Difference Between Byte Code and Machine Code

Both of these are codes that act as a set of instructions that help machines/ devices behave in a specified manner or perform certain operations/ tasks. The primary difference between byte code and machine code is that bytecode is an intermediate code while the machine code is the final code that the CPU processes. In this article, we will discuss a few more differences between them in a tabular form. But before we do that, let us take a lot at each of them individually.

What is Byte Code?

A byte code acts as an intermediate code present between a machine code and a source code. A byte code is basically a low-level code that results from the compilation of source code that might be present in a high-level language. A virtual machine such as a JVM (Java Virtual Machine) processes a byte code.

Machines cannot understand a byte code. It is a non-runnable type of code that becomes machine-understandable after an interpreter translates it into a machine code. One needs to compile it to run on a JVM. Thus, any system that already has JVM can easily run such a code irrespective of the OS (operating system). The Java platform is, thus, independent.

A byte code is also sometimes known as a portable code.

What is Machine Code?

It basically refers to a set of various instructions that a machine can read and understand directly. The CPU (Central Processing Unit) can directly process the available machine code. The machine code is present in a binary format of 0s and 1s. Thus, it is completely different from the source code as well as the byte code.

Machine code acts as the lowest-level representation of any source code for a machine. We get this code after interpretation or compilation. It is also known as the machine language since machines can directly read them. We need to convert the source code generated by any language into the machine code to make them machine-understandable. But then it becomes non-understandable by humans (since it is present in a binary language).

Difference Between Byte Code and Machine Code

Here is a list of the differences between Byte Code and Machine Code.

Parameters Byte Code Machine Code
Definition and Meaning A byte code acts as an intermediate code present between a machine code and a source code. It basically refers to a set of various instructions that a machine can read and understand directly.
Level of Code It is an intermediate-level code. It is a low-level code.
Type of Instructions It consists of hexadecimal, binary, and macro instructions such as swap, add, new, etc. It consists of instructions in the binary language. Thus, the instructions are present in the codes of 0s and 1s.
CPU Understandable A CPU cannot understand it directly. Any CPU can directly understand as well as process this type of code.
Generation and Execution We generate a byte code after source code compilation. But a CPU cannot directly run it. It entirely depends on an interpreter for its execution. It is basically machine language. Thus the CPU can process it. It is present in binary format and does not need separate interpretation or compilation.
Role of Virtual Machine The virtual machine first executes the bute code, and only then the CPU can process it. We don’t need a virtual machine for the execution of machine code. The CPU can do that directly.
Machine-Specific The byte code is suitable for execution by virtual machines and other software. But it is not very specific (directly) towards a machine. The machine code is machine-specific in all aspects.
Platform Dependency This type of code is platform-independent. It depends entirely on the virtual machine and also on the systems that already have an inbuilt virtual machine. Its execution can occur directly irrespective of the platform. This type of code is platform-dependent. It is because we cannot run the object code generated out of one platform on the same OS. The objects vary a lot depending on the native instructions of the machine and its overall system architecture.
Conversion of Source Code We don’t need to convert every source code into a byte code for its CPU execution. The source code that we write in a high-level language needs to get converted into byte code for its ultimate conversion into an object code. This way, the CPU can execute them. Every source code ultimately needs to get converted into a machine code for CPU execution. It is the final step, irrespective of high-level or low-level languages.

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