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Maskable Interrupt vs. Non-Maskable Interrupt: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Published on February 21, 2024
Maskable Interrupts can be disabled or ignored by the microprocessor's interrupt system, whereas Non-Maskable Interrupts cannot be ignored and must be processed immediately.
Maskable Interrupt vs. Non-Maskable Interrupt

Key Differences

Maskable Interrupts in computer systems are those that can be turned off or 'masked' by the interrupt controller. Non-Maskable Interrupts (NMIs) are high-priority interrupts that cannot be disabled and must be addressed immediately by the system.
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Shumaila Saeed
Feb 21, 2024
The purpose of Maskable Interrupts is to allow a processor to prioritize its tasks, temporarily ignoring less critical interrupts. Non-Maskable Interrupts are designed for emergency situations where immediate attention is required, such as hardware failures.
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Maskable Interrupts are commonly used for routine hardware communication. In contrast, Non-Maskable Interrupts are reserved for exceptional conditions that could compromise system stability, like power failures or memory errors.
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The processor can control the acceptance of Maskable Interrupts, which aids in efficient processing and task management. Since NMIs cannot be controlled or deferred, they are used sparingly and only for critical issues.
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Maskable Interrupts can be enabled or disabled based on the program's needs, offering flexibility. Non-Maskable Interrupts, due to their urgency and importance, do not provide this flexibility and override all other activities.
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Comparison Chart

Ability to Disable

Can be disabled or enabled by the processor.
Cannot be disabled, always active.
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Priority

Generally lower priority.
Always high priority.
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Usage

Used for routine tasks and hardware communication.
Used for critical system emergencies.
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Processor Control

Processor has control over their handling.
Processor must handle immediately, no deferral.
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Flexibility

Offers flexibility in handling.
No flexibility, requires immediate action.
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Maskable Interrupt and Non-Maskable Interrupt Definitions

Maskable Interrupt

The processor has control over maskable interrupt acceptance.
During the data transfer, all maskable interrupts were temporarily disabled.
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Non-Maskable Interrupt

Non-Maskable Interrupts are used for urgent system alerts.
The memory error caused an immediate non-maskable interrupt.
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Maskable Interrupt

Maskable Interrupts allow for prioritized processing in systems.
The maskable interrupt was deferred while the processor completed the current job.
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Non-Maskable Interrupt

Non-Maskable Interrupts override other ongoing activities.
The non-maskable interrupt halted all other processes for emergency handling.
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Maskable Interrupt

Maskable Interrupts are suitable for non-critical tasks.
The routine sensor signal was managed as a maskable interrupt.
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Non-Maskable Interrupt

Non-Maskable Interrupts have the highest priority in processing.
The system immediately responded to the non-maskable interrupt from the hardware failure.
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Maskable Interrupt

A Maskable Interrupt can be disabled by the processor.
The system disabled the maskable interrupt during a critical processing task.
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Non-Maskable Interrupt

Non-Maskable Interrupts ensure immediate attention to critical issues.
The overheating processor triggered a non-maskable interrupt for safety.
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Maskable Interrupt

Maskable Interrupts are often used for regular hardware interactions.
The peripheral device's request was handled as a maskable interrupt.
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Non-Maskable Interrupt

A Non-Maskable Interrupt cannot be ignored by the processor.
The power failure triggered a non-maskable interrupt in the system.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

What is a Non-Maskable Interrupt?

An interrupt that cannot be disabled and requires immediate processing.
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Are Non-Maskable Interrupts common?

No, they are reserved for critical situations.
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What is an example of a Maskable Interrupt?

An interrupt request from a keyboard or mouse.
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What is a Maskable Interrupt?

An interrupt that can be enabled or disabled by the processor.
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Can Maskable Interrupts be prioritized?

Yes, they can be prioritized according to system requirements.
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Are Non-Maskable Interrupts common in all computer systems?

NMIs are not as common as maskable interrupts and are primarily used for handling severe and urgent system conditions.
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What could cause a Non-Maskable Interrupt?

Critical events like power failures or severe hardware errors.
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How does the system handle Maskable Interrupts during critical tasks?

It can disable them to prevent interference.
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Can software generate Maskable Interrupts?

Yes, both hardware and software can generate them.
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Are Non-Maskable Interrupts part of normal processing?

No, they are used only for exceptional circumstances.
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What happens when a Maskable Interrupt is disabled?

When disabled, the processor will not respond to the interrupt request until it is enabled again.
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Can NMIs be generated by software or only hardware?

NMIs are typically generated by hardware to signal critical hardware-related issues.
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What is the main purpose of Non-Maskable Interrupts?

To ensure system stability by immediately addressing critical issues.
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Can you provide an example of a Maskable Interrupt?

Examples include input/output requests from devices like keyboards or disks.
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Can NMIs be ignored or disabled by software?

No, NMIs are designed to be non-maskable and cannot be ignored or disabled by software.
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How do NMIs differ from regular interrupts?

NMIs take precedence over maskable interrupts and are reserved for critical, system-level events.
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Can the handling of NMIs be customized by software?

The handling of NMIs is often predefined and not customizable by user software to ensure timely and proper response to critical events.
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Feb 21, 2024

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Shumaila Saeed
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Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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