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Difference between Process and Program

In this article, you will learn the difference between the process and program in the operating system. But before discussing the differences, you will need to know about the process and program in the operating system.

Process vs Program

What is Process?

A process is a program in execution. The process executes continuously one by one. A programmer uses a text editor or an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) to write a program in a programming language. When a program is run, it transforms into a process. It executes all of the tasks specified in the program. In addition to execution, processes can be created, deleted, and scheduled. The process is loaded into the main memory when the program is executed. In main memory, a process has a stack, heap, data, and text.

It requires resources such as processing, memory, and input/output resources to complete management tasks. It may engage a processor or input/output during program execution, making a process different from a program.

Features of the Process

There are various features of the process. Some of them are as follows:

  1. Each process contains a definite set of data linked to it. For example, its parent's name, the address of the allotted memory space, and security properties such as ownership credentials and rights.
  2. A process contains a limited lifetime, i.e., only when a process is being executed.
  3. Processes are allotted system resources. Network ports and file descriptors are two examples.
  4. It is an active entity.
  5. It contains high resources.
  6. It needs resources including memory address, CPU, I/O during its working.
  7. Each process may produce child processes. Furthermore, they may die or be killed.

What is the program?

In simple words, a program is a type of system activity. A program is a collection of instructions that are used to complete a specific task. These are known as executing jobs in a batch processing system, but tasks or programs in a real-time operating system. When using a computer, a user can run many programs simultaneously. The operating system uses its techniques to allocate memory to programs. Other parameters could also be assigned using the operating system.

In the program, there are two categories of entities: active and passive. A program is classified as passive. For instance, a program is an executable file that has yet to be executed. It is in a running state, and it doesn't take any action. It is supposed to be executed to observe the activities that are linked with it. Each program has its address space that contains instructions, data, stacks, etc. The operating system is set the scheduling time using various methods, including FIFO (First In First Out), SJF (Shortest Job First), etc.

Features of the program

There are various features of the program. Some of the features of the program are as follows:

  1. A single user may execute various programs.
  2. The operating system is responsible for providing main memory for the storage of all program instructions.
  3. It is a passive entity. It is simply a file containing a set of instructions that have yet to be executed.
  4. It doesn't have a control block.
  5. It is stored in the system's secondary memory.
  6. Various processes may be connected to a single program. For instance, a browser may contain various tabs open simultaneously.

Main differences between the Process and Program

Here, you will learn the main differences between the process and program. Some of the main differences are as follows:

  1. The process and program are both related terms to each other, and the lifespan of the program is longer compared to the process. A batch operating system is referred to as sequential executing instructions/jobs, whereas in a real-time operating system, it is referred to as a program.
  2. A program is a collection of sequential and ordered operations that should be executed. In contrast, a process is an example of a program being executed.
  3. In the process, the resources need is much higher. It may require processing, memory, input/output resources for the successful execution. In contrast, a program only needs storage memory.
  4. A program is passive in nature because it does nothing until it is executed, while a process is dynamic or active because it is an instance of executing a program and performing a specific action.
  5. The process uses both internal and external resources like memory, registers, input/output resources to complete and manage the task. A program's execution consumes CPU or I/O resources, which is the difference between a program and a process.
  6. The process is referred to as a program in execution, and it realizes/implements the task for which the instructions are written into a program. A program may be related to several processes. The operating system manages these project processes via a PCB (Process Control Block), which contains a program counter, process id, process state, and switching information. The program counter stores the next order of instruction that will be performed by the program upon completion or later.
  7. The process has various resources such as disk, printer, memory address, whereas the program requires memory space on the disk to store all instructions.
  8. The process has considerable overhead, while the program has no overhead cost.

Head-to-head difference between Process and Program

Here, you will learn the head-to-head difference between the process and program. Some of the differences are as follows:

Features Process Program
Definition A program has a collection of instructions designed to accomplish a certain task. A process is an example of an execution program.
Nature It is an active entity. It is a passive entity.
Lifespan It has a limited lifespan. It has a much higher lifespan.
Resources It has a high resources requirement, and it requires including CPU, memory address, disk, Input/output during its lifetime. It doesn't have any resources requirements; it only needs memory space to store the instructions.
Creation The new process needs duplication of the parent process. No much duplication is needed.
Computation Time The process takes a long time to access and compute a single fact. It has no computation time and cost.
Required Process It holds resources including CPU, disk, memory address, Input/Output etc. The program is stored on a disk in a file and doesn't need any additional resources.
Overhead It has considerable overhead. It has no significant overhead cost.
Cache Data It may use the cache to store the retrieve the data as it uses OS paging scheme and cache replacement policy like FCFS, LRU, RR, LIFO. It has the instruction to use cache for its data.


Process and program are related terms, but they are not the same. A program is simply a script or file that contains ordered and sequential operations and is kept on disk, just like a previous stage of the process. The process is the event produced by executing the program, which is executed to produce the process event.

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