External Interrupt

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What Does External Interrupt Mean?

An external interrupt is a computer system interrupt that happens as a result of outside interference, whether that’s from the user, from peripherals, from other hardware devices or through a network. These are different than internal interrupts that happen automatically as the machine reads through program instructions.

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Techopedia Explains External Interrupt

There are many different kinds of external interrupts. IT professionals characterize user requests for process changes as external interrupts. If a hardware device asks the operating system to change processes, this could also be called an external interrupt.

External interrupts can also come from errors or other events that change the way that the computer works on any given set of instructions. Many types of external interrupts have their own labels and handling protocols. Engineers, developers and other IT professionals work to understand specific types of external interrupts in order to know how to handle them.

An input/output device may request some type of operation from the computer’s processor, in which case the system may be interrupted from what it was previously doing. This would be an example of an external interrupt. These types of external interrupts can be quite different from situations where users are clicking on buttons and controls and causing the computer to prioritize multiple programs in different ways. Generally, engineers try to make an operating system respond to user requests in real-time, so that there is no inconvenience, and so that the system appears to be handling all sorts of simultaneous tasks.

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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
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.