How the CPU Works

The computer you are using to read this page uses a microprocessor to do its work. The microprocessor is the heart of any normal computer, whether it is a desktop machine, a server, or a laptop.

A microprocessor - also known as a CPU or Central Processing Unit - is a complete computation engine that is fabricated on a single chip.

A chip is also called an integrated circuit. Generally it is a small, thin piece of silicon onto which the transistors making up the microprocessor have been etched. A chip might be as large as an inch on a side and can contain as many as 10 million transistors. Simpler processors might consist of a few thousand transistors etched onto a chip just a few millimeters square.

A microprocessor executes a collection of machine instructions that tell the processor what to do. Based on the instructions, a microprocessor does three basic things:

Let's check out how this works.