Principal component of a digital computer, composed of a control unit, an instruction-decoding unit, and an arithmetic-logic unit. The CPU is linked to main memory, peripheral equipment (including input/output devices), and storage units. The control unit integrates computer operations. It selects instructions from the main memory in proper sequence and sends them to the instruction-decoding unit, which interprets them so as to activate functions of the system at appropriate moments. Input data are transferred via the main memory to the arithmetic-logic unit for processing (i.e., addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and certain logic operations). Larger computers may have two or more CPUs, in which case they are simply called “processors” because each is no longer a “central” unit. See also multiprocessing.

Variants of CPU

CPU in full central processing unit

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