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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | The Processor | Processor Architecture and Operation | Internal Processor Interfaces and Operation | Internal Architectural Components ]

Control Unit

The control unit is the circuitry that controls the flow of information through the processor, and coordinates the activities of the other units within it. In a way, it is the "brain within the brain", as it controls what happens inside the processor, which in turn controls the rest of the PC.

The functions performed by the control unit vary greatly by the internal architecture of the CPU, since the control unit really implements this architecture. On a regular processor that executes x86 instructions natively, the control unit performs the tasks of fetching, decoding, managing execution and then storing results. On a processor with a RISC core the control unit has significantly more work to do. It manages the translation of x86 instructions to RISC micro-instructions, manages scheduling the micro-instructions between the various execution units, and juggles the output from these units to make sure they end up where they are supposed to go. On one of these processors the control unit may be broken into other units (such as a scheduling unit to handle scheduling and a retirement unit to deal with results coming from the pipeline) due to the complexity of the job it must perform.

More details on what the control unit does can be seen by looking at the section on instruction execution.

Next: Integer Execution Units


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