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2.3.1: Difference between multitasking, multithreading and multiprocessing (continued)

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  • 2. Multiprocessing

    In a uni-processor system, only one process executes at a time. Multiprocessing makes use of two or more CPUs (processors) within a single computer system. The term also refers to the ability of a system to support more than one processor within a single computer system. Since there are multiple processors available, multiple processes can be executed at a time. These multiprocessors share the computer bus, sometimes the clock, memory and peripheral devices also.

    Multiprocessing system’s working –

    • With the help of multiprocessing, many processes can be executed simultaneously. Say processes P1, P2, P3 and P4 are waiting for execution. Now in a single processor system, firstly one process will execute, then the other, then the other and so on.
    • But with multiprocessing, each process can be assigned to a different processor for its execution. If its a dual-core processor (2 processors), two processes can be executed simultaneously and thus will be two times faster, similarly a quad core processor will be four times as fast as a single processor.

    Why use multiprocessing

    • The main advantage of multiprocessor system is to get more work done in a shorter period of time. These types of systems are used when very high speed is required to process a large volume of data. multiprocessing systems can save money in comparison to single processor systems because the processors can share peripherals and power supplies.
    • It also provides increased reliability in that if one processor fails, the work does not halt, it only slows down. e.g. if we have 10 processors and 1 fails, then the work does not halt, rather the remaining 9 processors can share the work of the 10th processor. Thus the whole system runs only 10 percent slower, rather than failing altogether

    Multiprocessing refers to the hardware (i.e., the CPU units) rather than the software (i.e., running processes). If the underlying hardware provides more than one processor then that is multiprocessing. It is the ability of the system to leverage multiple processors’ computing power.

    Difference between multiprogramming and multiprocessing

    • A system can be both multi programmed by having multiple programs running at the same time and multiprocessing by having more than one physical processor. The difference between multiprocessing and multi programming is that Multiprocessing is basically executing multiple processes at the same time on multiple processors, whereas multi programming is keeping several programs in main memory and executing them concurrently using a single CPU only.
    • Multiprocessing occurs by means of parallel processing whereas Multi programming occurs by switching from one process to other (phenomenon called as context switching).

    3. Multitasking

    As the name itself suggests, multitasking refers to execution of multiple tasks (say processes, programs, threads etc.) at a time. In the modern operating systems, we are able to play MP3 music, edit documents in Microsoft Word, surf the Google Chrome all simultaneously, this is accomplished by means of multitasking.

    Multitasking is a logical extension of multi programming. The major way in which multitasking differs from multi programming is that multi programming works solely on the concept of context switching whereas multitasking is based on time sharing alongside the concept of context switching.

    Multi tasking system’s concepts

    • In a time sharing system, each process is assigned some specific quantum of time for which a process is meant to execute. Say there are 4 processes P1, P2, P3, P4 ready to execute. So each of them are assigned some time quantum for which they will execute e.g time quantum of 5 nanoseconds (5 ns). As one process begins execution (say P2), it executes for that quantum of time (5 ns). After 5 ns the CPU starts the execution of the other process (say P3) for the specified quantum of time.
    • Thus the CPU makes the processes to share time slices between them and execute accordingly. As soon as time quantum of one process expires, another process begins its execution.
    • Here also basically a context switch is occurring but it is occurring so fast that the user is able to interact with each program separately while it is running. This way, the user is given the illusion that multiple processes/ tasks are executing simultaneously. But actually only one process/ task is executing at a particular instant of time. In multitasking, time sharing is best manifested because each running process takes only a fair quantum of the CPU time.

    In a more general sense, multitasking refers to having multiple programs, processes, tasks, threads running at the same time. This term is used in modern operating systems when multiple tasks share a common processing resource (e.g., CPU and Memory).

    As each user submits commands or executes apps, they each get a slice of time, and then the system moves to the next task. It appears that the computers is performing multiple tasks at once.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Depiction of Multitasking System. ("Multitasking" by Darshan L.Geeks for Geeks is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

    As depicted in the above image, At any time the CPU is executing only one task while other tasks are waiting for their turn. The illusion of parallelism is achieved when the CPU is reassigned to another task. i.e all the three tasks A, B and C are appearing to occur simultaneously because of time sharing.

    So for multitasking to take place, firstly there should be multiprogramming i.e. presence of multiple programs ready for execution. And secondly the concept of time sharing.

    Adapted from:
    "Difference between Multiprogramming, multitasking, multithreading and multiprocessing" by Darshan L.Geeks for Geeks is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0