At the “heart” of every computer lies the CPU, or central processing unit, which is responsible for carrying out arithmetic and logic functions as well as executing instructions to other components. The components of a CPU work together, and depending on how they are made, determine exactly how fast these operations can be carried out along with how complex the operations can be. Each of the separate components of a CPU on their own are relatively simple. Some of the primary components of a CPU, also known as a microprocessor, are the arithmetic logic unit (ALU), the control unit and the registers.
To begin with, the arithmetic logic unit is the part of the CPU that, as its name implies, carries out the mathematical functions of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. It is often thought that these functions are all the CPU does in a computer, but this is not true. The ALU works along with, and as a major part of, the other components of a CPU to run many complex processes. A CPU can contain more than one arithmetic logic unit, and these ALUs can also be used for the purpose of maintaining timers that help run the computer.
The control unit is another fundamental part of the CPU. Essentially, it regulates the flow of information through the processor. The functions that a control unit performs can vary based on what a particular CPU was built to do. Mostly, this component receives, decodes, stores results and manages execution of data that flows through the CPU. More complex control units need to schedule when and how this great amount of information is to be processed and make sure that the data is sent to the correct components of the computer.
More components of a CPU that are vital to its operation are the registers, which are very small memory locations that are responsible for holding the data that is to be processed. The most important of these registers is known as the instruction pointer, which directs the CPU to the next memory location from where it is to receive information. Another type of register is the accumulator, which is responsible for storing the next values that will be processed by the CPU. Together all of these components of a CPU are becoming faster, more compact and more powerful as time goes on and technology advances.