Difference Between Microprocessor and Microcontroller

Electronics is the field of studies that deals with the physics and applications of movement of electrons.


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With electronics comes electronic communication and electronic devices that work under the principle of the flow of electrons from one point/ terminal to another.

For those who are starting to familiarize in the field of electronics, the most common and confusing terms they come across are the microprocessor and the microcontroller.

It is important to differentiate them since they come with different hardware and also perform different tasks.

Microprocessor vs Microcontroller

The difference between Microprocessor and Microcontroller is that the microprocessor is used for performing general tasks like editing, gaming, and websites whereas the microcontrollers are used for specific tasks like in the case of a washing machine.

Microprocessor vs Microcontroller

The processing unit of a computer is called the microprocessor. They are mainly used in computers as they help in the functioning of general and complex tasks.

They have high power consumption and they consume energy even in their idle state. microprocessors also have a high clock speed of 1 GHz.

The processing unit of an embedded system is called a microcontroller. Their applications are mainly seen in the ones that handle a specific task. This is when the output depends on the input of the system.

They have minimal external components as they have all the necessary components in a single chip.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonMicroprocessorMicrocontroller
MeaningHeart of the computer systemIt is a mini-computer that has all the tasks embedded
ComponentsOnly CPU  CPU along with internal memory and I/O components
ApplicationIt is used in computersIt is used in embedded systems for performing specific tasks
Tasks performedThey perform unspecific and general tasksThey perform specific tasks
Clock speed1Ghz8Mhz to 50 Mhz.

What is a Microprocessor?

A microprocessor can be considered as the heart or the controlling unit of a computer system. They do not come with internal components other than the processing unit and therefore requires a high power load.

They are only attached with an internal controller and all the other components have to be externally attached for it to function. Therefore, they are made bulkier than a microcontroller.

They are expensive and also consume high power but this is what makes them perfect for complex tasks.

They function general tasks such as images, editing, etc. which do not have any relation between the input and output. Therefore they also require only small amounts of external RAM and ROM.

Since they have less quantity of registers, they are memory-based and functions on their tasks with their memory. They are also coined inefficient because they cannot be used in compact systems.


What is Microcontroller?

Microcontrollers are the processing unit of an embedded system. They also have high speed in loading instructions because of their on-flash memory and existing internal memory.

The microcontrollers come with a power-saving system and therefore do not consume power in idle mode. Thus, it uses less power than microcontrollers. They are also cheaper than microprocessor but they cannot be used for complex tasks.

They have CPU along with small or limited amounts of RAM, ROM and other necessary peripherals in one single chip. So they are also termed as mini-computers.

They can also be used with compact systems, unlike microprocessor. It is also comparatively easier to write a program in microcontroller because they have more registers

Microcontrollers have very few external components and therefore their power consumption is naturally low. Therefore they can be used with batteries.

They are seen to be used in a washing machine, digicam, etc. So, one can also say that microcontrollers are used in projects and other applications that require a direct user interface.


Main Differences Between Microprocessor and Microcontroller

  1. A microprocessor is the heart of a computer system and a microcontroller is a mini-computer and is embedded to perform specific tasks.
  2. They vary even in components. The microprocessor only comes with an internal controlling unit and all the memory and I/O components have to be externally installed. The microcontroller comes with the internal controlling unit, memory and I/O components.
  3. Since the microprocessor is the processing unit of a computer, they are used in a computer whereas the microcontrollers being a mini-computer itself, is used with embedded system for performing specific functions.
  4. The microprocessor is used in performing general tasks like editing, games and websites where the output and the input are not relative. The microcontrollers perform specific tasks in which the output depends on the inputs.
  5. The clock speed of both these components varies greatly. The microprocessor has a clock speed of 1Ghz and therefore can be used for performing complex tasks. Whereas, the clock speed of microcontroller being in the range of 8 to 50 MHz does not let it perform complex tasks.
  6. Since the microprocessor has external memory, the addition of this memory is possible. But since microcontrollers have fixed internal memory, it is not possible to extend the memory of a microcontroller.
Difference Between Microprocessor and Microcontroller


  1. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Christian_Siemers/publication/228941590_Reconfigurable_Microprocessor_and_Microcontroller-Architectures_and_Classification/links/0deec520de0b4cfe1f000000.pdf
  2. http://users.etown.edu/w/wunderjt/ITALY_2009/PUBLICATION_ASEEPAPetown2.pdf
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