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How Microcontrollers are different than Microprocessors?

Learn: What is Microcontrollers and Microprocessors, What are the differences between Microcontrollers and Microprocessors?
Submitted by Vandana Sharma, on June 29, 2017

In 1971, Intel commercialized the very first Microprocessor which was a 4 bit 4004 microprocessor. When we study Microprocessors and Microcontrollers we generally think that how both of these are different than each other? So here is the answer of this question!

By Definition: Microprocessor is an integrated circuit on a silicon chip which performs all the functions of CPU and a microcontroller is an integrated circuit intended to carry out a specific operation in an embedded system.

Block Diagram of Microprocessor

Block Diagram of Microprocessor

Internal Structure of Microprocessor

Internal Structure of Microprocessor

Various Architectures of Microprocessors are discussed in different ways in different books, but the most common are Von Neumann and Harvard Architectures. Old Microprocessors made use of Von Neumann Model but it faced many drawbacks one of them was that of using the same Bus for accessing Data and Instruction due to which data and instruction couldn’t be accessed at the same time. This drawback was removed in Harvard Models.

Von Neumann and Harvard Architecture

Von Neumann and Harvard Architecture

Harvard Architecture

Harvard Architecture
(Refer: fivedots.coe.psu.ac.th)

Let’s have a look on to the various differences between Microprocessors and Microcontrollers:

Microprocessors Microcontrollers
Microprocessors are mostly utilized in designing general purpose systems from small to large and complex systems like super computers. Microcontrollers are utilized in automatically controlled devices.
Microprocessor has very high computational capacity. Hence it can execute difficult tasks. Microcontrollers have less computational capacity as compared to microprocessors. These are utilized for simpler tasks.
A microprocessor based system can do numerous tasks. A microcontroller based system can do single or very few tasks.
Microprocessors have ability to do mathematical calculation as they have integrated Math. Microcontrollers do not have math coprocessors, so these cannot carry out mathematical calculations
Microprocessor’s Clock Frequency is very high, usually in terms of GHz. Clock frequency of Microcontrollers is less usually in terms of MHz.
Ordinarily microprocessors are not utilized in real time systems as they are severely dependent on several other components. Microcontrollers are utilized to handle real time tasks as they are single programmed, self-sufficient and task oriented devices.
Instruction throughput is prioritized than interrupt latency. In contrast, microcontrollers are specially designed to optimize interrupt latency.
Microcontrollers have a very few bit manipulation instructions. Bit manipulation is great and broadly used feature in microcontrollers. They have many bit manipulation instructions.
Microcontrollers cannot be utilized in dense systems and hence inefficient. Can be used in dense systems and hence it is an efficient technique.
Microprocessors carry out most of the memory based operations as these have less number of registers. Program writing in microcontrollers are facilitated due to number of registers.

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