How to calculate cycles per instruction

Written by chance e. gartneer
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How to calculate cycles per instruction
Cycles per instruction is one of the variables for measuring a CPU's performance. (A CPU image by Yanir Taflev from

Cycles per instruction is a form of computer measurement that calculates the amount of time to finish an instruction using the clock cycles of the processor and the instruction count of the program. The cycles per instruction along with the instruction count of a program determine its cycle count, and the cycle count multiplied with the clock cycle time will provide the central processing unit (CPU) execution time. CPU times are used to compare the performances of different computer processors.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • CPU clock cycles count
  • Instruction count

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  1. 1

    Convert the CPU clock cycles count into scientific notation. Scientific notation allows the data to be presented in shorthand by ridding it of excessive zeroes. Write down only the number right before the comma where the zeroes start. Add the zeroes up that you are discarding and write them as an exponential power of 10. Write the shortened number and the power of 10 as a two terms being multiplied together. For example, if the count is 300,000,000 cycles, convert it to 300 x 10^6.

  2. 2

    Convert the instruction count into scientific notation. For example, if the instruction count is 30,000,000, convert it to 30 x 10^6.

  3. 3

    Divide the CPU clock cycles count by the instruction count. For example, divide 300 x 10^6 by 30 x 10^6. The answer will be 10. This is the cycles per instruction.

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