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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 ]

Floating Point Unit (FPU)

The floating point unit is a dedicated execution unit designed for performing math functions on floating point numbers. A floating point number is any number other than an integer; any number with a decimal point required to represent it is a floating point number. Integers (and data stored as integers) are processed using the processor's integer execution unit(s).

The floating point unit is integrated into all processors from the 486DX on (this does not include the 486SX). Earlier computers had to use the integer unit of the processor to perform floating point operations (which is very slow) unless they also had a second chip dedicated to performing floating point calculations, called a math coprocessor. The coprocessor would work with the regular processor to improve performance for math-intensive applications (spreadsheets, scientific applications, etc.) A separate math coprocessor is better than none at all, but is not nearly as efficient as having the floating point unit integrated into the main CPU. All new CPUs do this now.

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