Difference between Compiler and Interpreter

Both Compilers and Interpreters are programs that convert high-level language (source codes) into machine language (machine codes) to make it understandable by the computers. However, there are differences between compilers and interpreters.

Difference Between Compiler and Interpreter

Before discussing the difference between compiler and interpreter, let's have a quick overview of both:

What is Compiler?

The compiler is a computer program that reads a program written in a high-level language and converts it to machine code or a lower-level language. In simple terms, a compiler is a program that translates human-readable source code into the language (low-level or machine code) understandable by the computer's processor (ie, binary 1 and 0 bits). It also reports errors found in the program. The computer further processes the machine codes to perform the specified tasks.

What is Interpreter?

An interpreter is a computer program that performs the same functions as the compiler, but instead of converting an entire program at once, the interpreter converts each high-level program statement into machine code one by one. This includes the source codes of a high-level language, pre-compiled codes as well as scripts. 

Compiler vs Interpreter: Key Differences

Let’s discuss some major differences between Compilers and Interpreters:

The compiler takes a program written in a high-level programming language and translates it into machine code at once, while an interpreter translates the program statement by statement.

A compiler is relatively faster as it takes the entire program at one go. Besides, an interpreter compiles one line of code at a time. Interpreters take the next line of code only when the previous one has compiled.

The compiler creates an intermediate code or target code, whereas in the case of an interpreter no intermediate code is generated.

Because the compiler generates intermediate object code, this requires more memory. Interpreters, on the other hand, do not generate any intermediate object code that makes it memory resourceful.

In the case of the compiler, errors are displayed only when the entire compilation has been done. Whereas, the interpreter displays the errors of each statement one by one, making it easier to detect errors.

In a compiler, if an error occurs in the program, it stops its translation and the entire program is translated from the beginning after removing the error. Besides, when the interpreter finds an error, it stops the translation and the translation starts from the same position when the error is removed.

In a compiler, it is a two-step process because the source code is first translated into the target program (target code or intermediate code) and then executed. Whereas in the interpreter, it is a one-step process where the source code is compiled and executed at the same time.

Difference Between Compiler and Interpreter

Difference Between Compiler and Interpreter

Let’s discuss the difference between compiler and interpreter with the help of the following comparison chart:

Compiler Interpreter
A compiler takes the entire program in one go. An interpreter takes a single line of code at a time.
The compiler generates an intermediate machine code. The interpreter never produces any intermediate machine code.
The compiler produces an output program (.exe) that can be executed independently of the source program. The interpreter does not produce any output program. Therefore, the execution requires a source program every time.
It is a two-step process as the program execution is segregated from the compilation. Execution begins only after the entire source-program is compiled. It is a one-step process because the execution process is part of the interpretation that is done line by line.
The compiler needs more memory to create an intermediate object code. The interpreter requires less memory because there is no such process of creating an intermediate object code.
We cannot change or modify anything in the compiled program. To make changes, we have to change the source code. The interpreter uses the source code every time and works line by line; Therefore, we can easily make changes.
The compiler displays all errors after compilation, which complicates the error detection and removal process. The interpreter displays the errors of each line one by one, if any, making it easier to detect and remove errors.
The compiler is best suited for the production environment. An interpreter is best suited for a software development environment.
The compiler is used by programming languages such as C, C ++, C #, Scala, Java, etc. An interpreter is used by programming languages such as Python, PHP, Perl, Ruby, etc.


Compiler and Interpreter both are intended to convert the source codes into machine codes, but there are differences in their working and operating procedure. While compilers take source code at once, interpreters take parts of the source code (that is, statement by statement) during the conversion.

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