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What is the difference between threads and processes?

Answer: Software applications may contain both threads and processes. A process may contain one or more threads, but a thread cannot contain a process.

Threads and processes are similar in that they both execute a series of instructions. Both may be initiated by a program or the operating system. However, processes typically run for a long time (often until a program is closed), while threads may run for only a brief moment (often less than a second). Processes also require their own memory space, while threads simply use the available memory temporarily.

In summary, threads may be considered lightweight processes, since they contain simple sets of instructions and can be run within a larger process. Computers can run multiple threads and processes at the same time.

Published: November 22, 2010 — by Per Christensson

Answer from the PC Help Center