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Central Processing Unit (CPU)

Definition - What does Central Processing Unit (CPU) mean?

The central processing unit (CPU) is the unit, which performs most of the processing inside a computer. To control instructions and data flow to and from other parts of the computer, the CPU relies heavily on a chip set, which is a group of microchips located on the motherboard.

The CPU has two typical components:

  • Control Unit: extracts instructions from memory and decodes and executes them.
  • Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU): handles arithmetic and logical operations.

To function properly, the CPU relies on the system clock, memory, secondary storage, and data and address buses.

This term is also known as a central processor, microprocessor or chip.

Techopedia explains Central Processing Unit (CPU)

The CPU is the heart and brain of a computer. It receives data input, executes instructions, and processes information. It communicates with Input/Output (I/O) devices, which send and receive data to and from the CPU. Additionally, the CPU has an internal bus for communication with the internal cache memory, called the backside bus. The main bus for data transfer to and from the CPU, memory, chipset, and AGP socket is called the front side bus.

CPU contains internal memory units, which are called registers. These registers contain data, instructions, counters, and addresses used in the ALU information processing.

Some computers have dual or multiple processors. These consist of two or more separate physical CPUs located side-by-side on the same board or on separate boards. Each CPU has an independent interface, separate cache, and individual paths to the system front-side bus. Multiple processors are ideal for intensive parallel tasks requiring multitasking.

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