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Definition

program counter

A program counter is a register in a computer processor that contains the address (location) of the instruction being executed at the current time. As each instruction gets fetched, the program counter increases its stored value by 1. After each instruction is fetched, the program counter points to the next instruction in the sequence. When the computer restarts or is reset, the program counter normally reverts to 0.

In computing, a program is a specific set of ordered operations for a computer to perform. An instruction is an order given to a computer processor by a program. Within a computer, an address is a specific location in memory or storage. A register is one of a small set of data holding places that the processor uses.

Some engineers refer to a program counter as an instruction address register or an address pointer.

This was last updated in May 2012

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