Do Emulators Slow Down A Computer? | Emulators Vs Simulators

I remember the time when you always found yourselves short of operating platforms.

Either the platform was underdeveloped or the task at hand needed to be processed through multiple applications to complete it.

Now, it’s the other way around. Any particular task can be completed by any number of applications which more or less have cross-platform compatibility.

That being said there still can be applications that need a completely different platform to operate than what you use in your daily life.

Or maybe you may consciously decide to choose a different platform altogether for the task you have in mind. That is precisely where emulators come in handy.

But in choosing to work with emulators a very important question needs to be addressed which is,

Do emulators slow down a computer?

It totally depends on the hardware configuration of your PC. If you have a powerful CPU, lots of RAM, and an SSD off which you are running an emulator, you will be fine. If you are trying to run an emulator on outdated hardware yes, it will slow down your PC.

It’s not that hard to understand why that happens but there are certainly some things that you can do to make your emulator run smoothly.

Keeping that in mind let’s understand emulators comprehensively.

Also, here are a few more articles that I strongly feel you will like.

What Are Emulators?

Emulators are programs that work on top of a base operating system environment to emulate a totally different operating environment. While there are many ways emulators are used, their primary zone of usage involves playing video games and running an operating system within an operating system.

Now, why would one want to emulate one kind of operating environment(guest) over another operating environment(host).

An arrangement like this created with the help of an emulator can be used to run software, games, tools, peripheral devices which otherwise aren’t compatible with the host machine.

One example, from my personal experience, is when I was learning how to program in college. My instructor urged me to learn to program on Linux and all the while getting used to the Linux environment.

This was important because I was about to start learning Raspberry Pi and everything apparently went smoothly with the Pi.

But the problem was despite the many limitations I wasn’t ready to give up on windows 10. So, I emulated the Linux environment on Windows 10 so that I can have the best of both worlds.

I hope this clarifies what exactly an emulator is.

Now there is a wide variety of emulators available that perform a variety of different functions.

For example, you have PlayStation emulators that run PS games on a Windows environment. Similarly, Bluestacks, for example, is a famous android emulator that emulates android workspace on a Windows environment.

While it’s true that different emulators are different in functionality and how they work, but essentially all of them achieve the same outcome, run an otherwise non-compatible environment in the given environment.

How Do Emulators Work?

So, now that we understand what emulators are let me briefly explain to you how emulators work.

First of all, I want you to understand the gravity of the situation.

An operating environment works in tandem with hardware that supports it. For this reason, you can’t use iOS on a PC, at least not directly 😉.

Hey if you know you know :P.

The whole point is for software to perform the way it is supposed to perform it needs precise linkages with the hardware that it is running on.

Now think about how an emulator would work.

The task with every emulator is to run a foreign program on a hardware cluster that doesn’t support it.

This means the emulator has to recreate a hardware background process that is similar to what the program sees when it is running on a compatible machine.

For this reason, the emulator uses a lot of resources, and therefore, if you don’t have a powerful PC to back it up, your PC will get slow.

Additionally, the emulator not only has to simulate a hardware background process but also has to keep it running without bugs and host hardware conflicts.

So, in simple terms, an emulator converts advanced and unique pieces of hardware into equivalent functioning software.

This among others that I have mentioned above is the reason why emulators especially of modern-day consoles take so much time to develop.

There are so many modules and subtle attributes to work upon before the emulators of advanced tech like Xbox and PlayStation 4 can be released to the public.

Emulator VS Simulator

Okay so let me quickly address what is the difference between an emulator and a simulator.

Because so many times I see people using the term interchangeably when the truth is they are two different types of software packages.

But the confusion between Simulators and Emulators isn’t entirely misplaced.

For instance,

  • Both simulators and emulators allow running of different software environments in an otherwise non-compatible base software host.
  • They in a similar way make game and software test easy.
  • In the absence of such software, all tests need to be done post production which will make elimination of bugs and errors inconvenient.

Therefore, don’t be surprised when sometimes even in a professional space both these terms are used interchangeably.

However, here are the technical differences between the two.

A simulator creates an environment that has all the variables and configurations that will exist in real-time, however, it doesn’t emulate the hardware over which the software will run.

So, simulators strictly and essentially recreate a software environment. And for this reason, they use high-level programming language for their development.

Contrast that with emulators that actually create create or mimic all the hardware features of the program under test and then create a software environment on top of that.

And therefore, the development of emulators is done in machine-level assembly language to create proper sync between the hardware and software processes.

Now it should become even more clear why emulators take so much time to develop.

For comparative understanding, emulators can be thought of as a middle ground between simulators and actual real-time product/software applications.

While both simulators and emulators make a developer’s life easier what needs to be understood here is that they are not a substitute for real-life testing and quality control.

They are basically meant for creating a space where the real-time situations get simulated or emulated, which can be used to iron out any potential bugs, errors, and in most cases run a completely different environment that otherwise isn’t supported in the host machine.

Emulator Or Simulator: When To Use Which?

This is a very common question. Given that both simulator and emulator are so close in functionality how to decide when to use which.

Here is how you can demarcate between when to use a simulator and when to use an emulator.

You use simulators when you want to make sure that your software or application interacts with external applications or environment the way you want it to.

For example, Proteus is a great simulation software where you can see how for instance Arduino sends sensor data to Raspberry Pi.

A simulator is perfect in these types of situations because the underlying hardware configuration and setup isn’t required to test the code that helps transfer data from an Arduino unit to Raspberry Pi.

Now emulators on the other hand need to be deployed when you need to test how a developed program interacts with its base hardware.

Now coming to more widespread use you would need an emulator when you want to run games and software designed for one specific ecosystem on a software ecosystem that doesn’t natively support it.

A good example of such would be a PS3 and switch emulators.

Another important use case of emulators is when you as a developer wish to test, for instance, a new firmware update.

Similarly, emulators can come in handy when you wish to know how your program will respond to say a new CPU or different memory allocation.

Conclusion & Some FAQs

In essence, emulators and simulators are important software packages that create handy testing, gaming, or work environment.

A simulator creates a developer ecosystem that allows for software and program testing without creating a hardware layer or process.

An emulator takes the process even further and creates a background layer that emulates a specific hardware configuration.

And I guess you can perceive how important both of them are for development, testing, or end-user tasks like gaming.

And yes, because emulation is a resource-heavy software package, if you don’t have a potent system in terms of hardware configuration, you shouldn’t be surprised if your PC becomes slower while the emulator is active.

Before I wrap up this article, let me also quickly address a few more questions regarding emulators and simulators in my inbox.

Hopefully, they answer queries for you that you never thought you had.

What Emulators Work On Raspberry Pi?

Here are 5 really cool emulators that run well on raspberry pi.

  • RetroPie – Retro game emulator package.
  • Lakka – RetroPie alternative.
  • RecalBox – Open source game emulator.
  • Raspberry Pi DOSBox – To run designed for DOS operating system.
  • Raspberry Pi x86 – To run x86 applications on Raspberry Pi.

Does Bluestacks Slow Down Your Computer?

When when you run an android emulator like bluestacks, the program is creating a background layer of Android’s important hardware processes, and on top of which a whole operating system is executed. This takes up a lot of system resources (memory, CPU, hard drive space) and thus other applications may see a lag in performance if your system doesn’t have a powerful configuration.

What Are The Best Emulators For PC?

While there are many android emulators out there for PC and many more are in active development here are the most popular and effective ones.

  • Bluestacks
  • LD Player
  • Android Studio Emulator
  • ARChon
  • Bliss OS

I hope you enjoyed the article as much as I enjoyed writing it.

If you have any other comments, query, or feedback about anything that you have read here, please feel free to let me know in the comments section below.

Also, this FAQ section is organic, meaning if you have a question that you feel will benefit others, relay it in the comments section, and if the query is potent enough I will include it in the FAQ section.

Take great care of yourselves and I will see you at the next one.


Electronics Engineer | Former Deputy Manager | Self-Taught Digital Marketer.Owner & Admin Of A Network Of Blogs and Global E-Commerce Stores

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