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

  • smart contract

    A smart contract, also known as a cryptocontract, is a computer program that directly controls the transfer of digital currencies...

  • risk map (risk heat map)

    A risk map, also known as a risk heat map, is a data visualization tool for communicating specific risks an organization faces. A...

  • internal audit (IA)

    An internal audit (IA) is an organizational initiative to monitor and analyze its own business operations in order to determine ...

SearchSecurity

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • incident management plan (IMP)

    An incident management plan (IMP), sometimes called an incident response plan or emergency management plan, is a document that ...

  • crisis communication

    Crisis communication is a method of corresponding with people and organizations during a disruptive event to provide them with ...

  • Zerto

    Zerto is a storage software vendor that specializes in enterprise-class business continuity and disaster recovery in virtual and ...

SearchStorage

  • network-attached storage (NAS)

    Network-attached storage (NAS) is dedicated file storage that enables multiple users and heterogeneous client devices to retrieve...

  • SSD write cycle

    An SSD write cycle is the process of programming data to a NAND flash memory chip in a solid-state storage device.

  • data storage

    Data storage is the collective methods and technologies that capture and retain digital information on electromagnetic, optical ...

Close