What is the difference between a microprocessor and a CPU?

When it comes to computer hardware, there are several different terms that are often used interchangeably. One of the most common confusions is the difference between a microprocessor and a CPU. These two terms are often used to describe the same thing, but in reality, there is a slight difference between them. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the differences between a microprocessor and a CPU, their features, and how they function.

Introduction to Microprocessors and CPUs

Before we get into the differences between microprocessors and CPUs, it’s important to understand what they are and what they do. At their core, both microprocessors and CPUs are electronic devices that perform calculations and make decisions based on instructions provided by software. These instructions can range from basic arithmetic operations to complex mathematical algorithms, and everything in between.


A microprocessor is a small electronic device that is typically found in computers, smartphones, and other electronic devices. It’s essentially a small computer chip that contains all of the necessary components to process data and perform calculations. These components include the control unit, the arithmetic logic unit (ALU), and the memory management unit (MMU).

Microprocessors are designed to be small and efficient, which makes them ideal for use in portable devices like smartphones and tablets. They’re also used in larger devices like computers, where they can be used to perform specific tasks like image processing or data analysis.


A CPU, or central processing unit, is another type of electronic device that is used to process data and perform calculations. Unlike a microprocessor, a CPU is not a standalone device. Instead, it’s a component that is typically found on a motherboard, along with other components like RAM and a graphics card.

The CPU is responsible for executing instructions that are provided by software. These instructions are typically stored in memory and are fetched by the CPU as needed. The CPU then processes the instructions and returns the results to memory.

Differences Between Microprocessors and CPUs

Now that we have a basic understanding of what microprocessors and CPUs are, let’s take a closer look at the differences between them.

  1. Standalone vs. Integrated

Perhaps the biggest difference between a microprocessor and a CPU is that a microprocessor is a standalone device, while a CPU is integrated into a motherboard. This means that a microprocessor can be used in a variety of different devices, while a CPU is typically only found in computers.

  1. Processing Power

Another key difference between microprocessors and CPUs is their processing power. Generally speaking, CPUs are more powerful than microprocessors, which makes them better suited for complex tasks like gaming or video editing. Microprocessors, on the other hand, are designed to be smaller and more energy-efficient, which makes them ideal for use in portable devices.

  1. Clock Speed

Clock speed refers to the number of instructions that a processor can execute in a second. Generally speaking, CPUs have higher clock speeds than microprocessors, which means they can execute instructions more quickly.

  1. Cost

Finally, there is the cost factor. Because microprocessors are smaller and less powerful than CPUs, they are generally less expensive. CPUs, on the other hand, are more expensive due to their increased processing power and complexity.


Q1. Can a microprocessor be used in a desktop computer? A1. Yes, microprocessors are commonly used in desktop computers, as well as in smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices.