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Microprocessor vs. Microcontroller: Key Differences

What is a Microprocessor?

Microprocessors are only made up of a CPU that is a central Processing Unit and they are used to do many complex tasks. Along with a CPU we also need many other components to complete some tasks or processes. These other parts are connected with the processor using external connections.

Microprocessors are not mainly used for specific tasks but they are mostly used for complicated and tricky tasks which require high memory and complex coding. Microprocessors are mostly used in the following devices:
scientific calculators, accounting systems, games machines, complex industrial controllers, traffic lights, defense systems, computation systems, and more.

(All the above operations are complex and they need to process the complicated data.)

What is a Microcontroller?

Microcontrollers are designed to do a specific task or any assigned task in loops. You need some special tools to upload the program on the controller chips. Once the code is uploaded on the chip we don’t need to upload it once again on the chip unless and until we want our microcontroller to do another task.

The process is fixed in the microcontroller and the output depends on the user inputs or inputs from the sensors or fixed inputs.

Microcontrollers are mainly used in the following devices: mobile phones, automobiles, CD/DVD players, washing machines, cameras, security alarms, keyboard controllers, microwave oven, watches, and mp3 players.

Difference Between Microprocessor and Microcontroller:

In the above image, we can see the microprocessor is part of a microcontroller with extra memory RAM, ROM, input-output devices, timers, etc.


Microprocessor Microcontroller
Microprocessors are mainly used in computer systems. Microcontrollers are mainly used in embedded systems.
It is just a microprocessor alone, so we need to connect memory and I/O devices externally to make it work. The microcontroller already has memory and I/O devices connected internally with the processor.
It uses external connections to interface to RAM, ROM and other peripherals. All devices are connected internally.
As memory, I/O devices and other peripherals are connected externally it makes the processor looks bulky. Memory, I/O devices and other peripherals are already connected internally with the processor so the size of the circuit is comparatively small.
The overall cost of the system increases as we need to connect external devices with it. The overall cost of the system is less as all devices are on a single chip.
We can connect external memory in ranges of megabytes and even gigabytes. But speed is less due to more memory handling. As memory devices are present on board the speed of operations is more as compared to microprecessors.
Due to the bulky size, you can’t use it in a compact system. Due to less size microcontroller is the best option to be used in compact systems.
The total power consumption is high for microprocessors as external devices are being used. Therefore, they are not fit to use in devices running on stored power like batteries. The total power consumption is less for microcontrollers as all devices are present internally. So they can be used with devices running on stored power like batteries.
Microprocessors do not either have power-saving modes. Most of the microcontrollers have different power-saving modes.
A microprocessor can do multiple tasks at the same time. A microcontroller can only do a single task at a time.
Microprocessors do not have different memory modules to store programs and data. Microcontrollers have different memory modules to store programs and data.
The speed of the microprocessor can be high due to higher clock speed as they are used in complex operations. The speed of microcontroller-based systems is slow as compared to microprocessors.
Microprocessors can process a large number of instructions and can handle a large amount of data at a time. Microcontrollers can process simple and less number of instructions.


Now let us learn the difference between a famous microcontroller board Arduino Uno and microprocessor Raspberry Pi.

Arduino Uno

Raspberry Pi

arduino-board raspberry-pi
Arduino is an 8-bit microcontroller board. It can process 8 bits of data at a time. Raspberry Pi is a 64-bit microprocessor-based mini computer. It can process 64 bits of data at a time.
Arduino Board can not be used as a computer. Raspberry Pi itself is a mini-computer.
As Arduino is a microcontroller board, it contains the CPU, RAM, and ROM on the chip. The additional devices on the Arduino Board are to connect the power supply and to connect input/output devices with the board. Raspberry Pi is a mini-computer and it has a processor, memory devices, graphics driver on the board. Many other ports to connect the display, a camera module, audio device and others are present on board.
The clock speed of Arduino is 16 MHz. The clock speed of Raspberry Pi is 1.2 GHz.
The RAM present on the Arduino Uno board is 2KB. The latest version of Raspberry Pi has RAM of 1GB.

Arduino is mostly used in embedded systems that use input devices like sensors, buttons and output devices like LEDs, motors, LCDs, etc. On Arduino, the GPIO(General Purpose Input Output Pins) are named as Digital IO for digital Input and Output and Analog IN for Analog Input.


raspberry-pi-interfacingRaspberry Pi is mostly used for developing software applications using Python. To control hardware, the Raspberry Pi has 40 GPIO pins(General Purpose Input Output Pins), by which you can connect input devices like sensors, buttons and output devices like LEDs, motors, LCDs, etc.

Arduino board does not require any operating system to work. You need compiled source code to upload on the Arduino board. Raspberry Pi uses an operating system to run, just like our computers have Windows, Macintosh, or Linux but for Raspberry Pi, we have other operating systems like Raspberry Pi OS (previously known as Raspbian OS) which is specially designed for Raspberry Pi.
Arduino needs less current as compared to Raspberry Pi so you can power Arduino from the USB port of a Computer or also with a battery. It has USB type B port on board. Raspberry Pi needs more current than Arduino. So, you need to connect a power adapter with the Raspberry Pi. It has a micro USB or type C port on board.
In the case of the Arduino, if there is any power cut it restarts again without damaging any components. In case of power interruption, it may cause damage to the hardware and software of Raspberry Pi.
Arduino can be programmed using programming languages C or C++. Raspberry Pi can be programmed using Python, Scratch, C, C++ etc.
The cost of the original Arduino UNO is around $23. The cost of Raspberry Pi model 3B is around $35, and the latest Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is available at different prices eg. $35 for 2GB RAM and $55 for 4GB RAM.


About Author:

Omkar Utekar is a Project Guide at Moonpreneur. He is very keen to learn new things mostly related to robotics and coding. He is very talkative person.

Author Bio


Vikas Shukla, an innovator at heart whose undivided attention is dedicated to technology. His inquisitiveness to create has led to several innovations in the field of hardware and software. He is the architect behind several successful learning products for students. These tool kits are a part of the curriculum at Moonpreneur.