What Is An Interrupt?

What is an Interrupt?

What is an Interrupt?

Welcome to our “DEFINITIONS” category, where we break down complex terms in a simple and easy-to-understand way. Today, we’re diving into the world of interrupts. So, what exactly is an interrupt, and why is it important? Let’s explore!

The Definition of an Interrupt

An interrupt, in the context of computing and electronics, refers to a signal that alerts the processor to stop its current task and attend to a higher-priority task. It can be thought of as a form of communication between different components of a computer system. When an interrupt occurs, it temporarily suspends the ongoing process and transfers control to a specific interrupt handler or routine.

Interrupts play a crucial role in computer systems, as they allow for efficient multitasking and the handling of real-time events. They ensure that critical tasks or events, such as input/output operations or time-sensitive operations, are promptly dealt with without delay or reliance solely on the processor’s regular execution flow.

Key Takeaways:

  • Interrupts are signals that tell the processor to pause its current task and handle a higher-priority task.
  • They enable efficient multitasking and real-time event handling in computer systems.

Types of Interrupts

There are several types of interrupts that serve different purposes within a computer system. Here are a few commonly encountered types:

  1. Hardware Interrupts: These interrupts are generated by external hardware devices, such as keyboard input, mouse movements, or network events. The hardware sends a signal to the processor, triggering an interrupt and notifying the system software to handle the event.
  2. Software Interrupts: Unlike hardware interrupts, software interrupts are intentionally generated by software running on the processor. These interrupts are often used to request operating system services or perform system-level operations.
  3. Exception Interrupts: Exception interrupts occur when a processor detects an exceptional condition or an error during the execution of a program. This could include situations like division by zero or accessing invalid memory locations.
  4. Maskable Interrupts: As the name suggests, these interrupts can be temporarily masked or disabled by the processor to avoid interruption during critical operations. Once the critical operation is complete, the processor can enable and respond to these interrupts.
  5. Non-Maskable Interrupts: Non-maskable interrupts, as the name implies, cannot be ignored or masked by the processor. These interrupts are typically reserved for critical events that require immediate attention, such as severe system errors or power failures.


Interrupts are essential elements of modern computer systems, allowing for efficient multitasking and real-time event handling. By temporarily pausing ongoing processes and redirecting the processor’s attention to higher-priority tasks, interrupts help ensure the smooth and efficient operation of computer systems.

Key Takeaways:

  • Interrupts enable efficient multitasking and real-time event handling in computer systems.
  • Types of interrupts include hardware interrupts, software interrupts, exception interrupts, maskable interrupts, and non-maskable interrupts.

We hope this article has shed some light on the concept of interrupts. Stay tuned for more informative articles in the “DEFINITIONS” category!