Difference between the thread and process in computation

In computing, threads and processes are fundamental concepts related to the execution of programs, but they operate at different levels of abstraction and have distinct characteristics and use cases. Here’s a comprehensive comparison:


  1. Definition: A process is an instance of a program that is executing. It is a self-contained execution environment that includes the program code, data, and the state of the program (registers, counters, etc.). Processes have a complete, independent set of resources, including memory space.
  2. Memory Space: Each process has its own separate memory space. This isolation ensures that processes do not interfere with each other’s memory, enhancing security and stability.
  3. Communication: Processes can communicate with each other through inter-process communication (IPC) mechanisms such as pipes, sockets, shared memory, and message queues. This communication is necessary because processes operate in separate memory spaces.
  4. Overhead: Creating a new process is resource-intensive, as it requires allocating a unique memory space and duplicating the execution environment. Context switching between processes also incurs a higher overhead due to the need to save and load more state information.
  5. Use Cases: Processes are suitable for tasks that require isolation and independence, such as running separate applications or services that need to be protected from each other.


  1. Definition: A thread, often called a lightweight process, is a unit of execution within a process. Multiple threads can exist within the same process, sharing its resources (memory space, files) but capable of executing independently and concurrently.
  2. Memory Space: Threads within the same process share the same memory space, including the heap and global variables. However, each thread has its own stack (for local variables) and its own program counter to keep track of the instruction sequence.
  3. Communication: Since threads share the same memory space, they can communicate and exchange data more efficiently than processes. They do not require special IPC mechanisms for communication within the same process, though synchronization mechanisms (like mutexes, semaphores) are necessary to manage access to shared resources.
  4. Overhead: Creating and managing threads is less resource-intensive than processes. They share the process’s resources, making context switching faster and more efficient due to less state information needing to be saved and restored.
  5. Use Cases: Threads are ideal for tasks that require concurrent execution within the same application, such as handling multiple connections in a web server or performing background tasks in a graphical user interface (GUI) application.

Key Differences

  • Isolation: Processes are fully isolated, whereas threads share the same memory space within a process.
  • Resource Allocation: Processes have separate memory allocations, while threads share resources but have separate stacks.
  • Creation and Management Overhead: Processes require more resources to create and manage, making them heavier than threads.
  • Communication and Synchronization: Threads can easily communicate through shared memory but require synchronization to avoid data races. Processes need IPC mechanisms for communication, which can be slower but inherently safer due to their isolation.

In essence, the choice between using threads and processes depends on the specific requirements of the application, including the need for isolation, the overhead of creation and context switching, and the mechanisms available for communication and synchronization.



About Author

As Neelabh Singh, I am a Senior Software Engineer with 6.6 years of experience, specializing in Java technologies, Microservices, AWS, Algorithms, and Data Structures. I am also a technology blogger and an active participant in several online coding communities.

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