Difference Between Multitasking and Multithreading in OS

Difference Between Multitasking and Multithreading in OS

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Rashmi Karan
Manager - Content
Updated on Feb 13, 2023 17:07 IST

The article covers the main difference between multitasking and multithreading in operating systems.


Multitasking and multithreading are important CPU processes. The major difference between multitasking and multithreading is that multitasking allows the CPU to perform multiple tasks simultaneously, whereas multithreading allows the CPU to execute multiple threads of the same process simultaneously.

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What is Multitasking? 

Multitasking is when a single CPU simultaneously performs multiple tasks (program, process, task, threads). To multitask, the CPU switches between these tasks frequently so the user can interact with each program simultaneously.


In a multitasking operating system, multiple users can share the system simultaneously. As we saw, the CPU quickly switches between tasks, so it takes some time to get from one user to another. This leaves an impression on a user that the entire computer system is dedicated to him.

When multiple users share a multitasking operating system, the scheduling of the CPU and multiprogramming allows each user to have at least a small part of the operating system multitask and allows each user to have at least one program in memory to run.

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What is Multithreading?

Multithreading is different from multitasking in the sense that multitasking allows multiple tasks to be performed at the same time. In contrast, multithreading allows the CPU to simultaneously process multiple threads of a task (program, process).

Before we look at multithreading, let’s talk about a thread. A thread is a basic unit of execution with its program counter, register set, and stack but shares the code, data, and file of the process to which it belongs. A process can have several threads simultaneously, and the CPU switches between them so frequently that it gives the impression to the user that all the threads are running simultaneously. This is called multithreading.


Multithreading increases the responsiveness of a system because if one of the application threads doesn’t respond, the other would respond that way, and the user would not have to stay idle. Multithreading allows resource sharing, as threads of the same process can share the process’s code and data and allows a process to have multiple threads concurrently active in the same address space.

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Key Differences Between Multitasking and Multithreading in OS

Multitasking  Multithreading 
Basic Allows the CPU to perform multiple tasks. Allows a CPU to generate multiple threads from a task and process them simultaneously.
Switching Involves the CPU switching between tasks Involves CPU switching between the threads, thereby increasing the computational power.
Memory    Processes share different memory locations Processes are allocated the same memory.
Multiprocessing  Involves multiprocessing No multiprocessing is involved.
Speed  Slow  Fast 
Process Termination A process’s termination takes comparatively more time. The termination of a process takes up comparatively less time.
Isolation and memory protection Yes  No 
Scope  It helps in developing efficient programs It helps in developing efficient operating systems.

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  • The main difference between multitasking and multithreading is that in multitasking, the system allows multiple programs and tasks to run simultaneously. In contrast, the system runs multiple threads of the same or different processes simultaneously in multithreading.
  • In multitasking, the CPU has to switch between multiple programs to make it appear like multiple programs are running simultaneously. On the other hand, in multithreading, the CPU has to switch between multiple threads to make it appear as if all threads are executing simultaneously.
  • Multitasking allocates separate memory and resources for each process/program, whereas multi-threaded threads belonging to the same process share the same memory and resources as the process.

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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