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What is a Processor?

A processor casing sitting with its pins facing down. (Graphic from Wikimedia Commons uploaded by NaSH 2005) A processor casing sitting with its pins pointing upward. (Graphic from Wikimedia Commons uploaded by pipp 2005)


A processor or micro-processor is the 'brains' of a computer system. It is the processor that controls the working of all of the hardware and software.

The processor is sometimes referred to as the Central Processing Unit (CPU).

There are many processors available and processor specification is usually one of the first things considered when buying a new personal computer (PC). The type of processor and its speed have the greatest impact on the overall performance of a computer system. Processor performance is related directly to its speed of operation and its architecture

Competition among processor manufacturers is fierce and because of this there is a wide and diverse choice of processors in the market place. Processor manufacturers, such as Intel and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) are continually developing more advanced processors and new models are released within the space of months rather than years. This is in stark contrast to earlier processor developments, such as the 8086, 80286 and 80386 which were released years apart.

Next: Types of Processor