Common CPU Components & CPU Registers

Whilst most of us can identify the CPU, it is also important to understand how the common CPU components work together to run instructions in the Fetch Decode Execute cycle.

An open port for a CPU - Computer science revision

Whilst it may appear that the CPU is just made up of tiny circuit boards, it actually has four main areas:

  • Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU)
  • Control Unit (CU)
  • The Registers
  • Immediate Access Store

The CPU itself interacts with main memory. In the diagram below, you will see that the main memory (Cache & RAM) are smaller in capacity, but physically closer to the CPU than the secondary storage. This is one aspect that makes them faster.

Common CPU Components

Arithmetic Logic Unit

The ALU is responsible for the procesing of arithmetic (maths) and logical comparrisons within the CPU. When an instruction requires a logic gate to be used, this is the component that will produce the outcome.

Control Unit

The control unit acts as the manager of the CPU. It sends signals to tell the other components how to respond to the instructions that are recieved. The control unit is able to do this as it has it’s own bus for the signals called the Control Bus.


Registers are small pieces of memory inside the CPU that hold specific data. There are five main registers that allow the Fetch Decode Execute cycle to run alongside a number of general purpose registers.

You can read more about the CPU registers here.

Immediate Access Store

The IAS is another name for Main Memory, or the umbrella term for the Cache & RAM together. This is where the instructions and currently running program and data are stored in order to run the computer system. The IAS is much faster than secondary storage allowing the CPU to keep up with the demands of the programs.

You can listen and audio version of this page here:

Test your knowledge with the Common CPU Components quiz!


One CPU can contain multiple processors. What are these processors referred to as?


The CPU uses several levels of cache from 1 to 3. Which of these is generally built into the CPU itself?


Which two of these memory & storage devices can the CPU access directly?


The CU, or Control Unit sends signals to the other components using the bus.


What does ALU stand for?

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