Difference between Microprocessor and Microcontroller

By Mohit Uniyal|Updated : June 13th, 2022

Difference between Microprocessor and Microcontroller: Integrated circuits or ICs are the electronic circuits used to construct the circuits which are smaller, compact, quicker, and cheaper. The microprocessor and microcontroller are integrated circuits. The major difference between microprocessor and microcontroller is that the microprocessor is used to perform the functions of the CPU and the microcontroller is used as the brain of the circuit.

The microprocessor and microcontroller are basically used to optimize the computing unit as per the central processing unit. After learning about the difference between microprocessor and microcontroller in the various aspects, we will discuss what are microprocessors and microcontrollers in the coming sections in brief.

Table of Content

Difference Between Microprocessor and Microcontroller

There are various similarities between the microprocessor and microcontroller as they perform relatively the same tasks. There exist various differences between microprocessor and microcontroller which are elaborated in the table provided below on various factors:

Key Differences Between Microprocessor and Microcontroller 

Heart of the system.Heart of the embedded system.
Externally connected with input-output components.input-output components are embedded. 
The circuit may be large depending upon usage.The circuit is very small.
Not cost-effective.Cost-effective.
The total consumption of power is high.Total consumption of power is less.
Power saving mode is not generally available.Power saving mode is generally offered.
Used in PC.Used in MP3 players, washing machines, etc.
Memories like RAM and ROM are absent.Carries RAM, ROM, etc.
Runs at a very high speed.Runs at a relatively lower speed.
It is complex and costly.Simple and cheap.

Example: DEC Alpha 21164, IBM RS6000, etc

Example:  Intel 8031/8051, PIC1x, etc.

What is a Microprocessor?


The most important technological invention of modern times is the “microprocessor". A microprocessor is a multiple-purpose programmable clock-driven, a register-based electronic device that reads binary instructions from memory, accepts binary data as input, and processes this data according to the instructions written in the memory. The microprocessor can be embedded in a larger system and can function as the CPU of a computer called a microcomputer.


                                          Basic block diagram of a microcontroller

Here, the input device is a device that transfers information from the outside world to the computer for example Keyboard, mouse, webcam, microphone, scanner, electronic whiteboards, etc. The output device transfers information from the computer to the outside world like monitors, printers (all types), speakers, headphones, projectors, plotters, Braille embossers, LCD projection panels, computer output microfilm (COM), etc. Memory is an electronic medium that stores binary information.

Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the heart of computer systems. The microprocessors in any microcomputer act as a CPU. The CPU can be made up of ALU + CU + Registers. Where ALU is the group of circuits that performs arithmetic and logical operations. Control Unit (CU) is a group of circuits that provide timings and signals to all the operations in the computer and controls the data flow.

A microcontroller is a programmable device that includes a microprocessor, memory, and I/O signal lines on a single chip, fabricated using VLSI technology. Microcontrollers are also known as single-chip microcomputers. They are mostly used to perform dedicated functions such as automatic control of equipment, machines, and process in industries and consumer appliances.

System Bus:

A bus is a group of wires/lines used to transfer data (bits) between components inside a computer or between computers. In most simple form, they are communication paths used to carry the signals between microprocessors and peripherals.      

The system bus of a microprocessor is of three types :

  1. Address Bus:
  • It is a group of lines that are used to send a memory address or a device address from the Microprocessor Unit (MPU) to the memory or the peripheral.
  • The address bus is always unidirectional i.e. address always goes out of the microprocessor.
  • If the address line is ‘n’ for an MPU then its addressing capacity is 2n.
  1. Data Bus:
  • It is a group of lines used to transfer data between the microprocessor and peripherals and/or memory.
  • The data bus is always bi-directional.
  1. Control Bus:
  • Control bus provides signals to control the flow of data.


The microprocessor is known as the heart of the computer system. It is a simple or sometimes singular integrated circuit that is used to perform the function of a CPU or central processing unit. They carry arithmetic, logic, and control circuitry. They can perform various tasks on digital computers.

Microprocessors helped in creating microcomputers. The use of microprocessors in computing helped in microprocessing many businesses, scientific and industrial tasks. There are various types of microprocessors which are listed below:

  • CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computer): Example: Intel 386, Pentium II, Pentium, Pentium Pro, Intel 486, etc.
  • RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer): Example: DEC Alpha 21164, IBM RS6000, DEC Alpha 21064, etc.
  • EPIC (Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing): Example: Intel Architecture-64, etc.

What is a Microcontroller?

The microcontroller is also known as the MCU or Microcontroller unit. It is a MOS or metal-oxide-semiconductor integrated circuit and can perform one dedicated task. They are used in various products which are automatically controlled such as toys, remote controls, Mobile Phones, Automobiles, Cameras, Micro Oven, etc. The microcontrollers can even call self-contained systems with a memory of a processor.

  • PIC Microcontroller
  • MSP Microcontroller
  • AVR Microcontroller
  • ARM Microcontroller
  • 8051 Microcontroller

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FAQs on Difference between Microprocessor and Microcontroller

  • The major difference between microprocessor and microcontroller is that microcontroller is used to process as the brain of the circuit and microprocessor is known as the CPU of the chips and hence performs similar function to the CPU.

  • The difference between microprocessor and microcontroller as per the power saving is is not offered in the microprocessor whereas in the microcontroller the power saving is offered. The microprocessor is not power saving unit.

  • The three key differences between microcontrollers and microprocessors are mentioned below:

    • Microprocessor is the heart of the computer system whereas the microcontroller is the heart of the embedded system.
    • Circuit is larger in microprocessor related to microcontroller.
    • Microcontroller are cost effective than the microprocessor.
  • Although both serves different purposes but if the processing speed is required, microprocessor is preferred over microcontroller. Whereas if the cost effective and less power consuming options are required, microcontroller is preferred.

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