Difference between an IC and a Microcontroller?

What’s the difference between an IC that contains logic gates and a microcontroller like arduino

Hi @Sachio_Isaiah_Otsuka , this is a very common question,

First of all let’s make things clear. Arduino boards are not microcontrollers themselves. Some teachers and tech guys incorrectly call them microcontrolers. Those are development boards that use a microcontroller(and other components like quartz oscillators, TTL to USB interface chips, voltage regulators, etc…). For example Arduino UNO uses a common microcontroller known as ATMega328P (the main chip on the board).

"An IC that contains logic gates " is too wide as a definition. Almost 95% of the chips you can find online for whatever purpose contain logic gates (Processors, Decoders, multiplexers…). But assuming you are not referring to advanced stuff like FPGAS or PLDS, the main difference is that microcontrollers are a fully integrated programable system. This means microcontrollers internally have memories, registers, ports, ALUs, buses, and a CPU that on the whole, implement a small computer that can be programmed and perform tasks (like reading, processing and sending data through the chip’s ports).

As you probably know, most ICs are designed for a single specific task and cannot be programmed or modified, that is why you can find thousands of different ICs. As an electronic design engineer you need a basic knowledge about what type of IC you need for each task.

Microcontrollers are commonly used in Digital electronics whereas simple ICs are used in analog electronics.

Hope my answer was helpful. :grinning:


Don’t worry if you don’t fully understand those diagrams. Understanding how microcontrollers internally work is no joke and serious electronics engineering stuff. Just keep the concepts simple and clear.


Thank you very much! I understand it a bit better now. I’m studying mechanical engineering but I wanna learn more about this field hehe.


I had the same question and your answer was very detailed and well understood.

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