Difference Between Multiprogramming and Multitasking

Difference Between Multiprogramming and Multitasking

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Updated on May 24, 2023 16:51 IST

In this article we will explore the differences between Multiprogramming and Multitasking. This article also includes use cases of multiprogramming and multitasking.


Multiprogramming and Multitasking are two terms commonly used in computer science to describe different approaches to running multiple programs or tasks on a computer system. These terms are often used interchangeably. They have distinct meanings and use cases. In this article, we will define both terms, explore their use cases, and highlight their key differences.

Table of contents

Differences between Multiprogramming and Multitasking operating system

Parameter Multiprogramming Multitasking
Definition Multiple programs are loaded into memory simultaneously. A single program is loaded into memory and divided into multiple tasks or threads.
Switching Switching between programs is done by the operating system. Switching between tasks is done by the operating system or by the program itself.
Algorithm Programs are scheduled based on their priority or in a round-robin fashion. Tasks are scheduled based on their priority or using preemptive or non-preemptive scheduling algorithms.
Use case Used in batch processing and time-sharing systems. Used in desktop computing and server applications.
Basic advantage Maximizes resource utilization by minimizing idle time. Allows multiple tasks to run concurrently to improve system responsiveness.

What is Multiprogramming?

Different programs in memory are present simultaneously, and the CPU switches between them for execution.


Multiprogramming refers to a technique used in operating systems to maximize the use of computer resources. The basic idea behind multiprogramming is to allow multiple programs to run on a single processor simultaneously by partitioning the processor’s time and memory resources between them. In a multiprogramming system, the operating system loads several programs into memory simultaneously and then switches between them in a way that gives the illusion of simultaneous execution. This technique allows the computer system to make the most efficient use of its resources by minimizing idle time and maximizing the throughput of multiple programs.

For example: On Android, iOS, and other mobile operating systems on the phone, one can search on Google while sending and receiving text messages on what’s the app at one time. This means these two programs are in the memory, and the CPU is switching between them.

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Use cases of Multiprogramming

  • Batch processing: Batch processing is a common use case for multiprogramming, where many jobs are submitted to the computer system and executed in sequence without human intervention.
  • Time-sharing systems: Time-sharing systems are another use case for multiprogramming, where multiple users can use the same computer system simultaneously by sharing its resources.
  • Antivirus software can perform background scanning of files while the user is working on other tasks.
  • Multiple user requests can be processed simultaneously by the same server.

Also read: Operating system interview questions

Explore: Operating System Online Courses & Certifications

What is Multitasking?

Multiple task/applications running by computer simultaneously.


Multitasking refers to the ability of an operating system to run multiple tasks or processes concurrently on a computer system. Multitasking operating system uses time-sharing to switch between tasks or processes in a way that gives the illusion of parallel execution. Unlike multiprogramming, where multiple programs are loaded into memory simultaneously, in Multitasking, a single program is loaded into memory and divided into multiple tasks or threads that can be executed concurrently. 

For example 1- As shown in the figure above antivirus, PowerPoint, email are running on the computer simultaneously.

For example 2– A mobile phone with multiple apps running in the background while the user interacts with another app in the foreground.

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Use cases of Multitasking

  • Desktop computing: Multitasking is a common use case for desktop computing, where users may want to run multiple applications or tasks simultaneously, such as browsing the web, listening to music, and editing a document simultaneously.
  • Server applications: Multitasking is also an important feature of server applications, where multiple tasks or processes may need to be run concurrently to handle incoming requests or data streams.
  • User Interface: The computers nowadays have graphical user interface (GUI) that allows users to seamlessly switch between different applications and tasks. For example, users can open and switch between multiple windows and tabs in their web browser. No need to close or minimize them.


Multiprogramming and Multitasking are two important techniques used in operating systems for managing multiple programs or task execution on a computer system. While they have some similarities regarding time-sharing, they differ in how they allocate resources, schedule tasks, and manage program execution. Understanding these differences is important for developers and system administrators, who must optimize system performance and design efficient computing systems. In this article, we have discussed multiprogramming Vs Multitasking. If you liked this article, then do like and share it with your friends.

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