What Does X86 Mean?

X86 is the term used to denote the microprocessor family based on the Intel 8086 and 8088 microprocessors. These microprocessors ensure backward compatibility for instruction set architectures. Initially x86 started with an 8-bit instruction set, but then grew to 16- and 32-bit instruction sets. X86 microprocessors are capable of running in almost any type of computer, ranging from supercomputers to desktops, servers and laptops.


Techopedia Explains X86

The term x86 was coined as a result of the original Intel 8086 chip ending with the number 86. The x86 processor had additional segment registers for accessing multiple data segments at the same interval. It also supports an additional stack segment register and code segment register. The x86 processor can be converted to a high-speed 8086 processor by setting the virtual 8086 mode flag. The x86 instruction set is considered to be an extended version of the 8008 and 8080 architectures and is not a typical complex instruction set computing design. Strong emphasis is on backward compatibility along with byte addressing. For all valid word sizes, memory access to unaligned addresses is provided.

With the help of virtualization, the efficiency of the platforms based on x86 improves significantly considering single server, operating systems and single application. Compared to other processors, x86 has significant disadvantages when dealing with enterprise workloads which involve high-end computing, processing of data transaction and databases. While selecting x86-based platforms, scalability requirements, workload profile, architecture and operating system support must be considered.

X86 processors still dominate the mid-range section of servers, laptops, notebooks and desktops.


Related Terms

Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.