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Difference between JDK, JRE, and JVM

Published on August 3, 2022
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By Pankaj
Developer and author at DigitalOcean.
Difference between JDK, JRE, and JVM

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The difference between JDK, JRE, and JVM is one of the popular interview questions. You might also be asked to explain JDK vs JRE vs JVM.

Difference between JDK, JRE, and JVM

JDK, JRE, and JVM are core concepts of Java programming language. We don’t use these concepts in programming. But, as a Java developer, we should know about them.

1. JDK

Java Development Kit aka JDK is the core component of Java Environment and provides all the tools, executables, and binaries required to compile, debug, and execute a Java Program. JDK is a platform-specific software and that’s why we have separate installers for Windows, Mac, and Unix systems. We can say that JDK is the superset of JRE since it contains JRE with Java compiler, debugger, and core classes.

2. JVM

JVM is the heart of Java programming language. When we execute a Java program, JVM is responsible for converting the byte code to the machine-specific code. JVM is also platform-dependent and provides core java functions such as memory management, garbage collection, security, etc. JVM is customizable and we can use java options to customize it. For example, allocating minimum and maximum memory to JVM. JVM is called virtual because it provides an interface that does not depend on the underlying operating system and machine hardware. This independence from hardware and the operating system makes java program write-once-run-anywhere.

3. JRE

JRE is the implementation of JVM. It provides a platform to execute java programs. JRE consists of JVM, Java binaries, and other classes to execute any program successfully. JRE doesn’t contain any development tools such as Java compiler, debugger, JShell, etc. If you just want to execute a java program, you can install only JRE. You don’t need JDK because there is no development or compilation of java source code is required. Now that we have a basic understanding of JDK, JVM, and JRE, let’s look into the difference between them.


Let’s look at some of the important differences between JDK, JRE, and JVM.

  1. JDK is for development purpose whereas JRE is for running the java programs.
  2. JDK and JRE both contains JVM so that we can run our java program.
  3. JVM is the heart of java programming language and provides platform independence.

Just-in-time Compiler (JIT)

Sometimes you will find JIT alongside JVM, JDK, and JRE in textbooks. JIT is part of the JVM that optimizes the process of converting byte code to machine-specific language. It compiles similar byte codes at the same time and reduces the overall time taken for the compilation of byte code to machine-specific language.

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Below text from this article - JVM is called virtual because it provides an interface that does not depend on the underlying operating system and machine hardware. This independence from hardware and the operating system is what makes java program write-once-run-anywhere. Does JVM provided interface not depend on underlying platform. If that interface (i.e. loding, linking, JIT, interpreter etc) is same for all platforms then why JVMs are different for each platform. I feel this interface which takes byte code as input and gives you end result is platform dependent which makes Java platform independent. May be you can correct my understanding.

- Love Gupta

    Thanks a lot!

    - Saangram

      Please update the version of Java.

      - srinivas narla

        very well explained,

        - Vitthal Kasbe

          JVM is also platform dependent under JVM , i hope this is a TYPO.

          - Sailendra

            I wish to know step by step execution and impacts , functionalties for jdk, jvm (including memory areas )m jre ? I mean i wish to know end-to-end flow when a java program gets executed (specially through various section inside JVM - among those i also wish to know impacts on memory areas (heap,stack, native area ), class loaders e.t.c.

            - Bibhu Prasad Tripathy

              very good.

              - Leandro

                Hi Pankaj, Thanks for such useful tutorials. You are doing great. Keep it up. I have some doubt about JIT. You said that it optimizes byte code to machine specific language compilation by compiling similar byte codes at same time. My question is that while converting byte code into machine specific code do all the byte code passes through JIT. Because i have heared that only interpretor also have its role in converting byte code into machine specific code. Or only similar byte codes are passes through JIT and rest all passes through interpreter. It would be very useful if you can elaborate it with some example.

                - debu

                  This is to just let you know that you could update regarding ‘Current JDK Version’ information.

                  - gansai

                    I’m confused when I go to Oracles site to download the JDK and they ask if you want JDK for Java EE or JDK for Java SE. What if I want to ability to develop both. Do I really have to install 2 separate JDKs?

                    - Mike