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Program vs. Process: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 14, 2024
A program is a set of instructions written in a programming language, while a process is an instance of a program executing in a computer's memory.

Key Differences

A program is a static set of instructions written in a programming language, meant to perform a specific task. A process, however, is a dynamic entity, representing the actual execution of a program's instructions in a computer's memory.
A program remains the same every time it's run, while a process can exhibit different states (like running, waiting, or terminated) during its lifecycle. The process embodies the program in action, with its current activity and progress.
A program on its own does not consume system resources; it is merely a file. In contrast, a process actively uses system resources like CPU time and memory during its execution.
Programs are created by developers writing code, but processes are created by the operating system when a program is run. The operating system manages processes, allocating and deallocating resources as needed.
The same program can be executed multiple times simultaneously, creating multiple processes. Each process is an independent entity with its own execution state and memory space.

Comparison Chart


Static set of instructions
Dynamic execution instance

Resource Usage

Does not consume resources
Consumes CPU and memory resources

Execution State

Remains unchanged
Has various states (running, waiting, etc.)


Single file can be executed multiple times
Each execution is a separate instance


Written and managed by developers
Managed by the operating system

Program and Process Definitions


A program is a sequence of instructions written to perform a specific task.
The Python program automates data analysis tasks.


A process is an executing instance of a program.
Each browser tab runs as a separate process in the computer.


In computing, a program refers to software or an application.
She installed a new program for graphic design.


In computing, a process refers to the execution of program instructions.
The operating system manages multiple processes simultaneously.


A program is a coded script ready to be executed by a computer.
He wrote a Java program to solve complex equations.


A process is characterized by its dynamic execution and resource usage.
The video rendering process is CPU-intensive.


Programs are written in various programming languages.
The developer used C++ to write the performance-critical program.


A process is a program brought to life by the CPU.
Each process has its own memory space and execution context.


A program, in essence, is a set of instructions for computers.
The antivirus program helps protect the computer against malware.


Processes have distinct states like running, waiting, or terminated.
The process entered a waiting state due to lack of data.


A listing of the order of events and other pertinent information for a public presentation.


A series of actions, changes, or functions bringing about a result
The process of digestion.
The process of obtaining a driver's license.


How does a process differ from a program?

A process is an active execution instance of a program, utilizing system resources.

What is a program in computing?

A program is a set of coded instructions that tells a computer how to perform a task.

What states can a process have?

A process can be in states like running, waiting, or terminated.

Who manages the processes in a computer?

The operating system manages all processes in a computer.

How is a program stored on a computer?

A program is stored as a file on the computer's storage medium.

Are all programs executable?

Yes, all programs are executable, but they may require a specific runtime environment.

What resources does a process use?

A process uses CPU time, memory, and other system resources.

Can a program run on different operating systems?

A program can run on different operating systems if it's compatible or if there are respective versions.

Can a single program create multiple processes?

Yes, a single program can be run multiple times, creating multiple processes.

Is a program dynamic or static?

A program is static, consisting of a fixed set of instructions.

Can a process exist without a program?

No, a process cannot exist without a program.

Do processes share memory space?

Typically, each process has its own separate memory space.

How are programs created?

Programs are created by writing code in a programming language.

Do processes communicate with each other?

Processes can communicate through mechanisms like inter-process communication (IPC).

What is an example of a system resource used by a process?

CPU time is a primary resource used by processes.

What determines the number of processes a computer can handle?

The computer's CPU, memory, and operating system determine the number of processes it can handle.

What happens when a program runs?

When a program runs, it becomes a process.

Can a program be part of another program?

Yes, programs can be components or modules of larger programs.

How does a process end?

A process ends when it has finished executing its instructions or is terminated by the operating system.

How are processes isolated from each other?

Processes are isolated through mechanisms like separate address spaces.
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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