Wondering how what CPU ring ratio is, how it works, & how to set it for your PC’s maximum performance? We can help!
The short answer is that CPU ring ratio is another term for “CPU cache speed”. While core clock speed affects how many processes a CPU can handle, ring ratio affects the speed of everything else within the CPU, including its cache.
Don’t worry if any of that sounds confusing- we’ve got you covered.
This quick guide will help you completely understand exactly what CPU ring ratio is and how to ensure that it’s set for the best possible performance in your PC.
Just in case: If you’re diving into these settings because you suspect your CPU is dying (or dead), take a look at our guide to The Signs & Symptoms of a Failing CPU.
CPU Ring Ratio (Cache Speed) & Overclocking
Your CPU’s ring ratio (or cache speed) setting is usually only important when overclocking.
Overclocking is a process that lets you push your CPU’s performance past its factory settings, usually via your computer’s BIOS. It can be a somewhat risky process that often violates your processor’s warranty, but successful overclocking can often boost your CPU’s performance significantly.
Your CPU’s core clock speed reflects how many processes it can undertake each second. The CPU cache speed (sometimes called the CPU ring ratio), on the other hand, reflects the speed at which all the other parts of the CPU function, with the cache being arguably the most important and changeable part.
Overclocking your CPU pushes its clock speed past its factory settings, but it typically doesn’t affect the CPU cache speed/ring ratio, effectively making your CPU’s cores run faster than its other components. This typically won’t have much of an impact on your computer’s performance unless the clock speed gets too much higher than the cache speed.
Forums, guides, and manuals provide different answers as to the proper cache speed for an overclocked CPU, but there are enough commonalities to give you an idea of what to go for:
First: The cache speed can never be higher than the clock speed. In the same way that the CPU’s speed is limited by the slower main memory, the cache is also limited to the CPU’s maximum speed.
Second: The cache speed should be set at or slightly lower than the clock speed. Some users report loss of system stability when the cache speed is set at 1:1 with the clock speed, and others report the most success with setting it between 0.5 and 0.3GHz below the clock speed.
Finally: You’ll probably need some trial-and-error to land on the right cache speed.
To fully understand how to approach ring ratio within your own PC, let’s dive a little deeper into how this all works.
P.S. – If you’re wondering if your CPU is overclockable or already being overclocked, check out our guide to How to Know If Your CPU Is Overclockable.
How Cache Affects Your CPU
Processors are complex, multifaceted machines that receive, interpret, and execute an insane number of instructions every second. They find most of these instructions and necessary data on their systems’ RAM or main memory, but it takes time to locate the instructions or data, more time to retrieve them, and even more time to process them. And though these delays are tiny—fractions of a fraction of a second—they can add up to significant slowdowns when compounded over millions or billions of processes.
CPUs are usually better at processing and transferring data than their RAM or central data, so manufacturers came up with a clever workaround: Cache memory.
The CPU cache refers to the small amount of memory installed on every processor that acts as temporary storage for important or frequently used instructions or data so the CPU doesn’t have to conduct time-consuming searches on the system’s main memory. The cache memory differs from the main memory in a few ways:
First: Standard RAM uses dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) chips, while cache memory is comprised of static random-access memory (SRAM) chips. SRAM chips are significantly faster than DRAM chips, but they’re also too expensive in terms of cost and physical space requirements to be practical for use as main memory.
Second: While the main memory/RAM provides temporary storage for all the active data and programs the computer is using for easy access, the cache memory is designed to only hold the most important information and instructions that the CPU is likely to need in the near future.
Third: The cache memory is installed in very close physical proximity to the processor’s cores to help the CPU access, find, and retrieve information as quickly as possible. The computer’s RAM isn’t that far from the processor, but every inch counts when it comes to minimizing the time it takes to conduct each operation.
Cache Speed vs CPU Speed
Processors typically operate at much higher frequencies than RAM or their system bus (what connects and facilitates communication between the system components) can handle. This essentially means that the CPU has to wait for its system’s RAM to catch up whenever it tries to access or modify data, effectively forcing it to work at the RAM’s speed.
The cache memory, on the other hand, operates at the same speed as the CPU. This means the CPU can check the cache each time it needs information or instructions before going to the much slower main memory, providing a significant performance boost in the process.
The CPU cache speed is usually set at or just below the speed of the CPU’s clock speed, and most systems work just fine with the cache speed set to the stock value. In fact, there’s really no need to adjust the cache speed at all unless you decide to overclock your processor.
P.S. – If you’ve ever considered tinkering with voltage, we also have a Guide to Overvolting and a Guide to Undervolting.
CPU ring ratio/cache speed really only comes into play when overclocking your processor. It isn’t nearly as important as your CPU’s clock speed, but you still want to make sure the values are pretty close to maximize your computer’s performance.
Just make sure to do your own research, take it one step at a time, and don’t be afraid to try again and again until you get to the right value!
Much like we recently recommended in regard to Electrical Design Current, tinkering with this stuff is not always a good idea unless you have a clear goal and reason.