Browse Definitions:
Definition

interrupt

An interrupt is a signal from a device attached to a computer or from a program within the computer that requires the operating system to stop and figure out what to do next. Almost all personal (or larger) computers today are interrupt-driven - that is, they start down the list of computer instructions in one program (perhaps an application such as a word processor) and keep running the instructions until either (A) they can't go any further or (B) an interrupt signal is sensed. After the interrupt signal is sensed, the computer either resumes running the current program or begins running another program.

Basically, a single computer can perform only one computer instruction at a time. But, because it can be interrupted, it can take turns in which programs or sets of instructions that it performs. This is known as multitasking. It allows the user to do a number of different things at the same time. The computer simply takes turns managing the programs that the user starts. Of course, the computer operates at speeds that make it seem as though all of the user's tasks are being performed at the same time. (The computer's operating system is good at using little pauses in operations and user think time to work on other programs.)

An operating system usually has some code that is called an interrupt handler. The interrupt handler prioritizes the interrupts and saves them in a queue if more than one is waiting to be handled. The operating system has another little program, sometimes called a scheduler, that figures out which program to give control to next.

In general, there are hardware interrupts and software interrupts. A hardware interrupt occurs, for example, when an I/O operation is completed such as reading some data into the computer from a tape drive. A software interrupt occurs when an application program terminates or requests certain services from the operating system. In a personal computer, a hardware interrupt request (IRQ) has a value that associates it with a particular device.

Watch a brief tutorial on interrupts and I/O:

This was last updated in December 2016

Continue Reading About interrupt

Join the conversation

2 comments

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

i like ur knowledge
Cancel
I have often wondered in the past 50 years about what interrupts were, and it was indeed a pleasure to have at least one layer of mental cloud lifted by viewing such a concise explanation given by Dr. Murphy.  All very sensible, with flowchart examples of how they all work.  It was indeed a relief to have a simple and concise explanation.
Cancel

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

Powered by:

SearchCompliance

  • PCAOB (Public Company Accounting Oversight Board)

    The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) is a Congressionally-established nonprofit that assesses audits of public ...

  • cyborg anthropologist

    A cyborg anthropologist is an individual who studies the interaction between humans and technology, observing how technology can ...

  • RegTech

    RegTech, or regulatory technology, is a term used to describe technology that is used to help streamline the process of ...

SearchSecurity

  • spear phishing

    Spear phishing is an email-spoofing attack that targets a specific organization or individual, seeking unauthorized access to ...

  • supercookie

    A supercookie is a type of tracking cookie inserted into an HTTP header by an internet service provider to collect data about a ...

  • email spam

    Email spam, or junk email, is unsolicited bulk messages sent through email with commercial, fraudulent or malicious intent.

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • call tree

    A call tree -- sometimes referred to as a phone tree -- is a telecommunications chain for notifying specific individuals of an ...

  • mass notification system (MNS)

    A mass notification system is a platform that sends one-way messages to inform employees and the public of an emergency.

  • disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS)

    One approach to a strong disaster recovery plan is DRaaS, where companies offload data replication and restoration ...

SearchStorage

  • GlusterFS (Gluster File System)

    GlusterFS (Gluster File System) is an open source distributed file system that can scale out in building-block fashion to store ...

  • virtual memory

    Virtual memory is a memory management capability of an OS that allows a computer to compensate for physical memory shortages by ...

  • yottabyte (YB)

    A yottabyte is a measure of theoretical storage capacity and is 2 to the 80th power bytes, or, in decimal, approximately 1,000 ...

SearchSolidStateStorage

  • PCIe SSD (PCIe solid-state drive)

    A PCIe SSD (PCIe solid-state drive) is a high-speed expansion card that attaches a computer to its peripherals.

  • SSD caching

    SSD caching, also known as flash caching, is the temporary storage of data on NAND flash memory chips in a solid-state drive so ...

  • NVDIMM (Non-Volatile Dual In-line Memory Module)

    An NVDIMM (non-volatile dual in-line memory module) is hybrid computer memory that retains data during a service outage.

SearchCloudStorage

  • RESTful API

    A RESTful application program interface breaks down a transaction to create a series of small modules, each of which addresses an...

  • cloud storage infrastructure

    Cloud storage infrastructure is the hardware and software framework that supports the computing requirements of a private or ...

  • Zadara VPSA and ZIOS

    Zadara Storage provides block, file or object storage with varying levels of compute and capacity through its ZIOS and VPSA ...

Close