ChromeOS is easy to use but extremely versatile if you know how to get around, and that’s exactly why we think some of the best laptops on the market run the platform. And if you’ve paid for one of the most powerful Chromebooks available, you may be missing out on a cool feature found on most PCs: hyperthreading. We will explain here what that is, if you will benefit from it and how to activate it.
What is hyperthreading and why is it disabled on ChromeOS?
Hyper-threading is Intel’s proprietary version of multithreading. In short, Hyper-Threading takes a capable CPU core and virtually splits it in two, then makes it easy to schedule tasks on each “core” where you effectively have more concurrent computing power. Put even more simply, it is “divide and conquer”.
ChromeOS did support hyper-threading (as opposed to multithreading in general), but Google chose to disable it in default configurations starting with version 74 in May 2019. This was in response to a group of vulnerabilities cumulatively named “ZombieLoad” (a through android police) affecting a number of Intel CPU products that, when exploited, could allow hyper-threading to expose information that would not otherwise be visible to the user. Combined with other potential vulnerabilities, that information could be sent to malicious actors. Google recognized, however, that many of its users relied on their Chromebooks for heavy computing tasks, so it created a back-end switch to enable hyper-threading and make security and performance trade off.
The ChromeOS development team has been working to mitigate ongoing security threats with hyper-threading. It has also been slowly working to enable multithreading on other brand CPUs, but those efforts have yet to materialize. Meanwhile, Intel has long since issued “ZombieLoad” patches at various levels for its affected products.
Will I benefit from Hyper-Threading?
Maybe. In the consumer space, Intel only designs hyper-threading capabilities into its Core-series CPU products and not into its entry-level Celeron and Pentium processors, at least the ones featured in most Chromebooks on the market. . Also, 12th generation and later Core products (Alder Lake and above) with hybrid microarchitectures only have hyperthreading on performance cores and not efficiency cores.
This performance boost can be useful for just about anything and everything you do on your Chromebook, whether it’s running virtual machines or playing games. The actual metrics will depend on how many of your processing cores support hyper-threading and what application or benchmark you’re testing with, but it’s safe to say you’ll get a double-digit percentage point improvement.
If you really want to be sure of your hyper-threading situation, you can look up your processor in Intel’s online portfolio. The specification list for each processor indicates whether Hyper-Threading is supported, as well as how many cores (including a breakdown of performance vs. efficiency) and how many total threads it will be able to work with. Alternatively, you can install the Cog web app from the Chrome Web Store and check the CPU Usage section. If there are bars that aren’t moving, you’ll presumably want to turn on hyper-threading to get those computational threads going.
How do I turn hyper-processing on or off?
Alright, on to the good part. Follow these instructions on your eligible Chromebook device:
- Open a Chrome window.
- Input chrome://flags#programmer-settings in the address bar and press Enter. This will open a new window containing the ChromeOS feature indicators.
- The first feature indicator should be highlighted and titled Developer Settings. Click on Defaultand choose Enable Hyper-Threading on relevant CPUs either Disable Hyper-Threading on relevant CPUs.
- Click Resume to make the change.
While you’re enjoying your performance boost, you might want to make sure you ignore other important ChromeOS settings that might change.