Data Path Design in Computer Architecture


Data path design denotes the physical implementation of any computer’s internal circuitry that boosts data procession and movement. This represents a section of the CPU (Central Processing Unit) that deals with the data section. It requires arithmetic logic units (ALU), registers, and multiplexers’ arrangements. It is a great way to assess the performance and efficiency of a computer’s operations, including fetching, decoding, and executing data. It ensures smooth data flow by encompassing an organisation and interconnections of several components. A well-designed data path can extensively reduce bottlenecks, improve system performance, and optimises resource utilisation. It effectively contributes to the efficiency of computer architecture.

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Types of Data Path Design in Computer Architecture

The interconnection of BUS with ALU and registers is a data path that will be elaborated on later. These data paths can be broadly divided into three types, as described below.

Single Cycle

This has one CPI (Clock Cycle Per Instruction) and does not divide instructions per CPI. In such data paths, only one instruction is executed at one time. Besides, it does not require any registers. In a single data path, the clock time is longer than the other types. Overlapping the clock cycle cannot be done with such data paths.

Multiple Cycle

Such data paths have variable CPIs. Here, instructions can be segregated into arbitrary steps. Like a single cycle, multiple cycles can also execute only one instruction at one time. However, they need registers to carry further. Moreover, the clock time is shorter than a single cycle. Clock cycle overlapping isn’t possible in the case of multiple cycles.


Such data paths do not have fixed CPIs. Here, per stage, instruction has one step. Unlike single and multiple cycles, pipelines can execute multiple instructions at one time. With that, it requires registers. Like multiple-cycle data paths, the pipeline also requires a short time per clock cycle. Plus, a clock cycle occurs in the case of pipeline data paths.

Components Associated with Data Path

To execute the proper operation of a computing system, the function units of the data path play a crucial role. Below are the primary function units that are an inevitable part of data path design.

Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU)

It is one of the fundamental components of the data path. ALU performs logical arithmetic operations on data like addition, subtraction, division, multiplication, comparisons, and bitwise operations. ALU primarily takes input data from the register and performs an operation on the data to produce the necessary output. It operates on binary data, manipulating bits based on the control signals received from the control unit.


These are small storage elements in a processor known for their high speed. While processing data, it stores the data temporarily. These data can be either intermediate results, operands, or program counters. Registers are important for fast data access, decreasing the requirement of retrieving data from memory, which slows down the operation. Two types of registers are available to serve different purposes. General-purpose registers are required to hold data during computation. On the other hand, special-purpose registers store program status flags or addresses.


It is a communication system that transfers data between various components of a computer or between two computers. BUS is a collection of hardware components, including optical fibers and wire. It also has software components, like communication protocols. It allows data and instructions movement between memory, registers, and other peripherals. ALU, registers, and various BUS together are termed as data paths.


A data path also has multiplexers. These are required to select data from multiple sources and route these to an appropriate destination. Multiplexers are essential for the movement of data within a processor—these help in selecting from different inputs along with directing them to the component on the focal point. For instance, a multiplexer may choose between two registers to evaluate and source the ALU operation.

Control Unit

Any data path interacts with the control unit. This unit generates control signals that coordinate the data path component’s activities. It interprets instructions fetched from memory and generates the necessary signals to control data movement, ALU operations, and register manipulations. These units ensure the proper execution of instructions in the right sequence. Besides, it ensures a synchronised data path function.

Final Words

Data path design plays a critical role in computer architecture. This ensures efficient processing, movement, and manipulation of data within a system. The components of data path design, such as registers, buses, multiplexers, the Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU), and the control unit, work in harmony to enable seamless data flow and execution of instructions. With the advancement of technology, data path design will keep evolving and continue shaping the future of computer architecture. 

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