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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Motherboard and System Devices | System Cache | Cache Characteristics ]

Mapping Technique

The cache mapping technique is another factor that determines how effective the cache is, that is, what its hit ratio and speed will be. This is discussed in detail in this section, but briefly, the three types are:

  • Direct Mapped Cache: Each memory location is mapped to a single cache line that it shares with many others; only one of the many addresses that share this line can use it at a given time. This is the simplest technique both in concept and in implementation. Using this cache means the circuitry to check for hits is fast and easy to design, but the hit ratio is relatively poor compared to the other designs because of its inflexibility. Motherboard-based system caches are typically direct mapped.
  • Fully Associative Cache: Any memory location can be cached in any cache line. This is the most complex technique and requires sophisticated search algorithms when checking for a hit. It can lead to the whole cache being slowed down because of this, but it offers the best theoretical hit ratio since there are so many options for caching any memory address.
  • N-Way Set Associative Cache: "N" is typically 2, 4, 8 etc. A compromise between the two previous design, the cache is broken into sets of "N" lines each, and any memory address can be cached in any of those "N" lines. This improves hit ratios over the direct mapped cache, but without incurring a severe search penalty (since "N" is kept small). The 2-way or 4-way set associative cache is common in processor level 1 caches.

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