What does a CPU do exactly?

Posted by: Maxine Brimmer (4 years ago)

Whilst you might already know that CPU stands for Central Processing Unit and that it is a very important part of your computer, even tech-savvy computer users might hard pressed to explain exactly what this important little component does.

If you’ve ever taken a look at computer advertisements, you’ve probably seen terms like “quad core” or “dual core processors”, these refer to the speed and power of the CPU. Effectively, the CPU is like the brain inside your computer, analyzing and decoding data and instructions which we input. Just like a human brain, the CPU is a highly complicated processor capable of executing many tasks.

A central processing unit consists of a control unit and an arithmetic logic unit (ALU), both of which have separate processing functions. Memory is not a part of your CPU, although the processor does refer to your computer’s main memory for information and instructions.

 The control unit on your CPU is responsible for communicating with the rest of your computer and sending instructions to the various systems and programs, though it does not execute the instructions itself. Think of the control unit on your processor as a little like a conductor telling his orchestra how to react. On the other hand, the ALU in your central processing unit is responsible for performing calculations which it relays back to the control unit.

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