Microprocessors act differently to microcontrollers

Kanda excels at offering a myriad of useful programming products. Keyfob programmers are among them. Their purpose is to program microcontrollers when you are in the field. Examples include COP8, ST7, PIC, and AVR designs. They are top tier quality but we don’t charge ridiculous prices for them.


The thing about the microcontrollers people use keyfob programmers with is that they often confuse them with microprocessors. The former is not usually as expensive as the latter. Not to mention, it is easier to set up and operate them. You can view MCUs as single-chip computers. MPUs on the other hand have surrounding chips. Their job is to support functions like I/O, interfaces, and memory. The MPU vs MCU might appear straightforward. However, there are big differences to take note of.

Operating system

The main difference is that MPUs normally work on an operating system. These systems permit several processors to function at the same time on separate threads. To support the peripherals, you need drivers.

Bare metal interface

MCUs shall run what is called a bare metal interface. What this means is that there is no operating system. As a result it is only possible for a microcontroller to work a single control loop at one time. Looking at it from a software point of view, one thread is running on the MCU’s Central Processing Unit or processor.


Another difference is that MCUs only possess fundamental options for interfacing with the outer world. It is possible for an MCU to possess UART (serial), SPI, and I2C. Sometimes, it can even have a low-level USB connection. These elementary interfaces are ones people typically use just for programming the MCU. An MCU’s purpose is to operate a somewhat straightforward control loop continuously or until it stops or breaks.

The cost

MPUs tend to cost more than MCUs too. It is also not unheard of to find an MCU with wireless communications either. Yet, you must remember that an MCU is only going to run a single thread at a time. In order to get serviced, any other processes or inputs would need to wait for the control loop or sole thread to finish. MPUs have a habit of including several interfaces as well as the essentials. Examples of these would be UART, SPI, and I2C. Something else an MPU may hold is more complicated interfaces such as Wi-Fi and Ethernet.


One other variety of chip that has a processor would be a System-on-a-chip (SoC). This is a whole system on one integrated chip. You can base a SoC on an MPU or MCU. It will supply everything that you need to carry out applications.

Browse our keyfob programmers

At Kanda, the keyfob programmers we have include PIC, AVR, and COP8 models. In addition, we stock extra batteries in case you run out of power. There are lots of options and you can find out more about any product on our website.

If you have questions or need advice about which items to buy, you can contact us.

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