CPU and Processor Time Counter

Read this introduction to computer performance and information about computing processor time. In most programming languages, there is a process to measure elapsed time, such as time() in C. By subtracting the time at the beginning of a process from the time at the end you get the total time for a particular operation. Usually short operations are put in a loop that repeats the operation a sufficient number of times to get an accurate measurement.


CPU time: The count of cycles, also known as clockticks, forms the basis for measuring how long a program takes to execute.



How do you measure Execution Time?

 \begin{array}{rll} && \text{Kernel} && \text{Time} \\ + &&\text{User} && \text{Time} \\ \hline \\ && \text{Total} && \text{Time} \end{array}

CPU Time Running which code
Kernel (Sys) Time Operating system code - the time of CPU spent on the kernel (system) code only within the given process - other processes and the time when our process is blocked are not included.
User Time Time CPU spends running the program code (ie CPU time spent on non-kernel (user-mode) code only within the given process – so other processes and the time when our process is blocked are not included.).
Total time User + Kernel
Real Time Wall clock (total elapsed time) (can be lower than total time because of parallelism or longer because of wait) - user-perceived time it took to execute the command – from the start to the end of the call, including time slices used by other processes and the time when our process is blocked (e.g. I/O waiting)


Process Explorer

To see CPU time, you can look at the performance tab of a process in Process Explorer:

Red in the CPU usage graph indicates CPU usage in kernel-mode whereas green is the sum of kernel-mode and user-mode execution.

A data collector set can be configured via logman.exe to log the “% Processor Time” counter in the “Processor Information” object for this purpose.



Every conventional processor has a clock with a fixed cycle time (or clock rate). At every CPU cycle, an instruction is executed.

 \text{CPU Time} = \text{CPU cycles executed} * \text{Cycle times}


 \text{CPU cycles} = \text{Instructions executed} * \text{Average Clock Cycles per Instruction (CPI)}


Putting it all together:


 \text{CPU Execution Time} = \text{Instructions count} * \text{CPI} * \text{Clock Cycle Time}




\begin{array}{rll} \text{Instructions Count} && = && \frac{\displaystyle Instructions}{\displaystyle Programs} \\ \text{CPI} && = && \frac{\displaystyle Cycles}{\displaystyle Instruction} \\ \text{Clock Cycle Time} &&= && \frac{\displaystyle Seconds}{\displaystyle Cycle} \end{array}


  • CPI is somewhat artificial (since it is computed from the other numbers) but it seems to be intuitive and useful.
  • Use dynamic instruction count (#instructions executed), not static (#instructions in compiled code)


Performance is the response time distributed through the request lifetime.


Busy vs Wait

The busy vs. wait percentage shown in monitoring tool is generally:

 \text{CPU Busy vs Wait Event} = \frac{\text{User} + \text{Kernel}}{\text{Wallclock Time}}


CPU Performance

 \text{CPU Performance} = \frac{1}{\text{Total CPU Time}}


System Performance

 \text{System Performance} = \frac{1}{\text{Wallclock Time}}


Units (MHz to ns)

  • Rate is often measured in MHz (millions of cycles per second)
  • Time is often measured in ns (nanoseconds)

\begin{array}{rl} {X} \mbox{ MHz } && = && \frac{\displaystyle 1000}{\displaystyle X} \mbox{ ns} \\ 500 \text{ MHz} && \approx && 2 \text{ ns clock} \end{array}


Source: DataCademia, https://datacadamia.com/counter/resource/system/cpu/time
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Last modified: Wednesday, July 22, 2020, 12:22 PM