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How Do Microprocessors Work?

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  • Written By: Jason C. Chavis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 March 2014
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Microprocessors use a number of different processes to function. Their main purpose is to process a series of numbers placed into sequences which make up a program. Each of these sequences gives some sort of instruction to the microprocessor which, in turn, relates information to other parts of the computer. This facilitates the actions necessary for the program to function. Microprocessors are types of central processing units (CPUs), essentially the central brain of a computer. A microprocessor takes the form of a computer chip that is placed in a motherboard, which operates as the relay center for all the higher functions processed from the CPU.

When a microprocessor is activated, it performs a series of actions, each one defining an exact point of communication. This communication gives instructions in the form of binary code, a series of ones and zeros. The CPU then responds to the instructions by processing the code, taking the necessary actions requested by the code, and relaying to the responsible input section that the action has successfully taken place.

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The first step in this process is known as the fetch action. A program will elicit a series of ones and zeroes that define an exact action. Part of the sequence is responsible for informing microprocessors of the location of the necessary code within the program. This is the portion in which random access memory (RAM) is used. The RAM provides the memory for the CPU to be able to hold the instructions long enough for them to be used. When there is not enough RAM in a computer, the computer slows down.

The next step involving the workload of a microprocessor is known as the decoding action. Each set of numbers within the sequence is responsible for a certain action. In order for the CPU to order the correct components to do their jobs, each part of the sequence of numbers must be identified and given the correct operational parameters. For example, if a user is burning a DVD, the CPU needs to communicate certain numerical values to the DVD unit that burns the disk, the hard drive which supplies the information and the video card for display of the status for the user.

Execution is the next step in the function of microprocessors. Essentially, the CPU tells the computer components to do their jobs. During the execution phase, the microprocessor stays in constant contact with the components, making sure each portion of the activity is successfully completed according to the instructions gathered and sent during the previous two steps.

The final action for microprocessors involves the writeback function. This is simply the CPU making a copy of the actions and their results onto the computer's main memory, usually found in the hard drive. The writeback step is essential to determining problematic issues when something goes wrong. For example, if the DVD did not burn correctly, a user can access the writeback files and find out which step occurred without success. These files are placed in a section of the memory known as the registry, which often suffers from increased levels of corruption as redundant actions are completed regularly.

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