What Is the Basic Computer Processing Cycle?

By Andrea Stein

Computers process data to execute basic and complex functions. This processing is completed via a four-stage cycle, which includes input, processing, storage and output.


Input refers to the entering of data into a computer. An example would be entering payroll hours onto a spreadsheet. Input devices include such peripherals as keyboards, mice and scanners.


Computer processing is completed via the CPU, or central processing unit. The CPU interprets program instructions and processes data. The CPU consists of an IC, or integrated circuit, often called the microprocessor. The integrated circuit is a miniaturized version of an electronic circuit bonded to a circuit board.


Computers store data in storage systems, the primary of which is referred to as RAM, or random access memory. RAM receives program instructions and data from the CPU and stores information temporary, easily enabling it to be retrieved by the computer processor.


Computer output refers to the process of sending out, or transmitting, processed information. Computer output can take the form of audio, printed documents, video and other mediums. Typical output devices include printers and monitors.