Difference Between Emulator and Simulator

Emulator vs Simulator

In advanced technical systems, it is cost effective and efficient to recreate the operation and behavior rather than building the original one for training and other secondary purposes. Complexity also requires alternatives in many systems for study and investigation purposes. In any scenario, emulators or simulators are used to achieve these goals.


In computing and electronics, an emulator is considered as a software or hardware which can imitate (duplicate) the behavior and functionality of different software within another software/hardware platform. In emulation, only the behavior and functionality are considered, but the internal mechanisms used to recreate this may be different from the original.

Consider the virtual computers that can be created within a computer using specified software such as VirtualBox or VMWare. Installed on a windows environment, this software can create virtual computers to emulate Linux, Solaris, Mac, or any other operating system. In this case, both hardware and software are emulated by the emulator software but, in general, emulator can be used for emulating hardware or software individually.

Emulators allow different software/hardware to be experienced or employed on a single platform without the original system requirements; therefore, allowing cheaper alternatives in many digital level scenarios. Even though the initial development costs may be high, an emulator can be very cost efficient over a long term due to its versatility.

Even though the emulators are very useful in modern digital environment, copyright and intellectual property laws may create difficulties.


In a broader sense, simulator is a device that imitates the operation of another device. Consider a flight simulator used for training student pilots. In a flight simulator, the operation and the performance of an aircraft is recreated.

Simulation techniques and simulators are used over a broad range of applications and disciplines such as training and education, meteorology, physics, electronics, economics and finance, defense systems, and many more.

In a simulator, the operation of a targeted system is recreated to the best possible. The underlying mechanisms used to recreate the scenario may be the same or different from the original. Simulation of a race car (and most vehicles) is based on the actual vehicle hardware, to make the experience more realistic. On the other hand, a financial simulation depends completely on the mathematical model on which the scenario is based upon.

What is the difference between Emulator and Simulator?

• Emulators are imitating or duplicating the process of another software/hardware within another environment. The underlying mechanisms are different from the original software/hardware.

• Emulation is mainly used in computing and electronics.

• Simulators are used to recreate the operation or behavior of a system. The underlying principles can be same as the original or different. Simulators are used in a wider spectrum of fields than computing and electronics.