Difference Between Microprocessor and Microcontroller

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Microprocessor and Microcontroller

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The study of the physics and practical applications of the flow of electrons is known as the subject of study known as electronics. Electronics paved the way for electronic communication and gadgets that function according to the principle of the movement of electrons from one point or terminal to another.

The phrases "microprocessor" and "microcontroller" are among the most often encountered and perplexing ones in the field of electronics for those who are just beginning their education in this subject area. It is essential to distinguish between them since they are equipped with special hardware and carry out distinct responsibilities.It might be challenging to decide which component of an existing gadget to base your new design on. The need to strike the appropriate balance between cost, performance, and energy use has many repercussions. To begin, there are going to be immediate technological aspects of the design that you can start working on. Nevertheless, whether a microcontroller (also known as an MCU) or a microprocessor (also known as an MPU) is chosen to serve as the foundation of a platform approach, the selection may have far-reaching repercussions. The distinction between a microprocessor and a microcontroller has emerged as an essential topic of discussion.

Microprocessor vs. Microcontroller

The most significant distinction between a microprocessor and a microcontroller is that the former is utilized for the performance of general tasks such as editing, gaming, and website development. In contrast, the latter is used to perform specific tasks such as those required by a washing machine.

The term "microprocessor" refers to a computer's component responsible for processing data. Because of their contribution to the smooth operation of simple and complicated processes, their primary use is in computing devices like computers. They have significant power consumption, and they continue to drain energy even when they are not in use. In addition, microprocessors have a high clock speed of one gigahertz (GHz).

A microcontroller is a term used to describe the processing unit of an embedded system. Most applications may be found in systems designed to perform a specific function. When this condition exists, the system's output depends on the input. Because all the required components are contained on a single chip, they have very few external features.

Microcontrollers often come in at a lower price point than their microprocessor counterparts. Generally speaking, microprocessors are produced for more costly systems using additional peripherals to drive performance. They are also noticeably more complicated because they are designed to carry out various computational tasks, while microcontrollers typically only carry out one specific job. To handle increasingly complex computational activities, microprocessors need a reliable external memory supply. This is one of the reasons for this requirement.

Engineers may use a microcontroller to develop and compile the program code that will be used for a particular application and then upload that code into the microcontroller, which has all of the computing capabilities and components that are required to run the program code. Because of the specific nature of their respective applications, microcontrollers often have more minor requirements for memory, computational power, and overall complexity than microprocessors do; as a result, their prices are also lower.

Compared to high-quality microcontrollers, industry-leading microprocessor chips have a much faster total clock speed than these devices. This ties back into the concept that microcontrollers are designed to tackle a particular application or job. Still, a microprocessor is designed to handle more complicated, dependable, and unpredictable computing operations.

One of the most significant benefits connected with their architecture is that microcontrollers may be programmed to execute just the code necessary for a given job. This entails using just the proper speed and power to get the work done, with neither more nor less than what is required. As a consequence, the clock rates of many microprocessors may reach up to 4 GHz, yet the speeds at which microcontrollers can function can be as low as 200 MHz or even lower.

Despite having a slower clock speed, microcontrollers may perform functions more quickly due to the close proximity of the components on the chip. Because they depend on connecting with peripherals located outside of the microprocessor, their operation speed may sometimes suffer as a result.

The minimal amount of power that microcontrollers use is one of their most significant benefits. A computer processor that is only used for one specific purpose needs less speed and, as a result, less power than a processor capable of doing many computations. The amount of energy a processor uses is essential in implementing an implementation. A processor that uses a lot of power might need to be plugged in or supported by an external power supply. In contrast, a processor that uses a limited amount of energy might be able to be powered for a considerable amount of time by just a tiny battery.

Difference Between Microprocessor and Microcontroller in Tabular Form

Parameters of Comparison Microprocessor Microcontroller
Meaning The microprocessor may be thought of as the computer's beating heart. A microcontroller is a kind of minicomputer that can perform all of its functions independently.
Components The only component that makes up a microprocessor is the CPU. Components of a microcontroller include the central processing unit (CPU), internal memory, and input/output components.
Application The microprocessor is an essential component of computers. In embedded systems, the microcontroller is employed to execute specific tasks.
Tasks performed They carry out duties that are neither distinctive nor unique. They carry out specific responsibilities.
Clock speed In Microprocessor

 the clock speed is 1Ghz

Here that varies from 8Mhz to 50 Mhz.
Memory Variable Fixed

What is a Microprocessor?

One may say that a microprocessor serves as the central processing unit (CPU) or the beating heart of a computer system. Because they do not come with any other internal components to save the processing unit, they need a significant amount of electricity to operate.

They are only connected to an internal controller, and for it to operate, all other components must be attached outside. As a result, they have a more substantial build than a microcontroller. They are not only costly but also have significant power consumption, yet this is precisely what makes them ideal for intricate work.

They do broad jobs such as pictures, editing, and other similar activities, none of which have any connection to the input or output of the system. As a result, they call for just a minimal quantity of RAM and ROM stored outside.

They are memory-based since they have a limited number of registers and carry out their jobs using the information stored in their memory. They are also considered inefficient because they cannot be employed in compact systems.

For a computer to do its tasks, it relies on an electrical component known as a microprocessor. It is a central processing unit on a single integrated circuit chip with millions of highly tiny pieces that all function together. These components include transistors, resistors, and diodes. During the 20th century, some types of microprocessors needed many chips. Microprocessors are helpful for various tasks, including managing elevators and browsing the Internet. Microprocessors are responsible for carrying out the instructions of computer programs many millions of times per second. These instructions explain all a computer can do and are stored in computer programs.

What is a Microcontroller?

An embedded system's central processing unit (CPU) is often a microcontroller. Because they have on-flash and existing internal memory, they also have a fast speed while loading instructions.

Since the microcontrollers are equipped with power-saving technology, they do not use any power even while they are in an idle state. As a result, it has a lower power consumption compared to microcontrollers. They are also less expensive than microprocessors but cannot do very complicated jobs. They include the central processing unit (CPU), ROM, RAM, and other required peripherals on a single integrated circuit (IC). Therefore, another name for them is "mini-computers."

In contrast to microprocessors, they are compatible with small computing systems. Because microcontrollers often have a more significant number of registers, it is also relatively simpler to build a program for them. Because microcontrollers have a minimal number of external components, their power consumption is often relatively low. Because of this, they are compatible with battery power.

A washing machine, a digital camera, and other electronic devices have been found to use them. Therefore, it is also possible to argue that microcontrollers are used in projects and other applications that call for a direct user interface.

A Microcontroller is a single Integrated Circuit (IC) often used for a particular application and intended to accomplish specific duties. It is also frequently referred to as an MCU or Microcontroller Unit. Microcontrollers have a wide range of applications beyond the ones listed below; for instance, they are often used in products and equipment that must be automatically regulated under particular circumstances, such as home appliances, power tools, the engine control systems of automobiles, and computers.

A microcontroller, in its most basic form, is an electronic device that accepts input, processes that information, and then produces an output determined by the information taken. Because they are often embedded within other devices with higher power consumption in other areas, microcontrollers typically run at lower speeds, from 1 MHz to 200 MHz. Additionally, they need to be built to use less power because they are required to do so.

Main Differences Between Microprocessors and Microcontrollers in Points

  • A microprocessor is a computer system's central processing unit (CPU). In contrast, a microcontroller may be considered a little computer implanted to carry out certain functions.
  • Even their constituent parts are different. The microprocessor has just an internal controlling unit; the memory and input/output (I/O) components must be added separately. The internal controlling unit, memory, and input/output components are all with the microcontroller by default.
  • The microprocessor is the processing unit of a computer. Therefore they are used in computers. On the other hand, the microcontroller is a mini-computer used with embedded systems to carry out certain activities. Microprocessors are used in computers because they are used in computers.
  • The microprocessor performs general tasks like editing, gaming, and website development, which include activities in which the output and the input are not relative to one another. The microcontrollers are programmed to carry out certain functions, each dependent on the information.
  • There is a wide range of variations in the clock speeds of each of these components. Because the microprocessor has a clock speed of 1 GHz, it is suitable for use while carrying out complicated operations. On the other hand, the fact that the clock speed of a microcontroller might be anywhere from 8 to 50 MHz means that it cannot do sophisticated tasks.
  • Because the microprocessor has access to external memory, installing this memory is feasible. However, since microcontrollers have a limited amount of memory on the inside, it is impossible to increase the amount of memory that a microcontroller has.
  • Microprocessors are based on the von Neumann model/architecture, while microcontrollers are based on the Harvard design, where programs and data are stored in the same memory module.
  • Programs are simpler to create on microcontrollers because they have more registers, while more operations are memory-based on microprocessors since they have fewer registers.


The field of study known as electronics focuses on the physics, technological development, and practical applications of the flow of electronic signals. Microprocessors and microcontrollers may have been introduced to students who are just beginning their studies in electronics. They are the fundamental terms of an interface system, which often lead to misunderstandings.

Microprocessors are often found in personal computers because of their ability to perform the duties of both the central processing unit (CPU) and the processing unit (PU). They have a fast clock speed, and as a result, they can accomplish more complicated jobs in addition to the usual activities they are expected to carry out. Typically, they come at a high cost.

As their name indicates, microcontrollers serve as the controlling unit of an embedded system. This is because microcontroller chips include all of the required components.

They are used in software programs, such as washing machines, that call for direct human interaction. Microcontrollers often offer a mode that saves power and uses less energy overall.

Putting the similarities to one side, a microprocessor with a high clock speed can do complex tasks; nevertheless, since they have external memory, it takes some time to load instructions and write load orders. However, since microcontrollers come equipped with their memory, these devices may complete the process much more quickly.


  1. http://users.etown.edu/w/wunderjt/ITALY_2009/PUBLICATION_ASEEPAPetown2.pdf

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"Difference Between Microprocessor and Microcontroller." Diffzy.com, 2024. Sun. 21 Apr. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-microprocessor-and-microcontroller-997>.

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