C Tutorial



C Tutorial

Difference Between Compiler and Interpreter


A compiler and interpreter perform similar tasks of translating source code into machine code. However, there exist a few differences when it comes to how they fulfil this operation. Wondering what those are? 

Here is everything you need to know about the difference between compiler and interpreter in table form. You will also learn about the pros and cons of both of these software programs. 

What is a Compiler?

A compiler is a software program that translates source code written in high-level programming languages like C, C++, Java, or Python into machine-readable code. It is an essential component of the software development process. 

In simple terms, a compiler transforms source code into a format that can be understood and executed by a computer's hardware. This translation process involves multiple steps, collectively known as the compilation process. These steps include:

  • Lexical Analysis

  • Syntax Analysis

  • Semantic Analysis

  • Code Optimisation

  • Code Generation

Once all these steps are completed, the compiler generates object code or an executable file that can be run on a computer to accomplish the desired tasks. The compiled code is designed particularly for the target hardware, allowing for efficient and accurate execution.

What Is an Interpreter?

An interpreter is a software program specifically designed to translate a programming language into a comprehensible one. It executes the source code or scripts that are usually written in a high-level language directly without requiring a compilation process. It minutely interprets the entire code line and line, translating and executing each instruction in real-time. 

Interpreters are commonly used in dynamic and scripting languages, as well as in environments that prioritise speed and flexibility. Furthermore, it also comes alongside innumerable benefits, such as ease of use and quick feedback during the development process, making them popular among developers.

Similar to the compilation process, an interpreter performs various functions to facilitate code execution. Such include,

  • Lexical Analysis

  • Dynamic Execution

  • Translation and Execution

  • Dynamic Type Checking

  • Runtime Environment

  • Error Handling

Difference Between Compiler and Interpreter

Although compilers and interpreters perform similar tasks, there are a few differences between how they carry out each one of them. Listed below is a list highlighting the difference between compiler and interpreter.




Execution Speed

In the compilation process, the code is simply optimised and translated into machine code specific to the target hardware architecture. Thus, the compilation code execution tends to be much faster.

Interpreter code, on the other hand, is accompanied by real-time translation and execution, which might result in slow performance.

Error Display

In the event of an occurrence of any kind of errors, the same are displayed after compiling together at the current time.

Errors are displayed in every single line.


Compiled codes usually require separate target programs for them to be compiled separately and generate platform-specific executable files.

Interpreters can directly execute source code on varied platforms, thus eliminating the need for recompilation.

Memory Usage

The usage of memory by a compiled code tends to be much less since it can directly represent the executable instructions. 

Interpreters often have high memory usage since they have to maintain the interpreter runtime and execute the source code in real-time. 

Development and Debugging

The code can be entered and executed directly by interpreted languages in a hassle-free manner. This, in turn, facilitates rapid development, testing and debugging.

Compiled languages require the execution of an additional step which can cause a slower feedback loop for development and debugging. 

Dynamic Behavior

Lacks support for dynamic behaviour at runtime

Supports dynamic behaviour like runtime type checking


C, C++, Java

Python, Ruby, JavaScript

Advantages And Disadvantages

With a detailed understanding of the difference between compiler and interpreter, let's now explore the advantages and disadvantages of each:

Advantages Of Using A Compiler

  • Compared to interpreted code, compiled code usually runs faster. Since the compilation process translates the code into machine language specific to the target hardware, it can optimise the code for efficient execution.

  • It facilitates the process of improving the security of an application. The code is turned into machine code during the compilation phase, making it more difficult for potential attackers to reverse-engineer or tamper with the source code.

  • Compilers often provide a rich set of debugging tools. These tools assist developers in identifying and fixing errors in the code.

Advantages Of Using An Interpreter

  • Programs written with the help of an interpreter are usually much easier to debug. Interpreters often include interactive debugging, allowing developers to detect and correct mistakes in real-time. This immediate input speeds up the troubleshooting process.

  • The task of memory management is automated by an interpreter, which guarantees little to no room for memory-related errors such as memory leaks or invalid memory access.

  • When compared to compiled languages, interpreted languages provide more flexibility. Interpreters enable dynamic runtime behaviour, allowing for code updates and experimentation without requiring recompilation. 

Disadvantages Of Using A Compiler

  • The compilation process adds an extra step to the whole development cycle, which leads to an increase in the codebase size.

  • Once the code has been compiled successfully, making changes to the program might require you to recompile.

  • When dealing with large or complex codebases, using a compiler can take longer than required. 

Disadvantages Of Using An Interpreter

  • Interpreters often require more memory in comparison to a compiler.

  • Unlike a compiler, interpreters are not always equipped with optimisation tools such as constant folding and loop unrolling. 

  • To run code written for an interpreter, the machine must have the necessary interpreter software installed. This requirement may limit the code's mobility because different interpreters may have different implementations or versions. 


In conclusion, both compiler and interpreter offer unique advantages and disadvantages. The decision between choosing them depends on various factors such as platform compatibility, performance requirements, and development methodology. When picking which programme to employ, it is critical to carefully consider these elements.

Moreover, if you want to gain a deeper understanding of coding and related topics, you may consider exploring upGrad’s Advanced Certificate Program In Machine Learning and NLP offered under IIIT-Bangalore. This program can provide you with comprehensive knowledge and skills in the field of machine learning and natural language processing.


Q1: Which one is faster, the compiler or the interpreter?

Compiled programs usually tend to run much faster than that of an interpreter. The primary reason behind this is that a compiler translates the entire source code at once while an interpreter processes the program line by line.

Q2: Can you state any advantage of an interpreter over a compiler?

One of the main benefits of using an interpreter is that it offers portability. The source code is processed directly by an interpreter, which means that you can execute the same on multiple platforms. 

Q3: What are the various types of compilers?

Compilers can be categorised into multiple types. Such include cross-compilers, bootstrap compilers, decompilers, and trans compilers, among others. 

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