What is microprocessor?

Microprocessor

Computer is capable of performing complex tasks, such as managing the brake system of a car. These tasks are processed by the Central Processing Unit (CPU). The CPU comprises of the microprocessor. The microprocessor accepts input from the user in the form of the data and instructions. It processes the data using the instructions and sends the processed information to the output device. The microprocessor controls the system, therefore it is important to understand it’s working. The choice of the microprocessor also depends on computing needs.

Overview of Microprocessors

The microprocessor is a chip that accepts data and instruction, processes it and gives the output. An instruction is a calculation that the microprocessor processes such as adding two numbers. One of the key elements of the microprocessor is its speed. The speed of the microprocessor depends on various factors such as the number of instructions it processes, the bandwidth, and the clock speed. The bandwidth specifies the number of binary digits that the microprocessor can process in a single instruction. The clock speed specifies the speed at which the microprocessor processes an instruction.The speed of the microprocessor also depends on the number of the transistors built into the processor. The transistors in the microprocessor boost the data signals on the processor. The more the transistors built on the microprocessor the faster is the speed of the microprocessor. The advancements in technology have reduced the size of the transistors and have increased the processing speed of the processor. Microprocessors may also have a cache to store information. The microprocessor can access information faster from the cache than from the RAM.

The Evolution of microprocessor

The first microprocessor was created by Intel in 1971. Since then, Intel has modified the microprocessor to make it faster, efficient and reliable.
Since the mid-eighties, Intel began categorizing microprocessor into families based on the need and use of the systems. The speed, performance and price of a microprocessor differ from one microprocessor family to another. We will look at Intel microprocessors in this course, as they are most widely used.

Working with Microprocessor

The microprocessor consists of the control unit (CU) and the Arithmetic and Logic Unit (ALU). The data instructions for processing the data enter the microprocessor from the input device such as a keyboard. The CU stores the data and the instructions in the memory /cache and sends the instructions in the ALU. The CU retrieves the data required by the instructions in the ALU form the memory / Cache. The ALU processes the data using the instructions and sends the results to the CU(Control Unit). The CU stores the results in the memory / cache and sends it to the output device, such as the monitor or printer, when required.

The microprocessor is a complex chip in the system. The different parts of the microprocessor work together to process the data and give the user information. The various parts of a microprocessor are as follows.

Input – Specifies the system input devices

Output – Specifies the system output devices

Arithmetic and Logic Unit (ALU) –Performs all the arithmetic calculations such as addition and subtraction and the logical calculations such as the AND and OR operators.

Control Unit (CU) – Controls the flow of the data and information to other units of the microprocessor.

Memory / Cache – Stores the data and instruction required by the microprocessor The data and the instructions for processing the data enter the microprocessor from the input device such as the keyboard. The CU stores the data and the instructions in the Memory / Cache and sends the instructions to process the data to the ALU. The CU retrieves the data required by the instructions in the ALU from the Memory / Cache. The ALU processes the data using the instructions and sends the result to the CU. The CU stores the result in the Memory / Cache and sends it to the output device such as the monitor or printer when required.

Speed of the microprocessor depends on:

The capacity of the computer to perform tasks and the speed of the computer depends to a large extenet on the microprocessor speed. The speed of the microsprocessor depends on various factors such as the :

  1. Clock Speed
  2. Bandwidth
  3. Number of transistors
  4. Cache memory

1. Clock Speed :

The clock speed of a microprocessor is the number of electronic pulses or cycles it can produce each second. The clock speed affects the number of instructions the microprocessros and is measured in mehahertz(MHz) or gigahertz(GHz). One megahertz is equal to one million cycles per second.

2. Bandwidth :

The bandwidth specifies the number of binary digits or bits that the microprocessor can process at one time. The PCs available today can process 32 or 64 bits at one time.

3. Number of transistors :

The transistors in the microprocessor boost the data signals on the processor. The more the transistors built on the microprocessor the faster is th espeed of the microprocessor. The advancements in technology have reduced the size of the transistors and have increased the processing speed of the processor.

4. Cache Memory:

The speed of the microprocessor is also affacted by the amount of cache is has. The cache is a high-speed temporary memory, which stores the instructions that are often used. The microprocessor can access information faster from the cache than form RAM. The cache is a part of the microprocessor. The capacity if the cache is dependant on the microprocessor model.

Microprocessor Designs

The microprocessor is installed on the motherboard. The microprocessor is designed to fit into a motherboard based on the type of the socket or the slot used to connect it.

1. Microprocessor Sockets

The socket on the motherboard connects the microprocessor to the motherboard. The microprocessor has pins that enter the motherboard using which the microprocessor communicates with the system.

Motherboards that use the socket to install the microprocessor use the Zero Insertion Force (ZIF) or the Low Insertion Force (LIF) design to install the microprocessor on the motherboard. The ZIF uses a lever to install or remove the microprocessor, thus the microprocessor can be installed and removed without using any force. You must use force to push the microprocessor in the LIF socket. You must use special tools such as a screwdriver or a chip puller to remove the microprocessor from the LIF socket.

Microprocessors support different voltages. The voltage required by the microprocessor is adjusted automatically by the microprocessor, however you may have to adjust the jumpers on the older motherboard. Jumper is a switch present on the hardware that enables you to configure the hardware.

Socket 1

Socket 1 supports microprocessors that have 169 pins. In this socket, the pins are arranged in three rows. Socket 1 supplies maximum 5 volts to the microprocessor. This socket supports the 80486 and 80486 Overdrive microprocessor. The Overdrive microprocessor can be installed on different sockets. These are used on older motherboards.

Socket 2

Socket 2 supports microprocessors that have 238 pins. In this socket, the pins are arranged in four rows. Socket 2 supplies maximum 5 volts to the microprocessor. This socket supports the 80486 and Pentium OverDrive microprocessors.

Socket 3

Socket 3 supports microprocessors that have 237 pins. In this socket, the pins are arranged in four rows. Socket 3 supplies 3.3 to 5 volts to the microprocessor. The voltage can be adjusted using the jumpers on the motherboard. This socket supports the 80486, AMD 5×86, and Pentium Overdrive microprocessors

Socket 4

Socket 4 supports microprocessors that have 273 pins. In this socket, the pins are arranged in four rows. Socket 4 supplies maximum 5 volts to the microprocessor. This socket supports the Pentium 60-66, and Pentium Overdrive microprocessors.

Socket 5

Socket 5 supports microprocessors that have 320 pins. In this socket, the pins are arranged in five rows. Socket 5 supplies maximum 3.3 volts to the microprocessor. This socket supports the Pentium 75-133 MHz, Pentium OverDrive microprocessors.

Socket 6

Socket 6 supports microprocessors that have 235 pins. In this socket, the pins are arranged in four rows. Socket 6 supplies maximum 3.3 volts to the microprocessor. This socket supports the 80486 microprocessor.

Socket 7

Socket 7 supports microprocessors that have 321 pins. In this socket, the pins are arranged in five rows. Socket 7 supplies 2.5 to 3.3 volts to the microprocessor. The processors for this socket use 2.5 volts for input-output, whereas the core of the microprocessor uses 3.3 volts. This socket supports the Pentium 75-200 MHz, and Pentium OverDrive microprocessors.

Socket 8

Socket 8 supports microprocessors that have 387 pins. In this socket, the pins are arranged in five rows. Socket 8 supplies 3.1 to 3.3 volts to the microprocessor. This socket supports the Pentium Pro microprocessors. The Socket 8 is more rectangular in shape than the other sockets.

Socket 370

Socket 370 supports microprocessors that have 370 pins. In this socket, the pins are arranged in six rows. The microprocessors for this socket have the L2 cache built into the microprocessor. This socket supports Celeron 2 and Pentium III microprocessors.

Socket 462

Socket 462 is also known as Socket A. This socket supports microprocessors that have 462 pins. The microprocessors for this socket have the L2 cache built into the microprocessor. This socket supports the Athlon and Duron microprocessors.

Socket 478

Socket 478 supports microprocessors that have 478 pins. The microprocessors for this socket have the L2 cache built into the microprocessor. The Socket 478 microprocessor supports the Intel Pentium 4 microprocessor.

2. Microprocessor Slots

Microprocessors such as the Intel Pentium II, III, Xeon, Celeron, and AMD Athlon are installed on cards. The card with the microprocessor on it is installed on the motherboard. The card is built in with the L2 cache. This speeds up the processing because the processor can store the instructions in this cache.

Slot 1

Slot 1 supports microprocessors that have 242 pins. The microprocessor is mounted on a card that uses Socket 8. Slot 1 supplies 2.8 to 3.3 volts to the microprocessor. This slot supports the Pentium II, III, and Celeron microprocessors.

Slot 2

Slot 2 supports microprocessors that have 330 pins. This slot supports the Pentium Xeon microprocessors. This slot is found on server motherboards.

Slot A

Intel patented the Slot 1. This allowed only Intel to manufacture microprocessors that used this slot. AMD created the Slot A to support the Athlon microprocessors. This Slot A uses the EV6 protocol that enables the microprocessor and the RAM to communicate at an increased speed.

Interface of the Microprocessor

Data and information flows from the microprocessor to the different devices connected to the system. Hardware devices such as the hard disk, floppy disk, and printer are connected to the microprocessor using a bus. The size of the bus determines the amount of information that can travel between the two devices in a clock speed of the microprocessor. There are two types of buses, the serial bus and the parallel bus. On a serial bus, the data travels between two devices one bit at a time. On a parallel bus, more than one bit of information can travel between two devices.

The steps the microprocessor follows to interface with a device are :

  1. The microprocessor checks the status of the device.
  2. The microprocessor requests the device for transferring data.
  3. The device sends the data request to the microprocessor.
  4. The microprocessor sends the required data to the device.

Troubleshooting Microprocessors

Troubleshooting microprocessor techniques solve the problems that arise due to the improper functioning of the microprocessor. The general problems that arises from the microprocessor are overheating and slow processing.

Overheating

A microprocessor produces heat while processing the data. The microprocessor also overheats when it is performing beyond the recommended speed. Overheating can cause permanent damage to the microprocessor. Adequate cooling devices, such as a processor fan must be installed to cool down the microprocessor.To solve the problem of overheating :

  1. Check that the processor fan is installed and functioning properly.
  2. Check the jumper settings on the motherboard and the BIOS settings to see that the microprocessor is not overclocked.
  3. Check that the voltage supplied by the motherboard is compatible with the microprocessor.
  4. Check the motherboard manual to see that the motherboard supports the microprocessor.

Slow Processing

The microprocessor generally runs slow if there is some fault within it. A microprocessor can also run slow if the speed settings are not correct or due to some other fault in the system. To solve the problem of slow processing :

  1. Check if the vendor has supplied the correct microprocessor.
  2. Check if the microprocessor supports the applications that are running.
  3. Scan the computer for viruses.
  4. Check the jumper settings on the motherboard and the BIOS settings of the microprocessor.
  5. Troubleshoot the RAM.

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