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Processor vs. Microprocessor: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 4, 2023
A processor is a general term for a chip that processes data, while a microprocessor is a specific type of processor designed as a single integrated circuit for general-purpose tasks.

Key Differences

A processor is a comprehensive term that denotes any device or component responsible for processing data or instructions. This term can be applied in various contexts, from computers to food processing. On the other hand, a microprocessor specifically refers to the central processing unit (CPU) made as an integrated circuit for general-purpose processing tasks within computing devices.
In the realm of computing, a processor can refer to the central processor, graphics processor, or any other kind of data processing unit. Microprocessors, however, are the brain of the computer, executing instructions and tasks necessary for the system's operations. They are, essentially, the primary processors in personal computers, smartphones, and many other devices.
Historically, processors were large and often composed of multiple components. The invention of the microprocessor in the 1970s revolutionized computing by miniaturizing the CPU into a single chip. This advancement allowed for the development of compact, powerful, and affordable personal computers.
The capabilities of a processor vary based on its design and intended application. Graphics processors, for example, are optimized for rendering visuals. Microprocessors, being general-purpose, handle a broader array of tasks, from basic arithmetic to complex software program execution.
While all microprocessors are processors, not all processors are microprocessors. The distinguishing factor often boils down to the specific function and design of the processing unit. Microprocessors have become a cornerstone of modern electronic devices, enabling versatility and computational power.

Comparison Chart


A device that processes data or instructions.
A single integrated circuit designed for general-purpose processing.


Can be used in various contexts from computing to food processing.
Specifically used in computing devices.


Can be multiple components or a single chip.
Always a single chip.


Type and function vary based on design and application.
General-purpose and handles a wide range of tasks.

Historical Development

Existed in larger formats historically.
Revolutionized computing in the 1970s as a compact CPU.

Processor and Microprocessor Definitions


An entity that interprets and acts upon data.
The graphics processor renders visuals swiftly.


A general-purpose processing unit in electronic devices.
The smartphone's microprocessor manages all its applications.


The brain of a computer system.
A faster processor can drastically reduce system lag.


A single integrated circuit that functions as a computer's CPU.
Modern laptops contain powerful microprocessors for optimal performance.


A machine component that processes materials.
The food processor helps in quickly chopping vegetables.


The compact version of earlier, larger processors.
Microprocessors made personal computing accessible to the masses.


The primary computational unit in electronic devices.
Upgrading the processor can boost device performance.


A chip that executes software program instructions.
Games run smoothly thanks to the console's advanced microprocessor.


A device that manages and executes instructions.
The computer's processor ensures efficient multitasking.


The primary computational component in most digital devices.
With a faster microprocessor, the tablet performs tasks more swiftly.


One that processes, especially an apparatus for preparing, treating, or converting material
A wood pulp processor.


An integrated circuit that contains a major processing unit of a computer on a single microchip, such as the central processor or the graphics processor.


A computer.


(computer hardware) the entire CPU of a computer on a single integrated circuit (chip).


A central processing unit.


Integrated circuit semiconductor chip that performs the bulk of the processing and controls the parts of a system;
A microprocessor functions as the central processing unit of a microcomputer
A disk drive contains a microprocessor to handle the internal functions of the drive


A program that translates another program or a data file into a form acceptable by the computer being used.


Which devices use microprocessors?

Devices like computers, smartphones, and tablets use microprocessors.

Can a computer have multiple processors?

Yes, some computers have multi-core processors or even multiple processors for enhanced performance.

Are all processors microprocessors?

No, while all microprocessors are processors, not all processors are microprocessors.

Why is the speed of a processor important?

Faster processors can execute tasks more swiftly, improving device responsiveness.

What's a dual-core microprocessor?

It's a single microprocessor chip that has two separate processing units or cores.

Do processors and microprocessors have a lifespan?

Yes, though they often outlast the device's practical usability.

What's the role of a graphics processor?

A graphics processor handles and renders visual data.

What is a bit in the context of a microprocessor, like 64-bit?

It refers to the width of the data bus, influencing the amount of data a microprocessor can handle.

How has microprocessor architecture evolved?

Over time, architectures have evolved to enhance performance, energy efficiency, and multitasking capabilities.

Can a processor be upgraded in a device?

Often in PCs, yes, but in most smartphones and tablets, processors are soldered and not upgradeable.

How do processors handle multitasking?

Processors manage multiple tasks by quickly switching between them, giving the illusion of simultaneous execution.

What's the link between processor speed and power consumption?

Faster processors often consume more power, which can impact device battery life.

Are microprocessors only made of silicon?

While most are silicon-based, research is ongoing for alternative materials.

How do clock cycles relate to processors?

A clock cycle measures the speed at which a processor can execute tasks, often measured in GHz.

What's an integrated processor?

It's a processor that has additional components, like graphics processing, on the same chip.

What is a processor?

A processor is a device or component that processes data or instructions.

How has the microprocessor impacted computing?

It revolutionized computing by allowing for compact, powerful, and affordable personal devices.

How does a microprocessor differ?

A microprocessor is a specific type of processor designed as a single integrated circuit for general-purpose tasks.

Do microprocessors only exist in computers?

No, they are found in various devices, from phones to cars.

Do all electronic devices have microprocessors?

Not all, but many modern devices have microprocessors to handle computations.
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
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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