A processor, also known as a central processing unit (CPU), is a hardware component in a computer that performs the instructions of a computer program. It is the “brain” of the computer, and it is responsible for executing most instructions that the computer receives.
The processor is made up of two main parts: the control unit and the arithmetic logic unit (ALU). The control unit fetches instructions from memory and decodes them, while the ALU performs the actual calculations and logical operations specified by the instructions.
The processor works by following a sequence of steps known as the fetch-decode-execute cycle. Here’s how it works:
- Fetch: The control unit retrieves an instruction from memory.
- Decode: The control unit decodes the instruction to determine what action to take.
- Execute: The ALU performs the action specified by the instruction.
- Store: The result of the operation is stored in memory or a register.
The processor repeats this cycle over and over again, executing instructions at a very high speed. The speed at which a processor can execute instructions is measured in megahertz (MHz) or gigahertz (GHz). Modern processors can execute billions of instructions per second.
In addition to the control unit and ALU, processors also have a number of other components, such as registers and cache memory, which are used to store data temporarily and speed up the processing of instructions.
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