R – Drain the instruction pipeline of Intel Core 2 Duo


I'm writing some micro-benchmarking code for some very short operations in C. For example, one thing I'm measuring is how many cycles are needed to call an empty function depending on the number of arguments passed.

Currently, I'm timing using an RDTSC instruction before and after each operation to get the CPU's cycle count. However, I'm concerned that instructions issued before the first RDTSC may slow down the actual instructions I'm measuring. I'm also worried that the full operation may not be complete before the second RDTSC gets issued.

Does anyone know of an x86 instruction that forces all in-flight instructions to commit before any new instructions are issued? I've been told CPUID might do this, but I've been unable to find any documentation that says so.

Best Solution

To my knowledge, there is no instruction which specifically "drains" the pipeline. This can be easily accomplished though using a serialising instruction.

CPUID is a serializing instruction, which means exactly what you're looking for. Every instruction issues before it is guaranteed to execute before the CPUID instruction.

So doing the following should get the desired effect:

# stuff

But, as an aside, I don't recommend that you do this. Your "stuff" can still be effected by a lot of other things outside of your control (such as CPU caches, other processes running on the system, etc), and you'll never be able to eliminate them all. The best way to get accurate performance statistics is to perform the operation(s) you want to measure at least several million times and average out the execution time of the batch.

Edit: Most instruction references for CPUID will mention its serializing properties, such as the NASM manual appendix B .

Edit 2: Also might want to take a look at this related question.