Difference Between Multiprocessing and Multiprogramming

Difference Between Multiprocessing and Multiprogramming

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Rashmi Karan
Manager - Content
Updated on Aug 29, 2023 09:47 IST

The article covers the major difference between multiprocessing and multiprogramming in operating systems.


Multiprocessing and multiprogramming are two concepts in computer science that relate to the management and execution of multiple tasks or processes in an operating system. While the two terms may sound similar, they have different meanings and applications. In this article, we will discuss the Difference Between Multiprocessing and Multiprogramming.

What is Multiprocessing?

Multiprocessing is the ability of an operating system to support more than one processor at the same time. Applications in a multithreaded system are divided into smaller routines that run independently. The operating system allocates these threads to processors improving system performance.


Types of Multiprocessing

There are two main types of multiprocessing, as mentioned below –

Symmetric Multiprocessing

In symmetric multiprocessing, all processors have a mutual relationship at the same level of equality. That is, there is no master-slave relationship between them. All processors communicate with each other since each one contains a copy of the same operating system.

An example of a symmetric multiprocessing system is the Encore version of Unix for the Multimax computer. Most multiprocessing PC motherboards use symmetric multiprocessing.

Asymmetric Multiprocessing

In asymmetric multiprocessing, there is a master processor that gives instructions to all the other processors, assigning each one a previously defined task. This is the most economical option, as it maintains a master-slave relationship between the processors.

This type of multiprocessing only existed until symmetric multiprocessors were introduced. This is generally less efficient than symmetric processing because, under certain conditions, a single processor could be fully online while the other is idle.

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What is Multiprogramming?

Multiprogramming is a multiplexing technique that allows multiple processes to run simultaneously on a single processor. This technique produces an illusion of parallelism so that it appears that all processes are running at the same time.


The above image shows how the CPU manages multiple processes.

Multiprogramming allows managing several processes on a single CPU, alternating their execution through time controls, assigning temporary execution limits to each process, and alternating them as this limit is reached. 

Multiprogramming focuses on sharing the CPU with several running programs or processes. Sometimes, a high-priority program can occupy the CPU too long, preventing others from sharing it. This problem can be fixed with a timesharing operating system. It assigns fixed or variable time intervals to multiple programs, thus providing equal opportunity CPU access.

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Difference Between Multiprocessing and Multiprogramming

A system is multiprocessing when it has more than one processor physically, and it can be multiprogramming when it has several processes running simultaneously.

Thus, the main difference between multiprocessing and multiprogramming is that multiprocessing runs multiple processes simultaneously on multiple processors, while multiprogramming keeps multiple programs in the main memory and runs them simultaneously through a single CPU.

Multiprocessing occurs through parallel processing, while multiprogramming occurs when a single CPU switches from one process to another.

Multiprocessing Multiprogramming
The availability of more than one processor per system to execute multiple sets of instructions simultaneously. A process of running multiple programs in the system’s main memory simultaneously.
Job processing is less time taking.  Job processing takes more time. 
Faster job processing allows the simultaneous execution of multiple processes. Only one process can run at a time.
Multiprocessing uses multiple processors to do the job. Multiprogramming uses batch OS. During execution, the CPU is fully utilized.
Maximum efficiency. Not very efficient.
Requires more than one CPU. Requires only one CPU.

To summarize, multiprogramming focuses on maximizing the utilization of a single processor by switching between different tasks quickly, while multiprocessing utilizes multiple processors to execute multiple tasks simultaneously.

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How does Multiprocessing improve system performance?

Multiprocessing improves system performance by allowing multiple tasks to be executed simultaneously. This reduces the time required to execute tasks and increases the overall efficiency of the system.

What is Multiprogramming?

Multiprogramming is a form of processing in which multiple programs or processes are loaded into the main memory and executed concurrently. The operating system allows keeping several jobs in memory and executes them without any manual intervention.

What is the main difference between Multiprocessing and Multiprogramming?

The main difference between multiprocessing and multiprogramming lies in the number of processors. Multiprocessing uses multiple processors to execute multiple tasks simultaneously, while multiprogramming allows multiple programs to run concurrently using a single processor.

How does Multiprogramming improve system efficiency?

Multiprogramming improves system efficiency by keeping the CPU busy. It allows the CPU to switch between tasks, reducing idle time and increasing CPU utilization.

About the Author
Rashmi Karan
Manager - Content

Rashmi is a postgraduate in Biotechnology with a flair for research-oriented work and has an experience of over 13 years in content creation and social media handling. She has a diversified writing portfolio and aim... Read Full Bio