Microprocessor vs microcontroller: what’s the difference?

Microprocessor vs microcontroller, often in schools and colleges, we have a hard time telling the difference between microcontrollers and microprocessors.

Well, these two complicated terms are the soul and the heart of programmable electronics. ELE Times always understands the need and importance of having a solid knowledge of the fundamentals of electronics. As a result, we have tried to explain to our readers what exactly a microcontroller and a microprocessor is.

Three key differences between microcontrollers and microprocessors

  • Cost: Generally, microcontrollers cost less than microprocessors. Microprocessors are generally manufactured for use with more expensive devices. They are also much more complex, as they are intended to perform various computational tasks, while microcontrollers usually perform a dedicated function. With a microcontroller, engineers write and compile code for the specific application and upload it to the microcontroller, which internally houses all of the functionality and computer components needed to run the code.
  • Speed: Regarding the clock speed, there is a significant difference. This harkens back to the idea that microcontrollers are intended to handle a specific task or application, while a microprocessor is intended for more complex, robust, and unpredictable computing tasks. It means using just the right amount of speed and power to get the job done – no more and no less. As a result, many microprocessors have clock speeds of up to 4 GHz, while microcontrollers can operate at much slower speeds of 200 MHz or less.
  • Energy consumption: One of the main advantages associated with microcontrollers is their low power consumption. A computer processor that performs a dedicated task requires less speed, and therefore less power, than a processor with robust computing capacity. Power consumption plays an important role in the design of the implementation: a processor that consumes a lot of power may need to be plugged in or supported by an external power supply, while a processor that consumes little power. The energy can be supplied for a long time by a small battery.

What is a microcontroller?

Structure of the microcontroller

A microcontroller (sometimes referred to as an MCU or microcontroller unit) is a single integrated circuit (IC) that is typically used for a specific application and designed to implement certain tasks. Products and devices that need to be controlled automatically in certain situations, such as appliances, power tools, automotive engine control systems, and computers are great examples, but microcontrollers go way beyond these applications.

Essentially, a microcontroller gathers the inputs, processes that information, and generates some action based on the information gathered. Microcontrollers generally operate at lower speeds, around the 1 MHz to 200 MHz range, and should be designed to consume less power as they are integrated with other devices which may have higher power consumptions in other areas.

What is a microprocessor?

Microprocessor vs Microcontroller
Structure of the microprocessor

A microprocessor is an electronic component that a computer uses to do its job. It is a central processing unit on a single integrated circuit chip containing millions of very small components, including transistors, resistors and diodes that work together. Some 20th century microprocessors required multiple chips. Microprocessors help with everything from elevator control to web research. Everything a computer does is described by instructions in computer programs, and microprocessors execute these instructions several million times per second.

Basic difference



The microprocessor acts as the heart of the computer system. The microcontroller acts as the heart of the on-board system.
This is a processor in which memory and the I / O output component are connected externally. It is a control device in which memory and the I / O output component are present internally.
Since memory and I / O output must be connected externally. The circuit is therefore more complex. Since on-chip memory and I / O output component are available. The circuit is therefore less complex.
It cannot be used in a compact system. Therefore, the microprocessor is inefficient. It can be used in a compact system. Therefore, the microcontroller is more efficient.
The microprocessor has fewer registers. Therefore, most of the operations are memory based. The microcontroller has more registers. Therefore, a program is easier to write.
A microprocessor having a zero status indicator. A microcontroller does not have a zero flag.
It is mainly used in personal computers. It is mainly used in washing machines, air conditioners, etc.

Let’s spot the technical difference



Microprocessor     Microcontroller
The microprocessor assimilates the function of a central processing unit (CPU) to a single integrated circuit (IC). A microcontroller can be thought of as a small computer with a processor and a few other components to make it into a computer.
Microprocessors are primarily used in the design of general purpose systems, from small to large complex systems like supercomputers. Microcontrollers are used in automatically controlled devices.
Microprocessors are basic components of personal computers. Microcontrollers are typically used in embedded systems
The computing capacity of the microprocessor is very high. Therefore, can perform complex tasks. Less computing capacity compared to microprocessors. Generally used for simpler tasks.
A microprocessor-based system can perform many tasks. A microcontroller-based system may perform very little or one task.
The microprocessors have integrated Math Coprocessor. Complex mathematical calculations involving floating points can be performed with great ease. Microcontrollers do not have math coprocessors. They use software to do floating point calculations that slow the device down.
The main task of the microprocessor is to execute the cycle of instructions repeatedly. This includes ripping, decoding, and execution. In addition to performing the fetch, decode, and execute tasks, a microcontroller also controls its environment based on the output of the instruction cycle.
In order to build or design a system (computer), a microprocessor must be connected externally to other components such as memory (RAM and ROM) and input / output ports. The integrated circuit of a microcontroller incorporates memory (RAM and ROM) as well as other components such as I / O devices and timers.
The overall cost of a system built using a microprocessor is high. This is due to the requirement of external components. The cost of a system built using a microcontroller is lower because all the components are readily available.
Usually, power consumption and power dissipation is high due to external devices. Therefore, it requires an external cooling system. Electricity consumption is lower.
The clock frequency is very high, generally of the order of Giga Hertz. The clock frequency is less generally on the order of megahertz.
Instruction throughput has a higher priority than interrupt latency. In contrast, microcontrollers are designed to optimize interrupt latency.
Have some bit manipulation instructions Bit manipulation is a powerful and widely used feature in microcontrollers. They have many bit manipulation instructions.
In general, microprocessors are not used in real time systems because they rely heavily on several other components. Microcontrollers are used to manage real-time tasks, as they are single-programming, self-contained, task-oriented devices.

Ultimately, microcontrollers and microprocessors are different ways of organizing and optimizing a processor-based computer system. While a microcontroller places the processor and all peripherals on the same chip, a microprocessor houses a more powerful processor on a single chip that connects to external devices. Microcontrollers are optimized to run a low power, dedicated application – ideal for embedded systems – while microprocessors are more useful for general computing applications that require more complex and versatile computing operations.

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