Microprocessor vs. Microcontroller: Key Differences

What is a Microprocessor?

In simple words, The microprocessor is useful in many comprehensive processes. It only contains a CPU that is a central processing unit but many other parts are much needed to work with the CPU to complete some tasks or processes. These all other parts are connected externally with the processor.

Microprocessors are not made for a specific task but they are useful where tasks are more complicated and tricky like the development of a software or a game and other applications that require high memory and complex processes and where input and output are not defined.

Microprocessors are mainly used programs in devices like calculators, accounting systems, games machines, complex industrial controllers, traffic lights, defense systems, computation systems, and more.

(All the above operations are complex and they need to process the complicated data.)

What is a Microcontroller?

The microcontroller is designed to do a specific task or to perform the assigned task repeatedly. Once the program is uploaded on a microcontroller chip, it can’t be changed easily and you may need some special tools to rewrite it on the controller board. 

As per the application, the process is fixed in the microcontroller. Hence, the output depends on the user-defined inputs or inputs from the sensors or predefined inputs.

Microcontrollers are mainly used in the following devices: mobile phones, automobiles, CD/DVD players, washing machines, cameras, security alarms, keyboard controllers, microwave ovens, watches, and mp3 players. 

Difference between microprocessor and microcontroller:

(Image Credits: Robu)

In the above image, we can see the microprocessor is part of a microcontroller with extra memory RAM, ROM, I/O ports, and other peripherals such as timers and counters.

Key Differences Between Microprocessor and Microcontroller :

  • A microprocessor comprises only a Central Processing Unit, whereas a Microcontroller contains a Central Processing Unit along with memory, I/O devices all integrated into a single chip.
  • The microprocessor is mainly used in personal computers whereas the microcontroller is useful in an embedded system.
  • The microprocessor uses external connections to interface to memory devices RAM, ROM, and other I/O devices, on the other hand, the microcontroller is connected internally to all these devices.
  • The microprocessor is complicated and more costly, with a large number of instructions to process but the microcontroller is less expensive and straightforward with fewer instructions to process.


(Picture Credits: https://www.microcontrollertips.com/)


Microprocessor Microcontroller
A microprocessor is the heart of Computer systems. A microcontroller is the heart of an embedded system.
It is only a processor, so memory and I/O components need to be connected externally. The microcontroller has a processor along with internal memory and I/O components.
Memory and I/O devices have to be connected externally, so the circuit becomes large. Memory and I/O are already present, and the internal circuit is small.
External devices connected with processors increase the overall cost of the system. The overall cost of the system is less.
We can connect external memory in ranges of megabytes and even gigabytes. But speed is less due to more memory handling. The inbuilt finite memory helps to improve the speed of operations.
You can’t use it in a compact system. You can use it in compact systems.
Due to external components, the total power consumption is high. Therefore, it is not ideal to use in devices running on stored power like batteries. As external components are low, total power consumption is less. So it can be used with devices running on stored power like batteries.
Most of the microprocessors do not have power-saving features. Most of the microcontrollers offer power-saving mode.
Since the memory and other peripherals are connected externally, each instruction needs an external operation, hence they are relatively slower. Since the memory and other peripherals are connected internally, most operations use internal instructions, hence they are relatively faster.
A microprocessor can do multiple tasks at a time. A microcontroller can do a single task at a time.
In the case of microprocessors, programs and data are stored in the same memory module. In the case of microcontrollers,  program, memory and data are separate.
It uses an external bus to interface to RAM, ROM, and other peripherals. It uses an internal control bus.
Microprocessor-based systems can run at a very high speed because of the technology involved. Microcontroller-based systems run up to 200MHz or more depending on the architecture.
It’s useful for general-purpose applications that allow you to handle loads of data. It’s useful for application-specific systems.
It’s complex and expensive, with a large number of instructions to process. It’s simple and inexpensive with a fewer number of instructions to process.


Now let us understand the difference between a microcontroller and microprocessor-based famous microcontroller board Arduino Uno and microprocessor Raspberry Pi

Differences between Raspberry Pi and Arduino:

Both Arduino and Raspberry Pi are good for students, beginners, and hobbyists to learn about control systems and programming. Let us take a look at some of the differences between Raspberry Pi and Arduino.

Arduino Uno

Raspberry Pi

arduino-board raspberry-pi
Arduino is a microcontroller board Raspberry Pi is a microprocessor-based mini computer.
The microcontroller on the Arduino board contains the CPU, RAM, and ROM. The additional hardware on the Arduino Board is for power supply, programming, and Input/Output device connectivity. Raspberry Pi has all features of a computer with a processor, memory, storage, graphics driver, connectors on the board along with different ports to connect the display, a camera module, and so on.
Arduino doesn’t need any operating system. All you need is a binary of the compiled source code. Raspberry Pi needs an operating system to run (just like our computers have Windows, Macintosh, or Linux but for Raspberry Pi, we have other operating systems like Raspbian which is specially designed for Raspberry Pi).
Arduino does not have any operating system. You just need a firmware instructing the microcontroller on what task to do. Raspberry Pi comes with a fully functional operating system called Raspberry Pi OS (previously known as Raspbian OS). Although Pi can use different operating systems, Linux is preferred by Raspberry Pi Foundation.
The clock speed of Arduino is 16 MHz The clock speed of Raspberry Pi is around 1.2 GHz.

Arduino is good for interfacing Sensors and controlling LEDs, motors, and other output devices. On Arduino, the GPIO is called Digital IO (for digital Input and Output) and Analog IN (for Analog Input).


raspberry-pi-interfacingRaspberry Pi is good for developing software applications using Python. This doesn’t mean we cannot connect sensors and LEDs to Raspberry Pi. To control hardware, the Raspberry Pi consists of a 40-pin GPIO(General Purpose Input Output Pins), through which you can connect different electronic components like LEDs, buttons, sensors, motors, and more.

Using Arduino Shields, which plug into the Arduino Pin headers, you can add a dedicated feature or functionality like a Motor Driver, Ethernet Connection, SD Card Reader, Wi-Fi, Touchscreens, cameras, and more. to Arduino. Raspberry Pi is a self-contained board, you can add external hardware like touchscreen, GPS, RGB panels, and more. to Raspberry Pi.
Arduino is powered by USB Type B. It needs less current as compared to Raspberry Pi so you can power Arduino from the USB port of a Computer. Raspberry Pi is powered by micro-USB or USB Type C. Raspberry Pi needs more current than Arduino. So, you need a power adapter for the Raspberry Pi.
In the case of the Arduino, if there is any power cut it again restarts.  Power interruption for Raspberry Pi may cause damage to the hardware, software, or applications. So, Raspberry Pi must be properly shut down before disconnecting power.
Using the open-source hardware and software files of Arduino, you can essentially create your own Arduino board Creating a Raspberry Pi on your own is not possible as it is not open-source.
Arduino uses the Arduino IDE for developing the code.


Raspberry Pi can use Python IDLE, Eclipse IDE, or any other IDEs that are supported by Linux. You can also program using the terminal itself with any text editor.


The cost of the original Arduino UNO is $23 but there are several clones of Arduino which are available for less than $4. The original Raspberry Pi SBC was around $35, but the latest Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is available at different price points ($35, $55, or $75) depending on the memory configuration.

Author Bio


Vikas Shukla, an innovator at heart whose undivided attention is dedicated to technology. His inquisitiveness to create has led to several innovations in the field of hardware and software. He is the architect behind several successful learning products for students. These tool kits are a part of the curriculum at Moonshot Jr.