Difference Between Multiprogramming and Multitasking in Operating system

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: August 12, 2022


Difference Between Multiprogramming and Multitasking in Operating system Difference Between Multiprogramming and Multitasking in Operating system

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Do you know the difference between multiprogramming and Multitasking? Multiprogramming runs several independent programs at the same time, while Multitasking executes several tasks at the same time. Multiprogramming allows multiple users to access system resources simultaneously, while Multitasking gives users freedom over when they use system resources. Read on to learn more about the differences between multiprogramming and Multitasking.

Multiprogramming vs. Multitasking

In a multiprogramming system, multiple programs are running at the same time. However, only one program is active at any given time. The operating system switches between programs to give the appearance that all programs are running at the same time. In a multitasking system, multiple programs run simultaneously, and more than one program is active at any given time. Each program gets a small slice of time to run, and then the operating system moves on to the next program. This process is known as context switching, and it allows for true parallelism, where multiple tasks are running simultaneously. Modern CPUs can handle several contexts per second, which means they can switch from task to task many times per second. There are two basic approaches to Multitasking: preemptive Multitasking and cooperative Multitasking.

Difference Between Multiprogramming and Multitasking in Tabular Form

Table: Multiprogramming vs. Multitasking
Parameters of
Multiprogramming is a type of computing where multiple programs are running at the same time.
Multitasking is a method of running multiple programs or processes at the same time on a single computer
Multiprogramming is mostly used to maximize CPU utilization by organizing applications always to have one program to execute.
Multitasking aims to enhance reaction time by sharing computing resources across several users.
Multiprogramming takes maximum time to execute any process
Multitasking takes minimum time to execute any process.
Based on the context switching mechanism.    
Based on the time-sharing mechanism.

What is Multiprogramming?

Multiprogramming is a type of computing where multiple programs are running at the same time. The operating system manages this by giving each program a slice of time to run, then switching to another program. This way, multiple programs can appear to be running simultaneously even though only one is running at any given moment. Multiprogramming offers several advantages over single-program operation, including greater efficiency and faster throughput of work. However, it also has drawbacks because programs can't access memory or resources shared with other programs unless explicitly programmed. What is Multitasking: Unlike multiprogramming, which was developed first, Multitasking was conceived as an extension of multiprogramming because it doesn't have many limitations regarding resource sharing and interaction between processes. With Multitasking, individual tasks share the CPU based on their priorities and deadlines - meaning they're more evenly balanced than they would be under multiprogramming scheduling algorithms.

Benefits of Multiprogramming

Multiprogramming allows for more efficient use of resources, as multiple programs can share the CPU, memory, and other system resources. With multiprogramming, various processes can be running at the same time, which can lead to increased throughput and improved performance. Multiprogramming can also improve reliability, protecting against process failure (if one process fails, the others can continue to run). Additionally, multiprogramming can lead to better responsiveness, as operations are not blocked waiting for resources to become available. Finally, multiprogramming can allow for easier debugging and testing of programs, as individual programs can be isolated from each other. The lack of Multitasking has led to significant software development and maintenance challenges. When running multiple tasks simultaneously, programmers need to test their code to ensure that different tasks do not corrupt data or interfere with one another. Furthermore, bugs manifest themselves only when they coincide with various tasks, making them difficult to detect. Debugging becomes complex because when a program stops working because of a bug in its code, the programmer must identify where this error is occurring before finding a proper fix- but this may be impossible if there is no way of isolating different functions within an operating system.

Drawbacks of Multiprogramming

One of the critical drawbacks of multiprogramming is that it can lead to decreased processor performance. This is because when multiple programs run, the processor has to switch between them, which can take up valuable time and resources. Another potential issue with multiprogramming is that it can cause memory contention. This occurs when two or more programs try to access the exact memory location, leading to errors and crashes. Additionally, multiprogramming can make it difficult to predict how long a given task will take to complete, as the other programs running on the system may interfere with its execution time. With Multitasking, however, each program runs concurrently with one another, meaning they don't have to share resources and have no issues accessing data in RAM. As such, multitasking systems tend to provide higher levels of throughput than their multiprogramming counterparts.

What is Multitasking?

Multitasking is a method of running multiple programs or processes at the same time on a single computer. In other words, it allows a user to do more than one thing simultaneously. Multitasking can also refer to the ability of an operating system to run more than one program at a time. For example, Windows and Linux are both capable of Multitasking. When you open your web browser and chat with friends, these two tasks happen simultaneously because your operating system has split its attention between them. Similarly, while watching Netflix and texting a friend simultaneously, your processor might be processing video frames while it listens for incoming text messages. Both types of Multitasking involve splitting resources, but they are different in how they work.

Benefits of Multitasking

Increased productivity: When multiple programs run simultaneously, the CPU can switch and work on various tasks simultaneously. This can help improve your overall productivity. More efficient use of resources- Multitasking can allow you to use your computer's resources better since idle resources can be used when multiple programs run simultaneously. Better performance- With Multitasking, programs can run in the background while you're working on something else. This can help improve the overall performance of your computer since background processes don't have to compete for resources with foreground processes. Processing power is shared- When a process switches from one program to another, it shares its processing power. This allows other tasks to finish faster, resulting in a faster workflow. Increased protection against crashes- The overhead involved with Multitasking makes it more difficult for malicious code or errors caused by software bugs to bring down your entire system. So if one program crashes, others may still be able to function correctly without crashing as well.

Both multiprogramming and Multitasking allow you to do more than one thing at a time on your computer; however, they each offer different benefits that could potentially come into play depending on what type of user you are (multiprogramming is better suited for professional programmers who need long periods of uninterrupted programming).

Drawbacks of Multitasking

One of the main drawbacks of Multitasking is that it can lead to decreased productivity. When you try to do too many things at once, you can make mistakes and take longer to complete tasks. Additionally, Multitasking can lead to information overload, as you are constantly bombarded with multiple information streams. This can make it difficult to focus and pay attention to any one thing. Additionally, Multitasking can be stressful and cause anxiety. When you constantly try to juggle multiple tasks, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and like you're not doing anything well. Finally, Multitasking can lead to fatigue, both mental and physical. The constant switching between tasks means your brain never has a chance to recharge or get into a groove. Over time, this can lead to low energy levels and difficulty concentrating on a single task for an extended period. However, there are some benefits to Multitasking. You may find that by working on two different projects at once, you become more productive than if you had focused exclusively on just one project at a time.

Is Multitasking better than multiprogramming? Should I use Multitasking for better performance?

Multitasking and multiprogramming are often used interchangeably, but they are two different types of systems. In a multiprogramming system, multiple programs run simultaneously, but only one program is active at any given moment. In a multitasking system, various programs run simultaneously, and each program is offered a slice of time to execute. Most modern operating systems combine both techniques so that when one program needs more time than allocated, another can take over its remaining execution time. Computers with more than one processor can execute multiple tasks simultaneously using multiprocessing or parallel processing. For example, an analogy might be someone doing five things at once (Multitasking) versus someone who does five things sequentially (multiprogramming). Some people might prefer to do five things sequentially because it takes less time overall; others might prefer Multitasking because they think it will produce better results.

Are there any working examples of implementing multiprogramming or Multitasking on a single core computer/device?

On a single-core computer, true Multitasking is not possible because only one instruction can be executed at a time. However, multiprogramming takes advantage of the fact that while one instruction is being executed, another instruction can be read from memory into the CPU. When the first instruction finishes, the second instruction is ready to be completed, and so on. This makes it appear that multiple tasks are being executed simultaneously when they are just being interleaved very quickly. A practical example of this technique is batch processing, where many programs share a standard input and output queue. The instructions for all programs are loaded sequentially into the CPU until one program completes its instructions (or runs out of instructions) before loading more instructions. Batch processing is often used in business settings, such as factories and warehouses, to process orders or store inventory. By having several groups of workers, each focusing on a specific task in order, the work can be completed much faster than it would be by having each worker concentrate on every task. One way to do this would be for one group of workers to sort items and place them into boxes, while another group would pack those boxes onto trucks. If there were no organization like this, then every worker would have to complete sorting and packing tasks which would take much longer.

Main Differences Between Multiprogramming and Multitasking in Points

  • In multiprogramming, several programs are running simultaneously, but only one is executed at a time, while in Multitasking, multiple tasks are executed simultaneously.
  • In multiprogramming, the CPU switches from one program to another, while in Multitasking, the CPU executes multiple tasks simultaneously.
  • In multiprogramming, programs are independent of each other, while in Multitasking, tasks share common resources like CPU and memory.
  • In multiprogramming, each program has its own address space, while in Multitasking, address space is shared among all tasks.
  • In multiprogramming, I/O devices are dedicated to each program, while I/O devices are shared among all tasks in Multitasking.
  • In multiprogramming, programs are loaded into memory sequentially, while in Multitasking, tasks can be loaded into memory randomly or in order of priority.
  • Programs need to be written for multitasking environments, whereas most applications can run in a multi-programmed environment
  • Multiprogramming makes more efficient use of CPUs than Multitasking does because it does not have to move data between different task stacks that may have different access speeds


In a nutshell, multiprogramming is the ability of an operating system to run more than one program at a time. At the same time, Multitasking is the ability of a computer system to perform more than one task simultaneously. For example, you can listen to music on Spotify and do your homework in Microsoft Word simultaneously with two different programs on your computer screen. The good thing about these two methods is that they provide maximum efficiency.

One downside of multiprogramming is that if one program crashes or needs attention from the user, it takes up valuable resources from all other programs running. Another downside to Multitasking is that when we have multiple tasks on our computer screens at once, there are constantly things for our eyes to shift back and forth between. Both methods have their upsides and downsides, but which way is better for your situation depends entirely on what you need it for!

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"Difference Between Multiprogramming and Multitasking in Operating system." Diffzy.com, 2023. Mon. 20 Mar. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-multiprogramming-and-multitasking-in-operating-909>.

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