What is Native Code?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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Native code is a form of computer programming code that is configured to function with the use of a specified processor. The exact structure of the code is set up to respond to the instructions that are issued by the processor. All types of software function with native code and are written to function at optimal efficiency with a selected type of processor or with processors that are manufactured to mirror the configuration of the specified processor.

Because native code is written to allow full functionality when run on a system using particular processing components, choosing to run software on a system without the required processor will result in limited access to the functions of the package. In some cases, the software may not function at all.

One way to run software using an incompatible native code is to make use of an intermediary software package called an emulator that essentially converts the signals from the processor into data that the code can read. Even with the most advanced emulation code software packages, however, the response and degree of efficiency that is achieved tends to be less than running the program on a system equipped with the correct processor. Often, the best option is to rewrite the code to adapt to the processor that is currently in use.


It is important to note that native code is different from what is known as bytecode. Bytecode is compiled to run in a virtual machine mode that is able to convert the general components of the bytecode into a more focused native code that will work with the processor in use. While bytecode can be converted, it is not possible to perform the action in reverse and use this approach to enhance the level of compatibility with a foreign processor.

Native code is found in all types of programming environments. Over time, the incidence of it not working well with various processors has begun to decrease. This is generally due to the fact that different processors are increasingly configured to function with the same types of protocols and logic sequences.


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