Clock Cycle

What Does Clock Cycle Mean?

In computers, the clock cycle is the amount of time between two pulses of an oscillator. It is a single increment of the central processing unit (CPU) clock during which the smallest unit of processor activity is carried out. The clock cycle helps in determining the speed of the CPU, as it is considered the basic unit of measuring how fast an instruction can be executed by the computer processor.


A clock cycle is also known as a clock tick.

Techopedia Explains Clock Cycle

Early computer processors and CPUs used to execute one instruction per clock cycle. However, with advances in microprocessor technology, modern microprocessors such as superscalar are capable of executing multiple instructions per clock cycle. Most CPU processes need multiple clock cycles, as only simple commands can be carried out in each clock cycle. Load, store, jump and fetch operations are some of the common clock cycle activities.

The clock speed of a processor is measured in hertz, which is clock cycles per second. A CPU which completes three billion clock cycles per second has a clock speed of 3 GHz.


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Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…