things like L1 cache, whereas when the two CPUs are physically separate dies, they each have to have their own cache.

It gets even more complicated when you throw quad-core chips into the mix, because they are 2 dual-core chips which just happen to share the same physical packaging... kind of like the Pentium D. But that's a digression for another day.

  • @Keithius, So... does this mean that multiple CPU processor is superior to multi-core single CPU processor?
    – Pacerier
    May 12, 2016 at 9:38

The difference is really all down to busses.

A dual-core CPU is like having two CPUs inside one chip. But, they both have to access the motherboard resources through the one set of pins. Granted, the number of pins is pretty huge these days compared with the older CPUs.

Having two (or more) separate CPUs has the advantage that each CPU has direct access to the motherboard resources through its own set of pins.

While not a massive difference in speed, for memory or IO intensive operations (not CPU bound) the dual CPU model is marginally faster.

  • 1
    my question is very easy, not about new technology. What is the innovation with pentium family? I heard that pentium family has two cpu, is that true? and what's different between two cpu and dual core ? thanks..
    – sumeyye
    Mar 20, 2011 at 16:01
  • 1
    @sumeyye: Your question was VERY unclear. Matt's answer is about as close to an answer as was possible (multiple CPUs vs. multicore CPUs). There are no more Pentiums, and what you're saying about them is false (in a general way), check out Intel Pentium on Wikipedia. Mar 20, 2011 at 16:04
  • Matt: that's only half the truth... there are resources on the die that every core has access to without having to go over a bus, like the CPU cache. Mar 20, 2011 at 19:02
  • 1
    sumeye: if a question is easy or not is something you only can answer if you know the answer, right? Matt did a good job, answering a very broad question in a sensible way. Your questions mixes up three in one - Pentium vs. Core architecture, single-cpu vs. multi-cpu, single-core vs. multi-core. Not easy to divine what you want to know. Mar 20, 2011 at 19:06
  • @FlorenzKley I have highlighted the bit that states not CPU bound i.e., things outside the die.
    – Majenko
    Mar 20, 2011 at 20:19

The questions is pretty unclear, but one thing you may be thinking about is Hyper-Threading. Many Pentium D processors are actually single-core, but appear to Windows to support 2 threads, or 2 virtual CPUS.

With Hyper-Threading, there is one 1 CPU but it can maintain the state of two threads at the same time such that when one thread is waiting for a long process, like waiting for the HDD or a memory operation, the other thread can execute. This can allow a single-core CPU to be up to 30% more efficient with multi-threaded code due to being able to execute more commands instead of stalling and waiting on long operations.

  • All Pentium Ds are dual core.
    – MDMarra
    Mar 20, 2011 at 18:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .