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Process vs. Thread: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 18, 2024
Process is an independent execution unit with its own memory space. Thread is a lightweight, independent execution path within a process.

Key Differences

In computing, a process is an instance of a computer program that is being executed. It contains the program code and its current activity. Each process has a separate memory address. A thread, however, is a component of a process. Multiple threads can exist within the same process, sharing the same resources but able to execute independently.
A process is a more heavyweight entity requiring more resources and time for context switching. It has a completely independent execution environment including memory space. Threads are lighter and have less overhead. They share the same memory space within the process, allowing for efficient communication and resource sharing.
Processes operate independently and are isolated from each other, preventing direct data interchange except through inter-process communication mechanisms. Threads, being part of the same process, can directly communicate with other threads, which makes them more efficient for tasks that require frequent communication or resource sharing.
From a stability standpoint, processes are isolated, so a failure in one process doesn't directly impact others. Threads, being part of the same process, if one thread encounters a critical error, it can affect all threads within the process. Regarding security, processes provide better separation, reducing the risk of one process affecting the others.
Processes are suitable for applications requiring isolated execution and more secure operation, like running different applications on an operating system. Threads are ideal for tasks within an application that require parallel execution, like handling multiple connections in a web server.

Comparison Chart

Memory Space

Has its own separate memory space.
Shares memory space within its parent process.

Resource Allocation

Requires more resources and time for management.
Lighter, with less overhead than a process.


Operates independently.
Can execute concurrently within a process.


Inter-process communication is complex.
Easier communication among threads in a process.

Stability and Security

More isolated, hence more stable and secure.
Less isolated; a fault can affect other threads.

Process and Thread Definitions


In legal terms, a process is a series of actions conducted in a certain fixed order.
The judicial process includes steps like filing a case, trial, and verdict.


In computing, a thread is a sequence of programmed instructions that can be managed independently by a scheduler.
In a multithreaded application, different threads handle user input and background tasks simultaneously.


In manufacturing, a process refers to a method or means of shaping materials or combining them to create a product.
The process of injection molding is used to create plastic items.


A thread can also refer to a strand of yarn used in sewing or weaving.
She used a strong thread to sew the button onto the coat.


A process is an executing instance of a program.
When you open a web browser, each tab may be a separate process.


In online forums or social media, a thread is a series of messages or posts on a particular topic.
The discussion thread on the forum covered various aspects of environmental conservation.


In business, a process is a series of actions or steps taken to achieve a particular end.
The hiring process includes steps like screening resumes, interviewing, and onboarding.


Thread in narrative refers to a storyline or plotline in a book, movie, or play.
The movie's main thread followed the protagonist's journey from poverty to wealth.


In science, a process is a natural phenomenon marked by gradual changes that lead toward a particular result.
The process of photosynthesis converts sunlight into energy for plants.


In conversations, a thread is a continuous or connected series of events or ideas.
The thread of his argument was difficult to follow due to its complexity.


(Computers) To perform operations on (data).


(computing) An executable task or program.


Are threads within a process independent?

Yes, they can execute independently but share the same process resources.

Can a process exist without threads?

No, a process must have at least one thread to execute.

How do threads share data in a process?

They share data through the shared memory space of their parent process.

How does an operating system manage processes?

Through a process scheduler, which allocates CPU time to various processes.

What is a process in computer science?

It's an executing instance of a program, with its own memory space.

Can threads from different processes interact?

Not directly, as they operate in separate memory spaces.

What is the main advantage of using threads?

They allow concurrent execution within a process, improving performance.

How does a thread differ from a process?

A thread is a smaller, more lightweight unit of execution within a process.

What is multitasking in terms of processes?

It's the ability of an operating system to manage multiple processes at the same time.

What is a daemon process?

A background process that runs continuously, often performing system tasks.

What is context switching in terms of processes and threads?

It's the process of storing and restoring the state of a process or thread so that execution can be resumed later.

Can multiple threads run at the exact same time?

On multi-core processors, yes, multiple threads can truly execute simultaneously.

What is thread synchronization?

It's a mechanism to ensure threads operate in an orderly manner, especially when accessing shared resources.

Can a thread affect the performance of other threads in the same process?

Yes, especially if they are not properly synchronized.

What is a thread pool?

A collection of pre-instantiated reusable threads that can be used to manage task execution.

Can a thread have its own memory space?

No, threads share the memory space of their parent process.

Is multithreading the same as multiprocessing?

No, multithreading involves multiple threads within the same process, while multiprocessing involves multiple processes.

How does a process communicate with another process?

Through inter-process communication mechanisms like pipes, sockets, or shared memory.

What happens when a process crashes?

Its execution stops, and the operating system cleans up the resources it was using.

What's the difference between a thread and a process in terms of overhead?

Creating and managing a thread is generally less resource-intensive than a process.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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