Difference between Processor and Operating System

A computer is an electronic device that can store, manipulate and process the data. It consists of many hardware and software components. Processor and operating system are two important parts of a computer. While the processor is considered as the brain of the system, operating system acts as mind.

What is a Processor?

A processor is a small electronic circuit that is present in the motherboard which process and executes the programs and instructions in a computer, mobile phones and many other electronic devices. The processor is known as the brain of computer. Processor is mostly referred as CPU (central processing unit) although it is one kind of processor. Intel 4004 is the first commercially available microprocessor. The main functions of a processor are executing a program and controlling hardware.

A processor is just a silicon plate with a number of transistors on it. All the transistors are connected through small wires. Processor is connected to the motherboard with pins. When the power is switched on, the motherboard supplies power to the processor. Every CPU consists of a special wire that turns on and off regularly to keep everything in sink. This wire is known as clock and it is measured in clock speed. It represents the number of cycles that a CPU can execute within a second (speed of processor) and is measured in GHz.

In order to execute the given program instructions, CPU repeatedly perform instruction cycle that include 4 operations. They are fetch, decode, execute and store.

Components of a Processor

The main components of a processor include Arithmetic logic unit (ALU), control unit (CU) and Memory unit.

  • Control unit (CU) − Control unit is a part of the CPU that is involved in performing the decode operation of the instruction cycle. It decodes the instructions and send them to the ALU. It also controls the processing speed of processor. It controls the operations of various hardware components through control signals. These signals synchronize the working of various hardware devices.

  • Arithmetic logic unit (ALU) − ALU is a part of the CPU that performs arithmetical and logical operations. It is involved in the execution part of the instruction cycle. It is the building block of all the micro- processor chips. The processed data is then transferred to the main memory through registers.

  • Memory unit − This is the part where the information is stored. It is known as main memory or primary memory. All the processed data is stored here and is readily available whenever needed.

Sometimes it becomes difficult for a single processor to perform multiple tasks within a limited period of time. Hence multi-core processors are introduced. These cores are independent and perform different tasks at the same time hence, it increases the overall system performance. Each and every core has its own cache and registers.

Cache memory is the temporary memory in the processor that helps in fast accessing of data. It is divided into layer 1, layer 2 and layer 3 cache memory. Cache stores a number of repeated instructions. Registers hold a small number of instructions for immediate use.

Multi-core processors function based on the concept of multi-threading. Multi-threading allows each core to perform two sets of threads at the same time. Due to this high performance of multi-core processors, they are widely used in computers, smartphones etc.,

The following are some of the types of processors −

  • Microprocessor

  • Microcontroller

  • Embedded processor

  • Digital signal processor

What is an Operating System?

Operating system is a system software that acts as a mediator between the user and hardware. It manages all the hardware components. It provides an environment for the user to interact with various applications, execute programs and use hardware components etc., OS is the essential part of a computer system.

OS is the first program to run when the computer is turned on. BIOS will start running the operating system once computer is started. It manages other application software, hardware devices, allocates memory, storage management etc.,

The main functions of an operating system are −

  • It provides an environment for the user to interact with the computer components and acts as an interface between the user and the system’s hardware.

  • It manages all the system resources and allocate them to the user based on their needs.

  • It runs various other application software

Types of Operating System

Here is a list of different types of operating systems −

  • Batch operating system − Allows multiple users to use it at the same time. But there are no connections between the users. The OS doesn’t directly interact with the hardware. There are certain operators between the OS and hardware.

  • Time-sharing operating system − Each task is given with certain amount of time to execute. Once the time is completed, the control is shifted to the next task.

  • Distributed operating system − Here, all computer systems are connected to an OS. Each computer has its own memory and CPU and they are all connected to a single operating system. Connected computers can access various files from that network which are not actually present in them.

  • Network operating system − Here computers have their own operating system and are connected to a common server

  • Real-time operating system − These OS are designed to perform specific tasks in a given time limit. They are used in missiles, airbags etc.,

Difference between Processor and Operating System

The following table highlights the major differences between Processors and Operating Systems −



Operating system


A processor is a small electronic chip that controls the entire processes in a computer

Operating system is a system software that acts as an interface between the user and system’s hardware

Referred as

Processor is referred as the brain of the computer

Operating system is referred as the mind of the computer


Multi-processing, multi-threading, power management, time management are the features of a processor

Handling I/O operations, resource allocation, program execution, etc., are the features of an operating system


It has 3 parts:

  • Arithmetic logical unit

  • Control unit

  • Memory unit

Operating system is made of two parts:

  • Kernel

  • Shell


It mainly performs the following functions – Fetch, decode, execute and store

The functions of the operating system includes memory management, file management, managing and controlling hardware components, running other software applications etc.,


Processors are of the following types:

  • Microprocessor

  • Microcontroller

  • Embedded processor

  • Digital signal processor

Operating system is of the following types:

  • Batch operating system

  • Time-sharing operating system

  • Distributed operating system

  • Network operating system

  • Real time operating system


Intel, AMB, Motorola etc., are some examples of processors

Windows, Linux, Android, Mac are some of the examples of operating system


Operating system is a software that acts as a layer between the user and hardware and contains many instructions to control hardware and run many software applications. Processor is a small chip that processes the information received and performs some functions to get desired result. Both are very important for computers and computer like devices such as mobiles, tablets, etc.

Updated on: 21-Apr-2023

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