What is the Difference between a Microprocessor and a Microcontroller

What is the Difference between a Microprocessor and a Microcontroller
6 min read


Microprocessor or microcontroller is among the two most frequently employed terms in electronics. What exactly are they? What is the difference between them?

The microprocessor (MPU) can be described as a type of integrated circuit that executes the fundamental arithmetic, operational, and logical functions of computers. It includes the Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU) which processes the data, as well as a Control Unit (CU), which directs the operation that is performed by the ALU.

A microcontroller (MCU) can be described as an example of a microprocessor that also has memory as well as input and output (I/O) ports as well as other functions needed to regulate devices like motors and actuators.

Both have their pros and drawbacks, however, generally speaking, microcontrollers are more suitable for controlling devices (such as washing machines MP3, Arduino interface, etc.) in contrast, microprocessors are more suited to general-purpose computing (e.g. personal computers).

The key difference between the Microcontroller and the Microprocessor Microprocessor

The primary distinction between the microprocessor and microcontroller is that microprocessors are designed to be general-purpose systems, whereas a microprocessor is intended to be an all-purpose device, while microcontrollers are designed to be a specific-purpose system. the microcontroller is equipped with the necessary peripheral components as well as an I/O port that allow it to be able to do specific tasks.

A microprocessor could also come with additional peripheral components that are added to it during manufacturing they are known as "peripherals" or "punts". A typical microprocessor may include a central processing unit (CPU) and memory controllers, a graphic processing unit as well as many I/O (I/O) ports.

A microcontroller is in contrast is designed to have all the functions needed to accomplish a particular task, for example, controlling an engine or reading data from sensors. A microcontroller is equipped with a CPU as well as memory and I/O ports integrated into the chip. It means the microprocessor is capable of running complex applications, however, it isn't able to be programmed to run any program independently. To program the microprocessor you must connect external computer peripherals to ensure it can communicate with sensors and other equipment.

Pros & Cons of Microcontrollers and Microprocessors


(TMS1000 the world's first high number commercial MCU)

Advantages of Microcontrollers

1. Small size and affordable: Microcontrollers are typically larger than microprocessors and can be manufactured at a lower price. They are a good option for any project which requires a small and low-cost controller.

2. The power consumption is low: Since microcontrollers can be designed to operate with very little power, they're designed for battery-operated devices such as watches or remote controls. Additionally, in space-sensitive, projects that require low power, an MCU is typically a better option since it doesn't necessarily need an external power source which could take up more space.

3. The flexibility: Microcontrollers can be programmed to control almost every electrical device - from small appliances to large industrial machinery. The same chip can take the inputs of multiple sensors, and perform different tasks based on inputs.

4. Packaging that is smaller: Microcontrollers can be packaged in a compact size, which makes them suitable for applications in which weight and size are crucial aspects.

Disadvantages of Microcontrollers

1. Processing power is limited: Microcontrollers are designed for specific functions, therefore they typically don't have the processing capabilities of microprocessors. They aren't suitable to perform more complex calculations.

2. Not upgradeable: The majority of microcontrollers are designed at the manufacturing facility and can't be changed afterward. This means they are not suitable for applications that require changes or updates in the software.

3. Insufficient input and output ports: Microcontrollers come with a restricted number of output and input pins. This can cause problems for programs that require more than the outputs of a couple of inputs.

world's first MPU

(World's the first-ever market-leading microprocessor Intel 4004)

Advantages of Microprocessors

1. A higher processing capacity: Microprocessors have a much more powerful processing capability than microcontrollers and are better suited to applications in which complex calculations are needed.

2. There are more pins Microprocessors come with more I/O pins. This allows them to connect with sensors, actuators, and other peripherals externally and devices - not only through high-level communication interfaces like USB or Ethernet as well as directly through electrical pins.

3. Upgradeable: Microprocessors can be upgraded to incorporate new capabilities and features through the installation of a new operating system or firmware.

Disadvantages of Microprocessors

1. More expensive: Microprocessors are generally more expensive than microcontrollers.

2. Weight and size are larger: Microprocessors are larger and heavier than microcontrollers and are therefore not suitable for applications in which size and weight are crucial aspects.

3. More power consumption: Microprocessors consume more power than microcontrollers which is why they aren't the best choice for battery-powered devices.

4. Programming is more difficult: Microprocessors are designed for general-purpose computing. Therefore, they are more challenging programs than microcontrollers. This could be a challenge when applications require greater flexibility or for applications that could require modifications shortly.


Which option should you pick to complete your task? It is dependent on what you want it to perform. If you are looking for an all-purpose device that can run complicated programs, the microprocessor is the most suitable choice. If you require an instrument that can do a specific job without room in terms of expansion, or even manual operation, a microcontroller is the most suitable option.

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